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Oakland, CA — Ahead of three changes to what Equifax is offering consumers following its breach of 145 million consumer records, CALPIRG is urging Californians to get free credit freezes with Equifax by January 31st if they haven’t already.
“Getting credit freezes at all three national credit bureaus is the best action consumers can take after the Equifax breach, whether they were affected by it or not,” said CALPIRG Executive Director Emily Rusch. “Even though you’ll outrageously still have to pay fees at Experian and TransUnion, you should get the free freeze with Equifax while you still can.”
On January 31st, Equifax is making the following changes to their consumer offers:
1) Free TrustedID Premier offer expires: January 31st is the last day to sign up for TrustedID Premier, Equifax’s initial offer after the breach. It provides one year of free services such as credit monitoring. It doesn’t hurt to sign up for these services. However, you should know they are limited and, at best, only alert you to identity theft after it has occurred. Therefore, we also recommend you freeze your credit reports with all three national credit bureaus.
2) Free Equifax credit freeze offer expires: January 31st is also the last day Equifax will waive the fee it normally charges consumers to get credit freezes on their Equifax credit reports. We recommend that you take advantage of this option. The page for getting it is available at www.freeze.equifax.com.
What is a credit freeze? It is a commonsense tool that allows consumers to freeze access to their credit history and scores, denying thieves the ability to open any fake accounts in their names. Note: For complete protection, you’ll need to freeze your reports with the other two bureaus, too. In California, it costs most consumers $10 to get a freeze at each bureau and $10 each time you want to temporarily remove a freeze or apply for credit, or in some cases, apply for a job. CALPIRG opposes these fees because consumers shouldn’t have to pay to protect themselves for a problem they didn’t create. However, we recommend paying the fees for the peace of mind that comes from protecting yourself from new account identity theft.
3) New Lock & Alert product launched: January 31st is the launch date for Lock & Alert, a service that will let consumers lock and unlock their Equifax credit reports indefinitely for free. This service only blocks access to Equifax credit reports, not credit reports at the other two bureaus. Locks appear to block access to credit reports the same way freezes do. However, freezes are a right by law and not conditional on terms set by companies. We will review the terms of service when they are made public to determine if it is a good option for consumers. As with a freeze, this lock is only for Equifax reports, so credit freezes are also needed with the two other bureaus.
“Blocking access to your credit report with one bureau but not the other two is like locking your front door but leaving your garage and back doors wide open,” said Rusch. “That’s why CALPIRG is working with Senator Jerry Hill and other supportive lawmakers to make credit freezes free and easy to use at all three national credit bureaus. We didn't hire Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion to collect financial data about us, and we certainly didn't give them permission to lose it. So shouldn’t we have a right by law to keep our financial information private and secure for free?”
Earlier this month, State Senator Jerry Hill introduced consumer protection legislation to make it free for all Californians to place a security freeze on their financial and personal data with the nation’s credit reporting agencies. The bill would also make the freeze more consumer-friendly by allowing consumers to place or lift a freeze at all three agencies via one request. The co-authors of Senate Bill 823 include Senators Cathleen Galgiani, D- Stockton, and Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, and Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley, R-Granite Bay, Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, Evan Low, D-Silicon Valley, and Mark Stone, D-Monterey Bay.
“Californians should not be forced to pay for protecting their credit from the alarming data breaches of personal information that have become all too common,” said Senator Hill, D-San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. “Credit agencies are involved in so many aspects of our lives, from major purchases such as buying a home or car, to everyday transactions like signing a new cell phone contract. These agencies possess our most sensitive information, and they shouldn’t profit from consumers’ efforts to protect themselves.”
CALPIRG’s step-by-step guide for placing credit freezes with all three bureaus is available here. FAQs about the Equifax data breach are available here. Executive Director Emily Rusch's testimony to the California state legislature about actions they should take to protect consumers in the wake of the breach is available here.
When consumers are cheated or the voices of ordinary citizens are drowned out by special interest lobbyists, CALPIRG speaks up and takes action. We uncover threats to public health and wellbeing and fight to end them, using the time-tested tools of investigative research, media exposés, grassroots organizing, advocacy and litigation. CALPIRG’s mission is to deliver persistent, result-oriented public interest activism that protects consumers, encourages a fair, sustainable economy, and fosters responsive, democratic government.
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