NEW BERN, Craven County - In response to the Equifax breach that was announced earlier this month, the company is now offering free credit freezes until November 21, 2017.
After the breach, many people had extremely sensitive and personal information exposed, including Social Security numbers, account numbers and even drivers' license numbers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, Equifax is now offering free credit freezes and is also issuing refund fees to anyone who already paid for freezes since September 7th, the day the breach was announced.
If you're thinking of placing a freeze, the FTC warns, it's important to know a few details.
A freeze makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name, but it also makes life a bit more taxing on you. It means that no one, including you, can access your credit file until you unfreeze it, using a PIN or passphrase.
To make the freeze effective, you must place a freeze with all three credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. This is because when a thief tries to take out new credit, a business can pull your credit report from any of those three agencies. The FTC says that if you only freeze your Equifax file and the business checks with TransUnion or Experian, your Equifax freeze won't prevent the theft from happening.
Keep in mind that there are costs to consider when putting a freeze on your account. While Equifax will let you place or lift a freeze for free until November 21, the FTC says that TransUnion and Experian are not. Once the offer from Equifax ends, any time you need to get new credit, you'll need to lift the freeze, then place it again, with each of the three agencies. This can cost an average of $5 to $10 per agency each time.
While it is true that freezes are free for identity theft victims, this does not mean that you qualify for a free freeze from each agency. According to the FTC, an identity theft victim is someone whose information has not only been exposed, but has also been misused. If you're a victim of the Equifax breach, your information is at a higher risk of misuse, but until an identity thief does so, you are not entitled to free freezes.
To get a free credit freeze from Equifax, you can call them at 800-349-9960 or visit them online here.