Equifax extends deadline for free credit freezes

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Equifax data breach
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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story was unclear about the offerings from Equifax post-January 31, 2018. The post has been edited for clarification.

One day left before it was set to expire, Equifax has extended free credit freezes until June 30, 2018, the company told Team Clark on Tuesday. The freebie was offered by the Atlanta-based company in response to the Equifax data breach, which exposed more than 145.5 million customers to identity theft and fraud.

The September disclosure from the firm, one of three major credit-reporting bureaus in the United States, has severely damaged its reputation and caused great concerns among consumers about how safe their data is in corporate hands.

Equifax offered through January 31, 2018, the chance for people to enroll in TrustedID Premier, billed as a “free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service” offered following the cybersecurity incident, spokeswoman Nancy Bistritz said in an email.

Equifax extends deadline for free credit freezes

“For consumers who have not enrolled in TrustedID Premier, but would like to restrict certain access to their Equifax credit report after Jan. 31,” they have these two options: “Equifax has waived fees for security freezes (including the placing, lifting, and removal of) until June 30, 2018,” she said. In addition, “Equifax is launching Lock & Alert, which enables consumers to lock and unlock their Equifax credit report, for free,” she said.

While both a credit lock and credit freeze prohibit criminals from opening an account in your name, there are key differences about them.

A credit “lock” is strictly an agreement between you and a credit agency backed up only by the good faith of that company. In contrast, a credit freeze is protected by law. Multiple states offer free credit freezes. Check here to see if your state offers it.

“Having a contractual agreement is not as strong as having protections under law,” says Christina Tetreault, a staff attorney at Consumers Union, an arm of Consumer Reports. “The contract may be unclear, may include provisions that allow the other party to change it, or include provisions that you may be better off not agreeing to, such as an arbitration agreement.”

So you see, these offers from Equifax may sound well and good, but given the magnitude of the breach — and the ramifications that we may be feeling from it years later — becoming further beholden to the agency may not be great idea at this point.

In the days after the data leak, money expert Clark Howard was adamant about staying away from any products Equifax was offering. “My advice is don’t go to Equifax’s website. Assume you are affected and act accordingly,” Clark said. Four months later, that advice still stands.

Follow these two steps to safeguard your personal info

  1. Sign up for an account with creditkarma.com to get free credit monitoring and be notified when there’s any of suspicious activity associated with your info. Here’s an in-depth rundown of how to do it.
  2. Freeze your credit at all three main credit bureaus. Here’s a guide on how to contact Equifax, TransUnion and Experian to freeze your accounts.
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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who still reads paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer.  You can reach Craig at [email protected]
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