Responding to the outcry in the wake of the Equifax data breach, Congress voted yesterday made credit freezes free for all Americans.
The legislation was passed by the House on Tuesday as part of a controversial larger bill that will roll back banking regulations. The Senate approved the measure earlier this year. The bill now heads to the desk of President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it before Memorial Day.
Because they prevent crooks from opening new lines of credit in a consumer’s name, credit freezes are largely seen as the last line of defense against the harm that can come from data breaches.
In the wake of the Equifax data breach, which was disclosed in September 2017, the three major credit-reporting agencies all pushed credit and identity theft monitoring services, some even for free. But the cost of freezing one’s credit usually came with a fee, usually between $3 and $10 depending on the state.
Now with bipartisan support for the new banking bill, credit freezes will be free of charge. But the legislation does have its critics. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is known as a consumer advocate, posted on Twitter that “we lost this round” and called the bill a #BankLobbyistAct.
If things go as planned, the bill is expected to become law later this year.
“You will be able to freeze and thaw your credit as you wish, for free,” says money expert Clark Howard. “This…is the only action that Congress has taken about the gross negligence of Equifax that exposed the data of roughly 2/3 of American adults with credit files FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.”
Clark has been urging consumers to freeze their credit since long before Equifax’s massive cybersecurity incident.
In February he even testified about the issue before a legislative committee in Georgia, Equifax’s home state.
Here are the numbers to the major credit agencies.
- Equifax: 1-800-349-9960
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872
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If you are experiencing issues with freezing your credit, please consider contacting our Consumer Action Center at 404-892-8227. Volunteers are standing by to assist you Monday-Thursday 10AM-7PM ET and Friday 10AM-4PM ET.