Despite the fact that most of us have never asked a credit bureau to collect, store, and profit off our sensitive financial information, these data-sucking leeches have long had the gall to charge a fee to consumers who wanted to put a freeze on such activity.
That ends now, thanks to a new federal law mandating that the three national bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—let consumers freeze and unfreeze their credit at no charge. The law, which takes effect on Friday, comes a little over a year after Equifax revealed a massive breach that exposed the sensitive information of more than 143 million American consumers.
Needless to say, consumer advocates are thrilled. “It’s about time the credit bureaus stopped charging us for the right to control our own information,” said Mike Litt, campaign director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in a statement.
Putting a freeze on your credit comes in handy if you think you may have been the victim of identity theft or another type of cybercrime, or if you just want peace of mind. It effectively prevents anyone from opening up a new account in your name. Because creditors may run credit checks with any one of the three major bureaus, consumer groups recommend that you freeze your credit with all three.
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The bureaus are supposed to give you personal PIN numbers with each freeze, which you can use to unfreeze your account if you want to apply for credit. The new law also allows parents or guardians to freeze accounts belonging to minors.
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