The free credit lock offering that many consumers enrolled in with credit reporting agency Equifax after its massive 2017 data breach expires on Thursday.
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Consumers who put locks on their account via Equifax’s TrustedID Premier service will have those protections automatically lifted once the subscription expires. Users will have to relock their credit reports if they wish to secure them.
Those who enrolled in the subscription should have received notifications about its expiration. Consumers were offered the option to enroll in a similar free product with Experian – called Experian IDnotify.
Consumers who want to keep the lock in place can use a different product obtainable through Equifax, like its “lock & alert” offering. They can also opt for a credit freeze, which some experts argue is the best way to protect information from criminals.
While both freezes and locks block criminals’ access to reports, the terms of a lock are set by the credit bureau, while federal law sets the standards for a freeze.
It is necessary to freeze credit at all three main bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – to be fully effective. A credit freeze limits access to your credit file, thus hindering the ability of cybercriminals to use your name to open new accounts.
Users are typically given a PIN to enter when they want to unfreeze accounts, in order for a bank to access it when an individual wants to take out a loan or open a line of credit. Freezes can be lifted temporarily or for a single party.
In September a new law went into effect that allows consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit at their own leisure, for free. Previously, in some states, credit reporting agencies charged a small fee for the process.
The massive Equifax hack compromised the personal information of more than 147 million Americans. That data included birth dates and Social Security numbers, among a number of other confidential data points.
The Federal Trade Commission has all the information necessary about how to freeze credit with the three main bureaus.