Authors as Published

Travis Mountain, Assistant Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

• Starting Friday (9/21/18) consumers will be able to freeze their credit files for free at each of the three main credit reporting agencies. Currently this would cost $10 per credit reporting agency (Transunion, Equifax, Experian) for VA residents. If you were a victim of identity theft, you were already able to do this for free. If you are going to put a freeze on your credit, you want to do this for all three of the major credit reporting agencies. Only choosing one or two of the three serves little to no purpose.

Audio Resources related to credit freezes and the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act

Credit Freeze Questions and Answers

  • What’s the significance of this new legislation, allowing for free credit freezes?

    • Two factors – one to raise awareness for consumers that they can freeze their credit file. Many consumers may have first heard of a credit freeze when news broke regarding the Equifax data breach September 2017 that affected 140 million American consumers

    • Two, is starting this Friday, September 21st, consumers can freeze each of their credit files from the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) for free. Prior to Friday, this would cost you $10 per credit reporting agency, for $30 total.

  • Talk about the ways in which freezing your credit file protects you as a consumer.

    • The purpose of the credit freeze is to prevent a would be fraudulent actor from taking out a new line of credit in your name. For example, let’s say your information was exposed in a data breach, and someone has your name, address, and social security number. This person could attempt to open a new line of credit in your name, but would be unable to do so if you have a freeze on your credit file. The freeze basically prevents that financial institution from looking at your credit report, which they must do prior to extending you new credit.

  • Is the process of requesting a freeze easy and painless?

    • You can do this online, by phone, and by mail. Each of the three credit reporting agencies have dedicated webpages and 1800 numbers where you can freeze your file. I suspect that hold times may be long starting 9/21 but should dissipate. If you are going to freeze your credit file, you want to freeze all three.

  • Is there any downside to freezing your credit file?

    • The downside is there is a bit of an inconvenience when you decide you want to open up a new line of credit. For example, if you have a credit freeze and you want to take out a new mortgage, you will want to contact your financial institution and ask them when they will pull your credit reports and from which credit reporting agencies. For a mortgage, they will likely want to look at all three of the major credit reporting agencies, but for a credit card they may only look at one or two. You will then want to unfreeze your credit file for any credit reporting agency your financial institution needs to look at. You can do that by calling the 1800 number, online, or via mail. You will need to provide a pin that was given to you when you froze your file, and indicate how long you want the file to be unfrozen.

  • What else is important to know about this new consumer protection?

    • 15.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2016 and over 140 million individuals had their data exposed in the Equifax data breach alone in 2017. Certainly, look into freezing your credit if you haven’t already. There is a bit of an inconvenience when you need to unfreeze your credit when you want to take out a new line of credit, but this inconvenience is minute when compared to trying to fix your credit if there is fraudulent activity on your credit file. Also, everyone should be checking their credit report, which they can do for free at once per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.

Additional Resources

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Publication Date

September 20, 2018