So, you live in one of the 20 states that allow all consumers – not just victims of identity – the right to freeze their credit. And, you’re thinking of taking advantage of the opportunity to protect yourself from identity theft. It should be easy, right?
Well, not exactly…
The St. Paul (MN) Pioneer Press reported on October 23 that one of its readers, anxious to take advantage of the new credit freeze law, tried to put a freeze on his credit. His experience was far from easy, and the newspaper’s anonymous consumer watchdog, attempting to replicate his difficulties, similarly found herself trapped in the credit reporting agencies’ labyrinthine – and somewhat deceptive – websites.
Since you need to file a separate request with each of the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – to freeze your account, it makes sense to check with them first. But the websites hardly make the relevant information available. Instead, readers are treated to a barrage of the various credit monitoring services the companies offer – for a fee, of course. Dig deeper, and you still might not find what you’re looking for. Even contact numbers are obscured if you’re looking to talk to a company representative.
Why are the companies making this process so difficult? According to a recent Pioneer Press article:
With the freeze available to more and more consumers (25 states now have similar laws), the companies fear they will get less business, said Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.
“They want free flow of credit information because that’s how they make money,” she said
Well, partly right. The credit reporting agencies stand to lose some of the “stock” they sell to retail and credit card companies as lists of people for pre-approved credit card offers. Still, they can potentially earn revenue from the fees charged for freezing (in some states) and thawing (in almost all states) a consumer’s credit report. In the end, they’re probably just fearful of news of the credit freeze going public: the agencies have traditionally fared poorly with customer service, and any change to this status quo could require the establishment of protocols in that area. The agencies are likely unwilling to shift operational costs into such an endeavor.
Ultimately, your best bet for finding information on freezing your credit report would be to go straight to the main source that takes the consumer’s best interest to heart: namely, your state attorney general’s office. If your state is one of the 25 that allows credit freezes, your state attorney general should have pretty clear instructions on how to put your credit on ice.
Good luck with your freeze!
Originally posted on Credit.com.