Following a reported breach of the personal information of over 145 million consumers, including their dates of birth and Social Security Numbers, U.S. PIRG has compiled an interactive map (bit.ly/pirgfreezemap) showing that only a minority of consumers nationwide have access to free credit freezes to protect themselves from new account identity theft.
“It’s time for Congress to give consumers the right to protect their own information from new account identity theft without paying to do so,” said U.S. PIRG Consumer Advocate Mike Litt. “Free freezes are important because you need to pay fees to all three credit bureaus to be sure all the doors to your credit report are closed to identity theft.”
Among the key findings of a U.S. PIRG analysis of the practices of the Big 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), which are subject to credit freeze laws in 50 states and DC, are the following:
Only four states (Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, and South Carolina) provide free credit freezes and free thaws/lifts. Four other states provide free freezes but charge for thaws.
Approximately 158 million consumers between 18-65 in 42 states and DC must pay a fee to get credit freezes
If all consumers in those states between 18-65 choose to freeze their reports today, that will cost them an estimated $4.1 billion.
Only identity theft victims get freezes and thaws/lifts for free in every state.
Some fees are waived, reduced, or even increased by some bureaus in some states for certain categories of consumers, including active duty servicemembers, victims of domestic violence, and minors.
At least two bills in the Senate and one bill in the House have been introduced to make freezes free nationwide.
“This week, four committees of Congress are holding hearings featuring the former Equifax CEO,” concluded Litt. “We hope they ask him how this happened and what they are doing about it, but also, ‘Will you support free credit freezes for all consumers at all three bureaus?’