Equifax Will Offer Free Lifetime Credit Locks in January
Weeks after their massive data hack,
The company's interim chief executive, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. issued an apology via the Wall Street Journal :
We have heard your concern that the window to sign up for free credit freezes with Equifax is too brief, so we are extending the deadline to the end of January. Likewise, we are extending the sign-up period for TrustedID Premier, the complimentary package we are offering all U.S. consumers, through the end of January. We hope these immediate actions will go a long way toward addressing the concerns we are hearing from consumers. We know they won't solve the larger problem.
Also by the end of January, they will offer a new service that will give "consumers the option of controlling access to their personal credit data." The service will be free (for life), and will let you lock and unlock your credit files whenever you want. There aren't many details beyond that, except that the service will be "reliable, safe and simple."
As New York Times' Ron Lieber points out, however, this brings up even more questions. First, how is a lock better or more convenient than a freeze?
Unlocking a file is instant...Experian and TransUnion spokesmen both said this week that lifting a freeze by phone or online should take no more than 15 minutes as long as you have your PIN in hand. I've had my files frozen for a decade and have always found the thawing to be instantaneous.
Freezing your report stops thieves from trying to open up new lines of credit in your name. The credit card company, bank, or lender they've contacted won't be able to pull your report because, well, there's a freeze on it. The only way to allow access is to unlock the report yourself with a PIN. Additionally, as Lieber adds, freezes are subject to state laws. "But locking - which has the same effect as freezing - faces no such rules and has no hard-to-remember PIN," Lieber writes.
Fortune says a lock will be more convenient than a freeze but also doubts "Equifax has the technical chops to pull this off and do it in a secure way."
Without more details from Equifax, it's hard to gauge whether or not the service will be worth it-we'll have to wait until January to see. In the meantime, the apology bemoans that critics will say it's too little too late, but the biggest critics are their customers, and customers are right to be unimpressed. Many are reluctant to even visit the Equifax website.
Plus, even if the lock is worthwhile, it only addresses the least concerning scenario. When a thief has your personal information and Social