Credit freeze offers best peace of mind in Equifax breach

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(Source: AP) (Source: AP)

Once news of the Equifax breach hit last month, lots of people started talking about a credit freeze. How does it work and why should you consider one?

A credit freeze puts a lock on your credit. While it's in force, no one can take out a new loan or credit card in your name -- including yourself. Many consumers now want to proceed with a freeze but some are a little unsure how they work.

[ORIGINAL STORY: Giant Equifax data breach: 143 million people could be affected]

Prior to the Equifax announcement, Dennis Epley never heard of a credit freeze, but when he learned 145 million consumers were impacted by the breach, he needed to learn quickly.

"My wife and I talked it over, she wasn't in favor of spending the money, and I said, you know, we need to do it," Epley said.

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A credit freeze restricts any person from applying for credit in your name and must be put on all three credit bureaus. Equifax is currently waiving their fee, but not Transunion and Experian.

"It's like $5 each time, but each time you put it on, each time you take it off, it's $4 and for the two of us then, it's $10," Epley said.

If you remove the freeze to apply for credit, you pay for that and then again to re-apply the freeze. You can call or do it online. Epley says the Equifax site was constantly unavailable, but he eventually got a freeze there and on the other two bureaus.

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"Persevere, it could be difficult to get it done, but take the time, put the effort forth and get it done," Epley said.

A freeze offers the best peace of mind against fraud following the massive Equifax breach.

"I feel fairly confident, not completely, but fairly confident that people aren't going to take out credit in my name," Epley said.

Equifax tells me that, in light of the breach, they will offer freezes for free through January 2018. Starting in February 2018, you will pay for the service just like you do for the other two main credit bureaus.

A freeze is a bit of a hassle but if you're not planning on buying a car or house, or getting a new credit card, it's worth the small expense. It is your best proactive response to the Equifax disaster.

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