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.

[RELATED: How to find out if you're affected by the Equifax hack]

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.

[DATA DOC: Equifax data breach: Should I enroll in TrustedID Premier?]

"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.

[MORE CBS 5 ADVOCATE: Smart step if you're panicked about Equifax breach]

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Dave CherryCBS 5 Advocate Dave Cherry works to resolve your consumer problems and protect your money. If he can't help, he'll do his best to point you in the right direction.

Click to learn more about Dave.

Dave Cherry
CBS 5 Advocate

Dave was born and raised in Philadelphia and considers himself one of the biggest Philly sports fans. At 6-feet, 5-inches, he's probably right! Dave started on a different career path before fulfilling his lifelong dream of reporting the news and helping consumers. Dave graduated from Philadelphia University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting; he later earned an MBA degree in Finance from Temple University in Philadelphia. Dave also spent ten years as Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for two of America's leading real estate franchise companies. Dave started his 21-year news career at WHP in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, as news anchor and reporter, then moved to KOLD in Tucson, as the morning news anchor. From Tucson, he went to KRON in San Francisco as a freelance news reporter before moving east to COMCAST in Philadelphia as a general assignment reporter. In the fall of 2003, Dave moved west and joined KPNX in Phoenix and spent nine years as the station Call for Action Consumer Reporter. Through his on-air advocacy work in 2011, Dave and his team were able to help consumers save more than $1 million. Dave joined CBS 5 News as our CBS 5 Advocate in December 2012. Dave is a vegan and likes to eat the amazing vegan food prepared by his lovely wife, Carmen. Dave's also a big Bruce Springsteen fan (he's seen more than 70 shows!), the man who inspired him to learn the guitar. Besides playing many of the boss' songs, Dave writes and sings his own songs and recorded a CD of original music.

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