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Experian, T-Mobile need to pay to freeze credit reports of hacked consumers, not just give free credit monitoring, consumer group says

The personal data of about 15 million T-Mobile customers has been hacked through Experian, a credit-reporting agency that processes T-Mobile credit applications.

People who applied for a T-Mobile account between Sept. 1, 2013, and Sept. 16, 2015, have had data such as their name, address, Social Security numbers, ID numbers, and driver’s license numbers compromised.

T-Mobile and Experian are offering credit monitoring to the hacked customers, but U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy organization, said more is needed.

“In the wake of a massive data breach affecting Experian’s computers holding 15 million files of T-Mobile customers and applicants, we question why the firms are offering credit monitoring instead of paying to place credit, or security, freezes on all three of each victim’s credit reports,” said Mike Litt, consumer advocate for U.S. PIRG.

“Only the security or credit freeze, available in any state, stops new account identity theft,” Litt said. “Potential victims should freeze all of their ‘Big 3’ credit reports from Experian, Equifax and, TransUnion.”

Litt said the breach is outrageous, since credit bureaus are subject to high security standards but losing Social Security numbers – the key to new account identity theft – makes this breach much worse.

That’s why placing security freezes is the only way to guarantee consumers peace of mind, he said.

Experian, which lost the data, has offered its own brand of credit monitoring,  “Protectmyid,” but T-Mobile is offering an alternate credit monitoring service.

A security freeze doesn’t affect your ability to use existing credit you already have, such as a credit card or loan, nor does it prevent existing creditors from reviewing your continued eligibility for current or additional credit. And, it doesn’t affect your credit score.

Security freezes are available to consumers in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A security freeze costs between $3-10 for each of the three major national credit bureaus, depending on the state. The fee to unfreeze a credit report is $2-12 fee.

All states give you the right to free security freezes if you can prove that you’re an identity theft victim. Some states offer them for free to consumer 65 years of age and older. Six states offer free freezes to all consumers, whether they’re identity theft victims or not:Colorado, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

How to freeze and unfreeze your credit report

  • It’s recommended you freeze your credit report with the three main credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Placing a freeze with one bureau doesn’t automatically freeze your account with the other bureaus.
  • You’ll receive a PIN number for your credit freeze with each bureau. You’ll use this PIN number when you want to unfreeze your credit report any time you want to apply for new credit.
  • If you want to temporarily lift a freeze because you’re applying for credit or a job, try to find out which credit bureau the business uses to check credit reports. You can save some money and time by only lifting your freeze for that credit bureau.
  • You can temporarily lift a freeze for a particular creditor or for a specific period of time, from one day to one year.
  • Make sure to account for the time it can take to thaw your report. In most cases if you request a thaw online or over the phone, your report can be unfrozen within 15 minutes. However, it can take longer if you don’t have your PIN number that was assigned to you when you froze your report. It can also take up to three days from the receipt of your request if you make it via postal mail.

You can place a freeze online, over the phone, or in writing

Equifax

Online: https://www.freeze.equifax.com
. Phone: 800-685-1111. 
Mail: Equifax Security Freeze, P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348.

Experian

Online: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
. Phone: 888‑397‑3742
. Mail: Experian Security Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013.

Experian includes a three possibly confusing paragraphs, “Security Freeze Warning.” They’re just explaining that you’ll need to unfreeze your credit report before applying for credit in the future.

TransUnion

Online: http://www.transunion.com/securityfreeze
. Phone: 888-909-8872. 
Mail: TransUnion LLC, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022.

For more information, see the Federal Trade Commission’s Identity Theft Tips.

Copyright 2015, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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