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Color of Money: Equifax data breach could have a silver lining

Michelle Singletary on

A freeze blocks access to your credit report and credit score. The credit bureau can't release any information in your file without your permission. (Although companies you currently do business with will still have access to your files.)

When you're ready to get a loan or need someone like a prospective employer to view your file, you can temporarily unlock it, give the company access, and then lock down your files again.

However, in most states, unless you've been a victim of identity theft, a credit freeze will cost you. What you pay varies by state, but the typical fee is $10.

"What truly galls me about the hack is that Equifax and the other credit agencies stand to make money from this egregious security failure," one reader wrote. "This situation really calls for stringent regulations."

Ding, ding!

There isn't a federal credit freeze law. There needs to be one now.

Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon has just introduced the Free Credit Freeze Act in the wake of the Equifax breach.

"Credit bureaus like Equifax make millions of dollars packaging and selling our personal information," Wyden said. "Americans shouldn't have to pay extra just to protect themselves from fraud."

When it comes to the credit bureaus, "we are the commodity, said National Consumer Law Center attorney Chi Chi Wu. "We can't walk with our feet. The freeze gives a measure of control."

It was consumer pressure that finally resulted in a law giving consumers free access at annualcreditreport.com to their own credit reports every 12 months.

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