New Credit Report Freeze Law is Empowering to Consumers

By law, American consumers can now freeze their own credit reports for free, preventing lenders from pulling their reports until they unfreeze it. Freezing a credit report can prevent identity theft by making it almost impossible for an unauthorized individual to open a new account in your name, or even your child’s name.

Michel Benaroch, professor of management information systems at Syracuse University’s Martin J. Whitman School of Management, applauds the move, saying it makes sense.

“The concept is clever considering how simple it is,” he said. “For the average consumer, it means they might need to plan ahead to unfreeze their credit report when they know they’ll need it, a small inconvenience when you consider the implications of significantly lowering the chance for identity theft.”

The information used to access one’s credit report, primarily social security number, is no longer as secure because it is kept in so many systems that can be compromised. The idea is for every one of us to create in addition a personal code we can use to control when our credit report can be accessed.

According to Benaroch, there are already apps on the market to facilitate the process of creating a personal code to protect and freeze a credit report. Overall, he said he recommends that everyone take steps to freeze their credit reports, a nuisance that pays dividends compared to what one deals with, if their credit is compromised.

“Most people don’t access their credit report every day so putting a lock on it makes it unusable and protected while the report is not in use,” he said. “In fact, for most people the credit report is a black box; they’ve never even looked at it and have no idea what’s there.”

Benaroch said this law is empowering consumers, giving them more control over their personal finance security.

“No one asked us if they could create a credit report for us. We just had to live with it. At least now, we can control access to it and that’s a positive move.”

Benaroch added that the real burden is on the credit companies that must process the freezes, and unfreezes, since they will have to verify identities each day.

Consumers who wish to take steps to freeze their credit need to contact all three of the bureaus to process the transactions – EquifaxTransUnion and Experian.

Kerri Howell

Kerri is director of communications and media relations for the Whitman School. She is responsible for managing all internal and external communications with students, faculty, staff, alumni, members of the business community and other key stakeholders.After receiving her B.A. from State University of New York at Geneseo, she went on to earn her M.S. in communications management from Syracuse’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she has served as an adjunct professor in the public relations department since 2004.