Martin Bosworth (Consumer Affairs) put together a nice read, which explains the new service being offered by two of the three (major) credit bureaus:
In a surprise reversal and a major win for consumers, the Trans Union credit bureau announced that it would offer consumers the ability to "freeze" their credit files in all 50 states in order to protect themselves against identity theft and fraud.
The service will be available in the 11 states that do not already have credit-freeze laws, costing consumers $10 to set the freeze and $10 to unlock it, and will "meet or exceed the requirements" of states with existing freeze laws.
Perhaps, the credit bureaus are giving into laws already enacted in a lot of States, and have decided to make a some revenue on what is quickly becoming mandatory? More from Martin's article:
Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia already have laws in place enabling consumers to freeze their credit, with varying rules and costs for usage. The credit and financial industries have aggressively lobbied against credit freeze laws, claiming they would reduce the availability of credit and discourage shoppers from making big-ticket purchases due to the time spent unlocking a credit account.
Efforts by the credit industry to push weaker national credit protection laws that would preempt state law stalled out in Congress. States such as Utah have passed laws enabling citizens to freeze and unfreeze their credit accounts in as little as 15 minutes.
Martin quoted one of his counterparts at Consumer Affairs, Gail Hillebrand as bringing up a very valid (my opinion) point:
If the bureaus have the technical means to enable instant locking and unlocking of credit, they should not be charging high fees to use a service that can be turned on and off in minutes.
After all -- there are many who believe, the credit bureaus, who make a lot of money by selling the information they compile -- are partially to blame for enabling what has become a major concern (identity theft).
Although this is progress, I would much rather see effective laws passed in all 50 states, or a "consumer friendly" one passed in Congress.
Excellent read from Martin, here.
Here is a previous post, I did regarding personal information being sold by credit bureaus:
How does a telemarketer get your unlisted number?
Update: Experian joined ranks and is offering this service now, also. Washington Post article on this, here.