Freezing your credit is the one move you need to make after the Equifax breach — but the credit bureaus aren't always making it easy.
As of early Wednesday afternoon, all three major credit reporting agencies intermittently gave error messages and prevented consumers from filing online requests to have their credit reports frozen.
Equifax's website said "System Currently Unavailable - Error 500" and suggested consumers try contacting the other credit bureaus.
At one point, TransUnion's website couldn't be accessed at all. Then it put up an error page featuring a stock photo of a model sitting at a computer, alongside the caption, "The website is temporarily unavailable.Please check back later."
Experian's website simply says, "Loading..."
Later, service returned for some users but the fires of outrage had been further stoked. Security expert Bob Sullivan said it's okay to wait a few days to put one on. By then hopefully the systems will have improved. Just make sure you don't get lured by confusing website copy on the credit bureau websites into signing up for unnecessary and costly monitoring services.
Consumers have rushed to put these "freezes" on their credit report following the massive Equifax breach that exposed the data on over 143 million Americans, about half the total U.S. population. These freezes — far more secure than credit monitoring alone — can prevent hackers from stealing your identity to open up a credit card or new account in your name. Once a consumer's credit report is frozen, the only person who can "thaw" it is the account holder, using a specially designated PIN code.
Here's how to put a freeze on your report. They're not completely painless. You'll need your credit report "thawed" if you're shopping for a big purchase, like a new car or refinancing your house. The automated process takes a few minutes by phone. And it can cost you $10 to put the freeze back on. But expert say freezing your report is your best shot at protection.
ID Theft Victim Can't Freeze Her Credit Report
Emily Lynch, a 38-year-old nurse from San Jose, California, had her identity stolen 10 years ago. Having spent years since then polishing her score to a sterling "high 800's," she's eager to avoid a repeat.
"It was a total nightmare," she told NBC News. "It was a full-on investigation with the postal service inspector and all three credit bureaus. It took days and months dealing with that."
But when she filed a credit freeze with Equifax, the website said it was unable to process her request. When she called the automated credit freeze phone line, she was told that she had already had a credit freeze placed on her report. She never got a PIN code though, and now has no way of unlocking it.
She says when she called customer service they recommended she try "tomorrow" because it was a "computer glitch." When she asked how she would get a PIN, she says the customer service representative told her, "I don't know."
Lynch was stunned.
"This is one of the one of the top three credit agencies, you're hiring people to work the phone for a huge mistake, probably one of the largest ever for this industry, and you're hiring people who have no idea what the answers are?" she said.
Many Frustrated Consumers
Lynch is just one of many consumers feeling frustration with Equifax's response to the massive hack.
"Just tried to place a credit freeze on the Equifax phone line," wrote Michael Munn, a 59-year-old small business owner from Colleyville, Texas in an email to NBC News. "After entering all the info in the prompts, it comes back and tells you "We're unable to process your request. Please mail in your request.'"
His and other consumers' access issues have also expanded to annualcreditreport.com, a way under federal law to request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus. Several readers said they received error messages there, too, when they tried to get a copy of their report.
Still other consumers complained of phone lines that rang and rang with no one picking up.
Source : http://www.euronews.com/2017/09/13/equifax-melts-down-under-angry-consumer-surge