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How freezing credit can backfire, and how Equifax knew about breach threat

Equifax says it's working to solve technical problems with its special data breach website

Putting a freeze on your credit file means no one can open an account in your name. And with few exceptions, no one gets access to your credit report. That can include prospective landlords and employers, insurance companies, and businesses that sell new smart phones.

Apple, for example, is promoting pre-orders for the $1,000 iPhone X and the new 8 series models, which start at $700 and $800.

But, regardless of which smart phone you buy, even if it's another brand, the service provider will usually check your credit.

When you put a security freeze on your credit, no one can check your credit until you lift the freeze. That means going online, making a call or sending a request by mail to temporarily or permanently lift the security freeze.

Credit bureaus can typically lift your security freeze in about 15 minutes, if you do it online or by phone. If you do it by mail, it could take up to three days once they receive your request.

New purchases aside, the latest update on the Equifax website might prompt more people to freeze their accounts.

The company says the attack occurred "through a vulnerability in Apache Struts" an open-source application that supports the Equifax online dispute process.

What's more - the company says the vulnerability was "identified and disclosed in early March." That's two months before the hack that compromised the information of 143 million American consumers.

Equifax says its security team took efforts to identify and patch vulnerable systems in it's IT infrastructure.

The company also says it's working on solving the technical problems on it's website.

If you had to pay for a security freeze starting the afternoon of September 7, Equifax says you will get a refund.

Equifax is now waiving all fees to both place and remove a security freeze through November 21, regardless of whether your information was impacted by the data breach that was publicly announced September 7.

Keep in mind, if you want a security freeze on all your credit files, you must contact each of the three major bureaus separately.

The fees for freezing or lifting a freeze at the two other bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, are about $10 each, but in Washington state, there are no fees if you're 65 or older.

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