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Credit freezes for all or victims only?

Money to be made on your credit reports
PIRG's Mierzwinski says instant credit isn't necessarily the main issue when it comes to a credit freeze.

"The three credit reporting agencies oppose credit freezes because they think consumers' credit information is their product to sell. They make money every time they sell your information to banks, mortgage brokers, car dealerships and other retailers. Of course they don't want consumers to have control over their credit files; it takes away their bread and butter," he says.

Hoofnagle agrees, saying credit reporting agencies are the gatekeepers of consumers' financial information. "Giving consumers the right to see and monitor their own credit threatens them."

Some financial institutions, such as ING Direct, support allowing consumers to freeze their credit, saying that consumers should be able to monitor it.

"People need to be more aware of their credit report because our financial information is under attack from thieves offshore," says Jim Kelly, executive vice president for ING Direct. "It's becoming easier for criminals to get our credit records and misuse them."

Easy credit, easy theft
Victims of identity theft and advocates of credit freezes say security freezes wouldn't be necessary if companies were more careful when extending credit.

Hendricks says that instead of being more responsible in verifying identities and checking for fraud, credit reporting agencies create products that require consumers to pay to monitor their credit files.

David Rubinger, vice president of communications at Equifax, says that credit reporting bureaus were not initially set up to monitor consumer accounts for ID theft or fraud. "The bureaus were simply started in an effort to scan consumers for creditworthiness."

But the question remains that if these agencies collect and sell our data and rightfully own our financial information, whose job is it to protect the information?

Kelly says that consumers should place a stronger importance on watching out for their own credit and take advantage of state laws, such as ones allowing credit freezes, if they can.

He adds that consumers cannot expect the credit reporting agencies to look out for consumers' best interests; the agencies are looking out for their own interests. Kelly does, however, feel that credit bureaus will start to place stronger emphasis on ID theft and fraud monitoring but at a cost to the consumer.

Advocates strongly argue that companies that fail to secure consumers' credit files should not be allowed to turn around and charge the consumers to protect themselves.

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According to Hoofnagle, who has testified before Congress about identity theft, the credit-granting systems are so flawed that the only way to fix them is to give consumers a freeze.

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