equifax extends TrustedID Premier enrollmentFollowing the retirement of its now former CEO on Sept. 28, Equifax hired Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. to serve as its interim CEO. He began his tenure by publishing an OpEd in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 27, apologizing for the company’s many failures in its response to the massive data breach which exposed 143 million consumers and promising to do better in the future. Among the information provided to consumers in Barros’ piece was news that the deadlines for placing a free credit freeze with Equifax and completing your TrustedID Premier enrollment have been extended, as well as the foreshadowing of a new credit locking tool which would be available for free to consumers for life. Here’s all the information you need to know about these latest updates in the Equifax data breach saga.

How far was the TrustedID Premier enrollment deadline extended?

Up until now, Equifax had stated that the deadline for all consumers to enroll in its free credit monitoring and identity theft protection service, TrustedID Premier, was Nov. 21, 2017. According to Barros, due to consumer complaints that the enrollment window was too short, the deadline has been pushed back to Jan. 31, 2018. This deadline also pertains to requests to place a credit freeze on your Equifax file free of charge. It is likely that problems with the TrustedID Premier website’s functionality (or lack thereof) also played a significant role in this decision. We noted our frustrations with the TrustedID Premier enrollment process and our attempted use of the service, and our readers have continued to share their own troubles. Barros also addressed the instability of the website, promising to either make the website right or build another one from scratch. He also indicated that Equifax would be employing even more call center agents and working on increasing and expanding the training for all such employees to ensure that consumers can get connected quickly and receive knowledgeable answers to their questions and concerns.

Barros provided hints of a new, free credit locking feature

The OpEd cited two primary goals for Equifax at this time: to improve things in the short-term when it comes to the credit bureau’s response to this data breach, as well as a long-term plan to develop and implement better ways to protect consumer data. Barros said that right now the company is working on a service which would give consumers complete access to their personal credit data. This service would be free to everyone — for life. Those who use it would be able to lock and unlock access to their credit file with Equifax at will. Plans for implementing this service have been slated to begin on Jan. 31, 2018 — the same date that the enrollment window for TrustedID Premier closes.

Is there a difference between locking and freezing your credit?

Since this whole debacle began, many consumers who had never before heard of a credit freeze have been inundated with urges to make sure they place one on all three of their files with the three credit bureaus. However, at the same time, each of the bureaus has promoted its own credit locking service that enables consumers to lock and unlock their credit file at the touch of a button whenever they want. Experian charges for its CreditLock service, while TransUnion is offering a free TrueIdentity service that includes the ability to lock/unlock your credit file. Equifax’s version of this comes with enrollment in TrustedID Premier.

What’s important to know is that there is no significant difference between placing a credit freeze and locking your credit — both refer to the same thing. That said, consumers should be aware that some security professionals have expressed doubt as to whether a credit lock advertised by the credit bureaus as an effort to steer people away from placing a security freeze is actually just as secure. Although it might end up costing you a little bit to place a credit freeze (e.g., $10 per bureau), those who are suspicious of the credit bureaus — which we can’t blame you if you are — will probably be better off doing it the old-fashioned way.

Are these steps the right ones to be taking?

Equifax has made itself infamous thanks to its many missteps in the aftermath of such a significant data breach, and only time will tell whether or not the promises published by Barros will manifest into concrete action. It is good to know that the biggest complaints — such as long call wait times, a barely functioning website and too-short enrollment window — are being listened to and addressed. That said, the company has a long way to go to win back trust from consumers, especially considering so much is yet unanswered about this cyberattack. Barros does make a good point in his piece that data breaches are a fact of life, and something that all companies and individuals should be actively working to fight against. Hopefully this data breach and others like it serve to remind government and corporate entities that the risk from cybercrime is unlikely to disappear without efforts made on their part, and it spurs real action and change to how data is stored and information is disclosed.

For more updates to this story, follow our Equifax breach blog. To learn more about protecting your credit and identity, read our identity theft protection blog.