Consumers have to shell out a collective $4.1 billion to freeze their credit reports and prevent fraudsters from using personal information possibly exposed in the massive data breach at Equifax, according to new research from advocacy group U.S. PIRG.
The data show that with only eight U.S. states requiring that credit freezes — which prevent lenders from accessing your credit report — be offered free of charge, about 158 million consumers between ages 18 and 65 would face a hefty tab.
"Consumers can't control access to their own credit reports without paying a fee, which is outrageous," said Mike Litt, consumer advocate for U.S. PIRG.
"We're not customers" of the credit-reporting firms, he added. "We don't get to choose them collecting and selling our information — and, in the case of Equifax, losing it — and we have to pay a fee to protect it?"
(Click on the interactive map below to check fees in your state.)