COSTA MESA, Calif. — Experian recently announced that beginning Nov. 1, it will offer consumers in all 50 states, including Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories the ability to freeze their credit reports.

If a consumer opts for the freeze, it could complicate the ability for financial institutions and dealers to check credit reports. Basically, the freeze prevents new creditors from accessing files without the consumer's consent.

Experian's file freeze will be free to victims of identity theft. Unless state law mandates otherwise, there will be a $10 fee to temporarily lift or permanently remove the freeze, officials pointed out. Which means if a consumer elects to institute a freeze, it could cost them money to remove it to get approved for a vehicle loan.

It also gives underwriters one more thing to look at, as they may need to find out why the freeze was instituted to begin with.

"Experian continually strives to provide consumers with effective tools to prevent and detect credit fraud, as well as to monitor credit information," explained Kerry Williams, group president of Credit Services & Decision Analytics.

"Now that a national model for file freezing has emerged, Experian is offering this option to help prevent consumer confusion. Placing a freeze on a credit file is a major decision for a consumer. It will be one option among a broad range of fraud assistance tools we already provide to consumers so that they may make the choice best suited to their situation," she continued.

The company said it will continue to offer the placement of fraud security alerts on a credit file for consumers that may be victims of identify theft at no charge.

"A fraud security alert is a better option for many consumers who are concerned about financial fraud. A security alert informs credit grantors that a consumer may have been the victim of identity theft, effectively protecting consumers from credit fraud without taking the drastic step of removing them from the credit marketplace entirely," Williams concluded.