Living with a Credit Freeze

Brian Krebs published an article “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Security Freeze” in 2015. I decided to embark on that journey as well, although my laziness caused the onset of that journey to be staggered longer than it should have. I have had freezes in place for quite a few years now, and I wanted to share my experiences for each of the major bureaus.

Creditors

First, I want to say that it is very surprising, even to this day, to see the staggering number of companies (that deal with pulling credit reports or scores) that have never heard of a credit freeze. There are so many places that want to run your credit, from as simple as getting electricity turned on and all the way to getting a home mortgage. I feel like I have been more of an educator to that industry than anyone else!

Some have heard of a freeze, and are very curious to ask questions about it. It feels almost like being a celebrity with questions like “what’s it like to have a freeze?” (no joke). Others have heard of it and straight up dismiss me because they claim to have no ability to handle the freeze except for me having to unfreeze and then refreeze when they are done. Many of them think it is so simple and free (it’s not), so they just expect you to take that on. One company straight up refused to work with me at all until there was no freeze on my credit.

Bureaus

The current situation has no standards on how these credit freezes should work. There are some various state laws that define how much the bureaus can charge to place a freeze, but there is nothing in those laws to define the process. Each of the three major bureaus does things slightly different.

In general, you visit the web portal for each bureau and supply enough personal information to identify yourself. Stuff that really wouldn’t be hard to assemble about a target victim for those inclined to that side of morals, but that’s another rambling for another day. After validating you know enough about someone yourself, you pay some amount of money to place the freeze. After that clears, you get a PIN code. Equifax gave me a 10 digit, Experian gave me a 10 digit, and TransUnion gave me a 6 digit. These numbers have different uses depending on the bureau.

In general, I haven’t had problems with the companies knowing who they use to pull credit history. They are willing to discuss and work with me when I explain that I have a freeze and the reason for the freeze. Sometimes, they have to pass you off to a different person who is the one responsible for performing the task.

Experian

I want to start with this one because it is the one I have held a freeze with for the longest, and it seems to be the most popular credit bureau with the companies I have interfaced with.

For those companies that were willing to work with me, it has been the absolute smoothest of all three bureaus. I store the 10 digit PIN in my KeePass database, and I can give this number to the company looking to pull information about my credit history. Simple as that. Later, I can go onto the Experian web portal to change that PIN. The process is similar to when you first place the freeze in supplying enough personal information to identify yourself.

I had to unfreeze with Experian one time when a company absolutely refused to accept a PIN to process the transaction. It cost me something like $20 to schedule an unfreeze followed by a refreeze after so many days.

Equifax

I list this one next because it has been the next easiest to work with in pulling credit history. The PIN you get from them is only to use when interacting with the web portal, so supplying this PIN to a company seeking your credit info will come back with a refusal based on being a wrong number. In fact, the PIN you receive as a part of the freeze process is a 10 digit, and the creditor company is prompted for only 4 digits – an obvious mismatch.

The code required by those companies has to be generated each time, but the best part is that Equifax doesn’t charge for creating these codes. The downside is that you need to login to their web portal to generate them, so you have to be more prepared. You can create a global temporary lift for a time period or a temporary lift for a single company. When doing a temporary lift for a single company, the portal asks you for the company name seeking your credit, but funny enough they only allow you to type 9 characters in that box. It seems that the name is more of a note for reference later than it is as a part of the validation. The other thing is asks you for is that 10 digit code you received when placing the freeze. At the end of that process, you get a link to open a PDF file that contains a 4 digit single use code. Give that to the company running your credit and it will go through, even immediately within minutes of generating that code.

TransUnion

I put this one last because I wasn’t able to figure out a way to have a temporary lift without having to pay some amount of money. I have had to login to the web portal to place a temporary lift. They charged me $10 and it didn’t matter if it was a global lift or a specific company lift.

Takeaway

I have lived with these credit freeze for many years, and it has allowed me to have a little more peace in light of the world I live in. It sets a much higher wall in front of my metadata and I can deal with the occasional hassle that I described above.

 

I hope this helps you. I encourage you to look at getting a credit freeze to protect yourself.

 

James Habben

@JamesHabben

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