I wasn’t sure until I tried it out but a credit freeze is now free for everyone. As some personal finance experts argue, we should start our lives with a credit freeze in place. I’ll talk about what a credit freeze is in this post and how to go about freezing your credit report.
A warning before you start. All 3 of these websites (Equifax, Experian, Transunion) are treacherous to navigate. They make it hard for you to find what you’re looking for and will try to get you to buy some sort of membership. I’ve curated the links below so that you don’t fall for any upsells. When in doubt call their phone number and place your freeze that way.
Credit Report and Credit Fraud
The main players in the credit reporting game are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Stolen data from these organization account for 7-10% of Americans falling victim to identity theft or credit fraud. It takes one fraudulent action on your credit report to create months of headache for you.
Aside from the data breach at Equifax there have been numerous data breaches at other institutions. This data is the sold in bulk and sold over and over to criminal gangs who specialize in identity theft. They won’t use such information right away – they’re too smart for that.
It takes the average credit fraud ring months or years to piece together a competent scam. They accumulate information from various breaches and stitch it together, going after the whales. By the time you drop your guard you might become the next victim.
A Credit Freeze is Free
A credit freeze is free so why not take advantage of it? Sure, it’s a pain in the ass to get a freeze in place but it won’t take you more than 1 hour for all 3 bureaus. I have a post on how to do it and the steps are still relevant as of 2019.
You’d be surprised how often you have to use your credit report even when you aren’t shopping for a loan. I’ve had to do it for job applications, for online tests, and to cosign for a family’s rent.
Placing the freeze is the most important step. Once your credit is frozen you can still unfreeze it as often as you want for as long as you want until you complete your transactions.
Keep the freeze in place at all times. Some of the credit bureaus require you to use a pin, others a password. And I’m sure these processes will change year after year.
When you go to apply for a loan online there is often a place where you can enter your freeze pin. This makes it easy for the web software to unfreeze you for just that one instance. Then you can answer in what fucking city you had that one store-card 17 years ago, and whether your monthly payments were:
Because you’ll remember that.
You designate the duration of time you want your credit to be unfrozen. After that time your credit report will revert right back to being frozen. They did a good job with that, them credit bureau peops.
Alternative to Pulling Your Credit Report
Let’s say you’re shopping for a car, a house, or a facelift. You don’t have to let each company pull your credit report. Even though the banker or loan officer will tell you that they need to do it – it’s never the final credit report the will use to underwrite you. I’ve never met a loan officer who won’t let me supply them with my own copy of my credit report.
Pulling Your Own Credit Report
You don’t need to unfreeze your credit to request your own credit report. And you should only do it at one place: www.annualcreditreport.com. It’s the only government approved place to do it.
Once you pull your credit report you can upload it securely to the server for your loan officer. Try not to email it unless your email is encrypted, as is theirs. Your loan officer can use your credit report to give you an idea about your eligibility for the loan.
Once you’re ready to complete the final purchase you must let them pull the credit report on their own, however. They will tell you which credit bureaus they will pull from and you can go online to have them unfrozen for a 24 hour period.