Don't Pay to Freeze your Credit Report

There are 3 major credit reporting agencies in the USA. They also have a presence in other countries. 

After the 2017 the Equifax data breach, and the subsequent debacle, the entire industry faced a public relations nightmare and the flashlight was on them.

In the years prior, locking/freezing your credit report came at a cost and was an add-on paid service. 

In Sept 2018 the FTC announced Free credit freezes are here

The three big agencies complied, reluctantly, and in our opinion deliberately made it as confusing as possible, for the consumers to perform a simple freeze. An average consumer attempting to perform the task, would be constantly upsold to other services. There was, and probably still is, confusion around a credit freeze and a credit lock. In addition it appears that the law can differ by state.

Should you freeze our credit report ?

In general yes, however check your local country/state laws and be persistent. As consumers, this is our data and information. We should have a right to choose who it is shared with and when. 

Is a freeze an inconvenience ?

Yes, but planning ahead helps. Most of us are not applying for new lines of credit regularly. After freezing your reports with the credit reporting agencies, save the website info, user, password and PIN in a secure digital vault or password manager. 

When applying for a new loan, most banks or loan companies will attempt a credit report pull, with one of more of the agencies and will send you notification. Simply login in and unfreeze your report for a few days or provide them with a one-time-use pin. Remember to confirm after a few days that your report has been relocked. In our experience we were proactively notified of an unsuccessful credit pull, before we received the paper mail and had a clear notification which agency was used by the lender or bank. When talking to their customer service, in most case they could not provide a precise answer of which provider they used. However, as an informed consumer we could choose to unlock one or all and have them perform their task. 

Official annual free credit report once a year

In the US consumers are allowed a once a year free report from the big 3 credit reporting agencies. The top result on a google search may not be the best link to click on. Look for a trusted source like the FTC for a verified link.

annual credit report - search results


Setup a calendar reminder and pull your credit report once every 12 months. As this was only allowed once a year a hacker, would have a difficult time doing the same. 

Unintended Consequences of the pandemic 

In 2020, Annual Credit Report's website started offering weekly free reports, till April 2021. Be extra vigilant during this time. While this may be a good will gesture from the big 3, it may adversely affect some, and allow hackers an opportunity. 

Resources and deep dive

We have mostly covered the three major credit reporting agencies, however, if you value privacy & security, you should definitely delve into the link below. Intel Technique's podcast is recommended listening. The workbook is a comprehensive guide to taking back you privacy and security.