Thanks to Equifax’s data incontinence and the flaming clown-car of death site they slapped together purely for optics, it’s a good idea for anyone subject to American credit reporting agencies to “freeze” your credit reports. You can read more details on the whys and hows here.
We froze our credit reports from all three big reporting agencies yesterday. Here’s what I learned in the process. This has a pretty high snark content, because WHY AREN’T YOU MAD??, but I’ve tried to control myself, and the info will save you some time and annoyance.
- You can go to the site Equifax set up to see if your data is at risk, but if you’ve read anything about that site, you’ll know that it’s an untrustable waste of time.
- I recommend using the phone to freeze your accounts. The Web sites for all three of these agencies are annoying at best, as is typical for sites designed by people who never use them.
- Read the notes for each agency before embarking on the phone call.
- I highly recommend using a land-line, so you don’t have to deal with as many screw-ups. You will still probably deal with screw-ups.
- ALL of these phone systems try to use voice commands. ALL of them appear to listen for voice commands all the time, so it is REALLY easy to screw them up if you talk when you aren’t supposed to. This is difficult to avoid, as you will probably find yourself blurting out short words with hard consonants in them. Try not to.
- As with everything, using a speakerphone makes it all much worse.
- Use the keypad for anything with numbers. When (WHEN) these things screw up what they think you said, they will say they can’t access your report and you will have to start all over.
- Speaking of which, when (when) these thing say they can’t access your report, just hang up and try again. We did a total of five calls to freeze three reports, and I think we did pretty well, considering how crap these systems are.
Equifax – 1-800-349-9960
For this one, we actually went to the Equifax site and got our credit report from them BEFORE we froze the report. And yep, we printed it on many sheets of paper that we are going to eventually shred and recycle. If you go through the whole deal with setting up an online account with Equifax, you will need to supply:
- Date of birth
- Some info about some credit you have open right now, like the price range of your mortgage payment
***You will have four minutes to supply all the info the site asks you for, or you will have to start again.***
Once you get to your report, there is a printer button on the top right.
“Monthly subscription fee” is not the same as “credit freeze!”
Equifax’s site pushes you towards their TrustedID service, which is a $22/month service that provides extra control over who can see what in your report. VERY VERY few people need this, but Equifax REALLY wants you to buy it–that’s how they make some of the money they don’t spend on keeping your information safe.
Nope, not giving them a link to it here.
To freeze your credit report with Equifax over the phone, you will need:
- Date of Birth
- Numerical portion of your address (just know your address)
- A credit card to pay the fee they are allowed to charge for this ($3 in NE).
Yep! They get PAID per freeze and unfreeze in most states. That’s nice work, if you can get it.
Once you get through all this, they will give you a PIN number, which you will need to use to unfreeze your account. WRITE THIS DOWN! You will also get a confirmation number, which you should also write down.
NOTE: Both of these are 10-digit numbers. You have the ability to have them repeat the numbers, and I recommend you do that. I say “write this down” because you probably can’t type it into your phone while listening. Also, you shouldn’t.
They say they will also mail you confirmation. I suggest you watch out for that, because golly, if you wanted to intercept a bunch of communications between a credit-reporting agency and its customers, this would be a good time to do it. I am probably not the only person to think of that.
And yep, that PIN number is just the time that your PIN was issued, in the format DDMMYYHHMM.
Update: People noticed how dumb the PIN thing was, and Equifax are now using a different PIN scheme.
They are SO “taking this seriously.”
Experian – 1-888-397-3742
If you have lots of time to kill and want to see how little testing goes into corporate web sites, you can bang around in circles on experian.com/report for a while and THEN decide to just do this by phone.
If you DO decide to try to create an Experian online account, you will need to create a unique username and a strong password for the site, which they will then undermine by asking you to answer a “security” question like the street you grew up on. I hope the irony of these questions in the context of a leak of 143 million user profiles is not lost on you.
When we tried to just set up a credit freeze on the site, we got a lot of broken links and stuff that circled back to trying to sell us CreditLock, which is Experian’s flavor of TrustedID–a service you pay for monthly that lets you do a bunch of stuff with your credit report that very very few people actually need to do. After a few minutes, we said something like “Gosh, this isn’t very good. I hope the people at this company have a very rough time indeed!” and just used the phone.
You’ll need the same info as you did for Equifax, more or less. You will also need to listen through an utterly pointless list of all the states, arranged into groups of how much you can legally be charged for a credit freeze in each state. Why? Not sure, but I suspect it’s just Experian’s way of saying “This list is meaningless, unless you are willing to move to another state to save $3 -$10, but your time means literally nothing to us.”
Then you get to pay for the credit freeze with a credit card.
They will send you a confirmation thing in the mail. Again, I would keep an eye out for it.
Transunion – 1-888-909-8872
We just did this one by phone. You will need the same info as above.
You will also need to create a 6-digit PIN. And of course, you will need to pay.
This voice carousel is PARTICULARLY sensitive to any noise you make. Also, the fake-smiley voice that they have used for this sounds INCREDIBLY patronizing. Admittedly, we might have been a bit tetchy after 45 minutes of jumping through needless hoops put up by a scam industry run by horrible incompetent screw-ups. Obviously, I am totally over that now though…
They will send you a confirmation package in the mail. Look out for that.
Hope that helps.