FYI Experience regarding freeze/lock on credit bureaus

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Mar 3, 2021
I thought I'd post my experience attempting to freeze/lock the four major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis.
As far as I can tell, for all four bureaus, a "freeze" is a required-by-law free feature that must be offered. I was able to freeze Equifax and Innovis but Experian and TransUnion (possible deliberately) returned an error and told me to freeze-by-mail.
All four bureaus offer credit "lock" services for a fee of up to $25 per month. I suspect that Experian and TransUnion gave bogus errors to entice me to sign up for their credit lock services. Why do I think this? My experience with the refund web site for American Airlines. If AA can get away with that, Experian and TransUnion can get away with refusing to freeze accounts.
Perhaps there is a modestly priced service that can lock or freeze all four bureaus. Steve suggested locking, but that is too expensive for me.
Yeah. It appears that I got those backwards Tuesday. I've received a bunch of feedback to that effect. Shortly before the podcast I was refreshing my memory of the difference between those. The "fancy one" that I mentioned is NOT what we went. It's the federally mandated freeze. Sorry for the confusion! I'll fix that next week!
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I've experienced a similar issue with the annual 'free' credit report. I place a reminder on my calendar so that every 4 months, I pull a credit report from one of the three credit agencies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. One of those (I don't recall which one at the moment) has consistently told me that I 'failed' to authenticate online, and has told me that I must send in my request by mail. Of course, I haven't bothered, as I'm sure most others that may encounter this haven't, either. Coincidence? I think not. I've been able to consistently get into the other two services with no issues whatever. By the way, I'm sometimes amazed at the arcane (but likely searchable) personal financial information that I'm required to regurgitate to get my credit report. I've almost been stumped once or twice, but I've always managed to come up with the correct answer, except of course for the one agency that seems determined to not give out any free credit reports.
Ignore my q if folks thinks it's too much of a threadjack...

Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis

It's up to four? Innovis is a new name to me. Anyone care to elaborate?

I place a reminder on my calendar so that every 4 months, I pull a credit report from one of the three credit agencies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. One of those (I don't recall which one at the moment) has consistently told me that I 'failed' to authenticate online, and has told me that I must send in my request by mail.

I do the same and I do not recall any issue with any of'm. Perhaps try a different browser, one which is full-flow / un-blocked?
I was able to implement freezes at all the credit bureaus including Innovis, which was I only became aware of through this post. Experian and Equifax went smoothly. TransUnion, which has always been problematic when attempting to get free annual credit reports over the years, required 45 minutes on the phone because their website wasn't working properly, but I eventually got it done. Innovis says you can create an account when you ask for a credit report, but that was not the case [Edit: You have to wait for the credit report they send you in the mail. It contains temporary login credentials that allow you to create an account on their website.]. Apparently you have to fill out this form every time you want to manage your freeze.

I found this page helpful in getting this done. It has helpful guides and links to the relevevant pages on the bureaus' sites.
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Many good links above. I cannot recommend a credit freeze enough! My family has had our credit frozen at the three main credit agencies since the US Govt OPM breach, *many* years ago. (We added the fourth one more recently) Back then it was difficult to un-freeze and businesses couldn't deal with a freeze very well. (I lost out on buying an iPhone on the annual-upgrade plan because of freeze, but got a battery case from Apple as a consolation!) But today it's fairly easy to un-freeze online, and companies are more familiar with doing business with someone with a freeze. Just watch out for being steered to permanently lift the freeze when allowing access (I think this is less of an issue since the US Federal Law update).

A side effect is that companies can't pull your credit and send you junk mail credit offers (reduces, not eliminates).

Innovis seems to be in the dark ages in terms of tech. I've never un-frozen there and it has never been an issue. I wonder who is using them....
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Rather than cross-post the content, I'll cross-link it. There's another one or two mentioned in this thread over on the TWiT site:
LexisNexis requires too much of me and doesn't seem to be able to be used to steal an identity with a freeze on the four main agencies anyway...

I froze my info on all four main credit agencies easily and quickly (as exposed as it made me feel to type my identifying info) last Thursday evening (I think Experian was down at first but it was up again by the time I'd frozen the others).
While it's possible that the credit agencies are purposefully preventing us from freezing our credit, it's more likely that they're simply paranoid about securing identities for their own sakes. I can no longer even access my credit report from the big 3 agencies, even through, but Innovis happily mailed me my report in the mail. It took 2 weeks, but I received it yesterday and it turns out that Innovis has no entries whatsoever on my credit report. This is not implausible as I have had no "activity" on my credit since around 2007 when I last got a new credit card.

On sidenote, how convenient is it for Innovis that they were not part of the 2012 federal agreement to create and maintain the website? How stupid was it for the government to negotiate this agreement without including a provision that all future credit reporting companies would have to also participate in the new clearing house? Today, consumers now have to use the Big 3 website and do a separate request from Innovis. That's ridiculous and the regulators should be able force Innovis to participate. The entire point of the agreement was to have a single point of contact for our free credit reports! Geesh.

However, none of the Big 3 will recognize my identity and allow to either receive a credit report or freeze my credit. I simply fail every identity check. I last requested my credit reports online in 2012, which is obviously too long ago as back then I was faithfully requesting my reports annually (yes, 1 report every 4 months is more optimal, but I never achieved that regularity). Equifax (I think) asks a lot of questions about my credit history and while they have always thrown in a few "fake" questions, perhaps to reduce information exposure, I went through the questionnaire 4 times last week and at one of those times none of the questions were valid; all of them were about activities that never happened.

Now I'm concerned about my credit reports and will have to go through the process of requesting them via snail mail at each agency. To do this, I'll have to make a photocopy of my Social Security card and some other identity-related paperwork (I haven't received a W-2 since 2007). Unfortunately, I no longer have a working printer, so this paperwork thing gets more and more difficult with each passing year. Everything may still be fine as I have not been contacted about loan defaults or anything like that, but it bothered me when not a single question in the Equifax questionnaire was about a real event.

I intended to freeze my credit reports back in 2011, perhaps after a similar reminder on Security Now (this isn't the first time this issue has come up on the show, of course), but I seem to recall that one of the agencies still wanted me to pay for a credit freeze/unfreeze back then. If I can't freeze at all of the agencies, then I won't freeze any of them because doing so will become confusing over time (which agency is frozen or unfrozen?). Thus, my intentions were derailed, as always :rolleyes: .

If the credit reporting agencies are discovered to be purposefully making it impractical for citizens to access or freeze their credit reports, they could be bankrupted by a massive class-action lawsuit. This is the stuff of wet dreams for lawyers across the nation. That doesn't mean that this happening as in the past we've seen companies, industries, and nations adopt massive, suicidal conspiracies against all logic, but it seems rather conspiratorial to first assume that the companies are purposefully harming us. During COVID-19, some credit agencies even began offering free credit reports once per week. Consumers are obviously not doing that by snail mail, so it seems unreasonable to assume that they are conspiring to stop us from accessing our credit with only anecdotal, seemingly coincidental evidence. It's a possibility, but not the most likely one.
That implies either you don't use your credit card(s) or Innovis isn't receiving any information from the credit card companies.

Thanks. You may have a point as I do use the credit card and carry a substantial balance on it, but my experience is that credit report entries primarily occur when something changes; i.e. there's an action to report or a request for information. If ongoing reports are being made, then Innovis is indeed not receiving that information.

I did find it odd, but the Innovis report included only a multi-page summary of federal rights (FCRA), a page that said that there were no recent requests for my credit history, an investigation request form, and multiple pages of frequently asked questions; I can find zero personal or credit information. It's possible that they failed to include something, but that would seem excessively incompetent for an automated process.
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my experience is that credit report entries primarily occur when something changes; i.e. there's an action to report or a request for information.
All my credit reports (I have never pulled Innovis) always include each month that I've made a payment to show I have been paying on time. They may miss a month every so often, but most months are included going back a few years.
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