I finally got around to freezing my credit at all of the major credit reporting agencies about two weeks ago, a task I'd been putting off for months but which ultimately took about an hour and $20.
And then my credit score went down 20 points.
It's (Relatively) Easy to Freeze
Freezing with Equifax took 10 minutes. I got an error message, but when I called customer service at 1.877.394.7074 I was connected to a human who assured me that the freeze was active. It was free.
I next froze my credit with Experian, which cost $10.70 in the state of Pennsylvania and didn't require a phone call. The process with Experian took just a few minutes.
TransUnion proved to be the most complicated of the four credit agencies. The site tries to redirect you to a free credit lock that it markets as being better than a credit freeze, which is TransUnion's way of stopping people from freezing their credit — because if enough people freeze their credit, TransUnion won't have anyone's info to sell.
Get the credit freeze.
I paid $10 for the freeze with TransUnion. After submitting my credit card info, I got an error message that informed me, "We are not able to process your request at this time. Please try again later or contact us at 888-909-8872." As it was just past midnight, I was unable to reach anyone by phone, but was able to resolve the issue the following day.
Finally, I added a credit freeze to my account at Innovis, which was free and took a few minutes. That makes Innovis the only money-free and hassle-free of the four freezes in the state of Pennsylvania.
My Credit Decreased 10-20 Points
Eleven days later, on December 22 (the day I'm writing this), I got a notification from Credit Sesame that my credit score had gone down by 10+ points. Nothing that hasn't happened before, but what's weird is what hasn't happened: I haven't opened or closed any accounts lately, I haven't taken out any loans, I haven't missed any payments on my credit cards, and if I've spent any more than I normally do, it's by a few hundred dollars. Nowhere close to my credit limit.
My credit was good to begin with a few weeks ago — 781 according to TransUnion and 792 according to Equifax — so the drops haven't sent me into a panic, but they're puzzling.
Because I signed up for TrustedID through Equifax for free, I'm able to access my credit report from 12/12/2017. There's no derogatory information listed, and no new inquiries (the last one on my account is from July). On January's report, I might be able to learn more about why my credit went down. But until then, I can only make the connection between my 10 to 20 point credit score decrease and the freeze I put on my accounts.
Merry Christmas, Equifax!