Improving the Credit Freeze user experience

Posted on May 3, 2021

I have credit freezes put on my credit records with all 3 US credit reporting companies. These are supposed to help a little with identity theft, but the UI surrounding them makes for a very bad experience.

The way it works, one places a freeze at each company, but then one is expected to know in advance when a credit check is going to happen and temporarily lift the freeze! This almost always causes friction. For example, I was signing up for a phone line, and I didn’t know they would be running a credit check. So my application fell into a black hole until I called them about it. After the inevitable hold, I was told by the agent that they were encountering errors checking my credit (by design), and told me which agency to lift it from. That experience turned out to be buggy, but eventually worked.

However, I would really prefer this experience to be more push based, like multi-factor auth or similar. That is, when someone does make a credit request, I receive a text/push saying “XYZ wants to check your credit with Experian/TransUnion/Equifax. Would you like to allow it?” and then lets me respond. This way, I don’t have to know in advance when a credit check will happen, who will do it and with which company. It also means that the freeze is lifted on a per-request basis, instead of a time-limit, which seems more secure, because with the latter, anybody else could squeeze in a check during the same time.

Of course this requires a lot of re-engineering on part of both the reporting companies and all their consumers, because they will have to switch to some kind of token based system instead of just doing a request, failing and then throwing the request away, so I don’t expect this to ever actually be implemented…