Kathy Payne tried to sign up for a credit freeze after last years Equifax breach, but found it an exercise in frustration.
"I went to TransUnion first," she said, talking about one of the 3 big credit bureaus. "And I can't get anywhere except a page that's offering monitoring for $19.95 a month."
A freeze was supposed to cost a one-time $10 fee, but everything she tried led to a paid service, for over $200 a year.
The good news is that as of September 21, 2018, a credit freeze is now free, as part of the updated Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Ted Rossman of CreditCards.com told us in a Skype interview that everyone should now sign up for a freeze.
"The biggest advantage of freezing your credit is that it is like a super lock on your credit report," he said. "It is going to keep all the bad guys out, complete protection against identity theft."
He also recommends signing children up for a freeze as well, so they can't become ID theft victims.
Still easy to end up paying
However, just because credit freezes will now be free, that doesn't mean they will be easier to get.
That's because in recent years, the credit bureaus have been making it tougher to find the "free" sections on their websites.
Payne said last year she had to wade through webpage after webpage to find the section for signing up. "Every tab takes you to the same page for $19.95 a month," she said.
Indeed, when we checked, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion still pushed $19 a month monitoring plans on their main pages.
TransUnion offers a "lock," which looks like a freeze, but is not, and is not free. Confused? Of course you are.
Rossman says one solution is to scroll down on the sites, and look for the word "freeze," not "lock" or "alert."
Still frustrated? Google the words "TransUnion credit freeze," (or Equifax or Experian), and you can usually go directly to those elusive freeze pages.
You will be required to fill out personal information such as your Social Security Number and date of birth. But you should not have to pay any money.
Don't agree to pay $19 a month for a free freeze, and don't waste your money.
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