When it comes to keeping your credit secure, a credit freeze or credit lock are two of the most preferred options. Each one keeps your profile from being accessed by people seeking to use your credit for unsavory reasons and ruining the history that you worked so hard to obtain.
Both methods are ideal in situations where you need to protect your information and can easily be done with a little help from either of the three credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian. Two key differences are that a credit lock allows you to remove it at any time you want to allow a credit check for something like an apartment, but a credit freeze requires you to directly contact each bureau.
Getting a credit freeze or credit lock can be one of the best choices to make if your identity and credit information is put at risk through a data breach, identity theft, or if you have misplaced your wallet or social security card.
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze happens when you effectively restrict all access to your credit reports as well as any potential activity. You can activate or deactivate a credit freeze at any time with no additional costs due to a federal law called the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act of 2021.
Requesting a credit freeze requires individually contacting all of the credit bureaus and activating a freeze which protects your credit while thwarting efforts of credit thieves who target those with good or excellent credit scores.
Although a credit freeze can be done at any time, it also blocks all access to your reports from not only lenders, credit companies, thieves, and instant authorization requests. Once your profile is frozen, the only way to undo the action is to contact each bureau separately and provide them with the one-time pin number or passcode to remove it.
What is a Credit Lock?
A credit lock is similar to a credit freeze in that it blocks unwanted access to your credit profile and credit reports. However, with a credit lock you won’t have to keep calling the credit bureaus or wait up to 24 hours to have it initiated, and it doesn’t require a specialized password aside from the one you use to access your regular accounts.
In order to set up a credit lock, you will have to contact the bureaus for initial documentation such as proof of identity and other necessary information. You may also be charged an ongoing fee as a part of your monthly annual or membership fees for using the services.
A key difference with a credit lock, is that you can unlock it at your convenience just long enough to provide access to specific lenders in situations where you may need to get instant approval or quick access.
A credit lock also provides the following benefits:
- Free or low cost depending on the bureau
- Setup via mail or electronic document upload
- Instant activation or unlocking
- Prevents unauthorized access to credit files
- Doesn’t require password to remove it
When to Use a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze should be used in a situation where you are absolutely sure that your identity, credit and other assets have been or may potentially be compromised. You can also freeze any of your minor children’s credit if you believe that there is a risk to their profiles being affected.
Some recent situations where a credit freeze is recommended, are in cases where your confidential records or financial information was leaked such as the hacker attacks on phone companies, credit monitoring agencies, or department store breaches.
Many people believe that their score will be harmed if you freeze your credit. However, this is not the case as all three bureaus will still receive the same reporting information from all of your accounts, even though no new ones can be opened during a credit freeze period.
When to Use a Credit Lock?
A credit lock is useful when you want to give limited access to your credit reports. This allows you to keep your credit information out of the hands of identity thieves without paying a fortune for the protection.
By using a credit monitoring service or a mobile application you can switch your credit profile access on and off in the same manner as your debit cards. If you’re someone who doesn’t use their credit very often, or would like to make sure that your score is in perfect shape when applying for a new mortgage, then a credit lock may be ideal.
Each credit bureau has their own credit locking service to give customers a suite of options for any other services that you would like to include.
- TransUnion– TrueIdentity provides features such as credit lock, identity protection, and monitoring
- Equifax– Lock & Alert gives you free credit locking services as well as biometric security, and mobile access
- Experian– CreditLock offers one-touch lock services with a small monthly fee after a free trial.
Identity theft has become a multi-billion dollar business over the years and protecting your credit is extremely important in ensuring that you don’t become the next victim. Although fraud alerts may offer some peace of mind, a credit lock or credit freeze are the most efficient ways to offer top notch protection when you need it the most.