When it comes to the safety of one's identity and credit, there are no limits to how far they should go for the protection of their name and financial efforts. In special cases of identity theft and credit card fraud, terms like
are quite important. How important? Both practices basically place your credit information on lock-down mode to minimize the tampering of the data and the possible abuse of financial credit from a third-party position.
These benefits are greatly needed and in dire necessity to be known and acknowledged in the public eye, more so since the controversial breach of data faced by Equifax in the year 2017. The fiasco had prompted all three credit bureaus–Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion– to impose stronger efforts on credit locks and what they can do to aid people when their credit information is in unstable hands.
Some bureaus go as far as to present new credit lock offerings in an effort to appeal and collect more credit lock applications. An example of this is Equifax's Lock and Alert feature. In an effort to conduct damage control, the credit bureau released this promotion that provides the credit lock service for life. Sounds appealing, doesn't it? Before making any rash decisions, it is fundamental to comprehend what exactly one gets into when they apply for a credit lock or a credit freeze.
So far, I have used the term ‘credit lock' multiple times, and thus it might be safe to say that a slight general idea of what it is has been established. But what is it, really? And an equally important question: what is a credit freeze? What makes the two of them similar, and what makes them different? How do we know which is the better, safer choice? Let's dive in, shall we?
What is a Credit Lock?
A credit lock is a service provided for people who must protect their credit information in cases when it is needed, such as during the event of stolen properties and identification cards that hold valuable financial and personal data. The service is available in the three credit bureaus. If a credit lock has been signed up for in a single bureau, it is a moot effort.
For the credit lock to be properly activated, all three bureaus must have proper documentation of it. If one applies for a credit lock in TransUnion and Equifax but fails to do so in Experian, it is an invalid process. The reason for this is that in order to maintain the withholdment of the credit report, it must be unattainable from all sides of the triangle. If a third-party requests for the credit information, all bureaus must be aware of the credit lock to properly keep its trace intact.
Credit locks, though largely similar to credit freezes (but we will get to that later), have one massive perk that does not always seem to be the case with a credit freeze. It is amazingly convenient. The lift of the credit lock is so simple that it can be done through a mobile device using applications. It's absolutely instantaneous.
Now that we have established its biggest perk, what is on the other side of the spectrum? Where does it lack? It is unstable. A credit lock, in essence, is a contractual agreement between the consumer and the singular bureau. The state law has no claims in the process undergoing within the activity of the credit lock. This means that if funds were to be improperly allocated without the consumer's direct consent, the bureau may not be liable for the crime. The lines are blurred. The agreement is unregulated and full of loopholes that ultimately keep themselves outside the box of trouble that may arise in the situation.
Furthermore, as stated in the contract, it may be possible for consumers to be targeted by third-party companies for marketing purposes. And, let's be honest, being bombarded with advertisements and notices may not be the best thing you need when dealing with the headache of having locked credit.
Yes, I know, credit locks are mighty interesting. But it is time to understand the concept and practices of a credit freeze. The words “freeze” and “lock” imply the same meaning: no movement; trapped and stuck. Yet, though they convey similar notes, these two services have disparities that could significantly alter one's credit withholding experience.
What is a Credit Freeze?
Most people think that credit locks and credit freezes are the same concepts, but they could not be more wrong. A credit freeze is a service provided for people who must protect their credit information in the same way that credit locks do. This entails that no activity can be done with the credit when it is frozen and no reports or information on the credit can be shared with any third-party entities. Likewise, with credit locks, the three bureaus must be alerted of the notice to place the credit on freeze. If one out of the three does not hold the certification for the credit freeze, it is invalid.
Now, anyone can tell that the two are quite similar, but credit freezes have a huge upper hand in the pocket where credit locks lack. All credit freezes are not regulated by the bureau, but the state law. In the event of improper conduct with credit information during a credit freeze, the consumer is safe from any legal difficulties. The liability falls completely on the bureau. Financial compensation will be provided to the consumer as the intervention with the law regulates the activity. Legal protection during a time when one's credit is shut is something anyone in that position deserves.
Everything looks great so far, but alas, nothing is completely perfect. Credit freezes lack where credit locks shine. It's stable and secure, but it is not the most convenient option. The activation and the lift of the credit freeze can take some time. Usually, it takes a day or two before the process takes effect. It can be a hassle, but hey, at least you don't have to look at any advertisements.
Credit Lock VS. Credit Freeze:
It's not a secret that credit freezes come off as the complicated option, whereas credit locks are simpler and convenient to manage. Truly, it's all about the long run. Which of the two can provide the best security and efficiency throughout moments of fraudulent crises? Which of the two better secures their consumers?
Credit freezes bring security and relief to the table. Consumers can go to bed soundly knowing that they will not be liable for any misconduct surrounding their credit information. It sounds small, but it can do wonders. The road to that kind of stability will not be a convenient one. In retrospect, what's a day or two of waiting around compared to the reward of consumer safety.
Credit locks bring simplicity and convenience to the people who need it in those problematic times. The purpose of a credit lock and a credit freeze is to ease and protect consumers from the drudges of financial wrongdoing. The consumers must be protected when third-party positions illegally impose on their credit. The instability of a credit lock may cause more damage than it should. While a consumer's credit is locked, upon any criminality with the credit in question, it is uncertain where the liability falls. If the bureau does not carry the burden, the weight falls directly on the consumer.
Both services offer their own respective perks and disadvantages. It depends wholly on what the consumer prioritizes and needs from the specific features provided. Regardless, there may be a superior option between the two, but before we figure that out, one more factor needs to be considered: the pricing.
What are the Costs of the Services?
This aspect of the duel between credit locks and credit freezes is a big indicator towards which of the two is the more wholesome choice. It means something to know what you are giving up in the exchange for these services. The prices depend on the specific bureau in question, but since we have established that all three bureaus must get paid for the activation of the credit lock and credit freeze, it now depends on the disparity of the two services, what the bureaus can provide for them, and the states that these activities are happening in.
Credit Lock Funding
TransUnion offers free credit lock services. Equifax initially offered $4.95 on a monthly basis for the service, but as of January 2018, they removed the pricing. Like TransUnion, Equifax is free. So far, no charges from two out of the three bureaus. With Experian, this is where the cost comes in.
Experian offers credit lock services priced at $4.99 for the first month and $24.99 for all succeeding months that consumers choose to employ of the feature. It might be considered a little steep, but it comes with certain advantages. If someone tries to access or sign up for credit while it is locked, the service keeps track of the activity and alerts the consumer. Then again, monitoring the movement of the third-party entity is something that can already be done without the extra cost.
Credit Freeze Funding
This one is a little less complicated in terms of pricing. Mainly, credit freezes are almost always free. This is, of course, with the confirmation that there is truly improper conduct while the credit is frozen. In the event of identity theft and fraud, the consumer usually does not have to spend a cent. This is with regards to the fact that credit freezes are in regulation with the state law, and thus the fallback lies with them. However, there are exceptions to the rule. If the service is not free, the pricing varies depending on the state the consumer resides in. Regardless of which state this applies to, all bureaus in that location offer the same prices.
Now that we have gotten the costs out of the way, the superior option between the two choices is almost painfully obvious. Let's get down to it.
Which is the Safer Option: Credit Lock or Credit Freeze?
Credit locks and credit freezes are wonderful services that aid countless people during difficult times of intense stress and financial burdens. Either option comes with a set of pros and cons that will appeal and alarm specific people depending on their preferences and needs within the process. Although putting needs aside, there is a greater practical choice between the two that does more good than bad while simultaneously keeping consumers secure in the long run.
Not only is a credit freeze the more stable and trusted option, but it is also the more cost-effective solution between the two. It is accessible to everyone who needs it with the added bonus of law regulations that keep consumers safe and protected. In the grand scheme of things, having to wait a couple days just for the activation and lift of the credit freeze is a small price to pay for a lifetime of stability. I mean, you know what they say, “Great things come to those who wait.”
Credit locks have their benefits– but the convenience, haste, and simplicity of it all cannot compare to the uncertainty of having added legal complications in your hands, as well as, the cost of a service that can be done effortlessly on one's own time. More stress is the last thing a consumer would need at a time that is taxing and difficult enough. Furthermore, the existing obstacle of having a third-party entity access a consumer's credit data and finances should not be added upon by more third-party companies invading their space and time. Time is of the essence in situations where fraud can be committed but is all this really worth it?
Knowing everything we know, the good and the bad, the ins and the outs– the answer is finally clear. With credit freezes, you get no scary legal consequences, you get no steep funds, you get no marketing impositions– just safety and protection. And are they not the most priceless things in the world?
To ensure that you're protected at all times, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the best identity theft protection companies including Identity Force and Lifelock. We cover these and others in another more comprehensive article.
General Credit Lock Questions
This section answers general questions about credit locks, including how they work and how you can lock your credit.
How to Lock Your Credit Report?
There are lots of ways to lock your credit report. You can use each credit agency’s mobile app or login through their website. You can also get your credit locked by using different credit monitoring services.
Should I Lock My Credit Report?
You should lock your credit as a preventative measure if you’re worried about someone stealing your personal information and using it to open up fraudulent accounts in your name.
Can You Lock Your Credit for Free?
Not usually. The three major credit reporting agencies generally charge a fee to lock your report. That’s because you can lock or unlock it at any time. You can usually freeze your report for free.
How to Lock Your Credit for Free?
There’s no service that lets you lock all of your credit reports for free. You can lock your TransUnion report for free by using their app, TrueID.
How Much Is Experian Credit Lock?
Experian CrediWorks Premium will lock your credit for $4.99 for the first month and $24.99 each month after that.
Why Is My Credit Locked?
You’ll need to contact the credit reporting agency that says your report is locked to find out why it’s locked. As a security measure, this information generally isn’t available publicly.
What Is TransUnion Credit Lock?
A TransUnion credit lock prevents people from accessing your credit report. You can lock and unlock your TransUnion report for free through their app, TrueID.
How to Lock Credit Equifax?
You can lock your credit report at Equifax by using their app, Lock & Alert. It lets you lock or unlock your report at will.
Does Credit Lock Work?
For many things. It isn’t 100% foolproof though. However, it will prevent people from opening new accounts in your name fraudulently.
Is TransUnion Credit Lock Free?
The TransUnion credit lock is free as long as you’re willing to accept marketing emails from them. You can manage your credit lock with them through their app, TrueID.
Does Locking One Credit Report Cover You Enough?
Probably not. Companies rarely share what credit reporting agency they use. Therefore, locking one report doesn’t prevent people from accessing your other reports and using them to open accounts in your name.
How Can I Monitor and Lock All 3 Credit Bureaus?
There’s no service that lets you lock all 3 credit bureau reports at one. You can lock them individually with the appropriate apps from each company. You can also monitor all 3 using most credit monitoring services.
How to Remove a Lock on Your Credit Report?
That depends on the credit reporting agency and why the lock is in place. Equifax and TransUnion let you lock and unlock your report from a simple app. Experian has a more involved service.
How Can I Tell if My Credit Score Is Locked?
You can tell if your credit score is locked by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies. They’ll confirm the locked or unlocked status of your report.
Does a Credit Lock Expire?
Yes. You can renew a credit lock but it will expire automatically in 90 days in most cases. However, you can use the different services provided by the credit reporting agencies to update your credit lock.
General Credit Freeze Questions
This section covers general questions about credit freezes. That includes how to freeze your credit and what it means to freeze your credit.
How to Freeze Your Credit?
You can freeze your credit report by contacting each of the three major credit reporting agencies and requesting a credit freeze. A credit freeze is free by law and the agencies are required to offer them.
Should I Freeze My Credit?
That depends on your situation. It can be a bit of a hassle to temporarily unfreeze your credit reports, so if you’re going to apply for a loan or credit in the near future you may want to hold off. However, if you don’t plan on doing anything that requires your credit report, then it can be a good idea.
What Is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze lets you restrict access to your credit report which makes it more difficult for people to open new accounts in your name.
How to Freeze Credit Equifax?
You can freeze your Equifax credit report by calling their automated line at 1-800-349-9960. When you freeze your report you’ll get a 10-digit PIN. You’ll need that PIN to unfreeze your report.
How Long Does a Credit Freeze Last?
A credit freeze will last until you lift it. You have the option of lifting the freeze temporarily or permanently when you decide to unfreeze it.
How to Freeze Your Credit Report at Each Credit Bureau?
You need to contact each agency individually to freeze all 3 reports. You can freeze Equifax by calling 1-800-685-1111. You can freeze your Experian report by calling 1-888-397-3742. TransUnion reports can be frozen by calling 1-888-909-8872.
How Much Does it Cost to Freeze Your Credit?
Federal law mandates that you be able to freeze your credit for free. That means it shouldn’t cost you anything to freeze your credit report.
How Do I Freeze My Credit With TransUnion?
You’ll need to call TransUnion in order to freeze your credit report. You can contact them at 1-888-909-8872.
How to Lift a Credit Freeze?
You’ll need to contact the individual credit agencies to lift a credit freeze. You’ll need to have your password or the PIN that was assigned to you when you initially froze your report.
Do I Need to Freeze All three Credit Bureaus?
It’s helpful to do so. You never know which credit agency a lender or creditor will use. That means freezing one report won’t necessarily stop someone from opening up a fraudulent account in your name.
How to Freeze Your Credit for Free?
Federal law mandates that the credit reporting agencies freeze accounts for free on request. All you’ll need to do is contact the various reporting agencies and request a freeze.
How to Freeze Credit Reports Online?
You can’t freeze your credit reports online. Instead, you’ll need to call each agency. 1-800-685-1111 will let you freeze Equifax, 1-888-397-3742 works for Experian, and 1-888-909-8872 is the number for Transunion. In addition to this you can either use the credit bureaus to monitor your credit or a third party service like Credit Sesame which may have more features. Read more: Is Credit Sesame safe?
What Is a Security Freeze on Credit?
A security freeze on a credit report prevents most people from viewing your credit reports or using them to open new accounts in your name.
How Long Does it Take to Lift a Credit Freeze?
Federal law states that the major credit reporting agencies must be able to comply with a request to life a credit freeze within one hour, so that’s the maximum amount of time it will take.
How to Put a Proactive Freeze on My Credit?
You can put a protective freeze on your credit reports by contacting the respective agencies. You can contact Equifax at 1-800-685-1111, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, and TransUnion at 1-888-909-8872.
How Much Is Experian Credit Freeze?
An Experian credit freeze, like all credit freezes, is free. This is because federal law mandates that consumers have the ability to freeze their reports for free.
Can Someone Else Freeze My Credit Report?
Sometimes, but they need authorization to do so. Some credit monitoring agencies will be able to freeze your report if they detect potential fraudulent activity.
Can I Freeze My Child's Credit Report?
Yes, the credit reporting agencies have services that allow you to freeze your minor child’s credit report absent state and federal requirements. You can also use a service like Credit Wise to keep an eye on your childs credit.
Effects of Credit Lock
This section explains what the effects of a credit lock are. It will cover reasons to lock your credit and how credit locks affect different things.
What Does it Mean to Lock Your Credit Report?
A credit lock prevents others from using your credit report while it’s locked. If someone attempts to apply for credit during a lock you’ll receive a report.
Why Shouldn't I Lock My Credit?
You shouldn’t lock your report if you’re planning on applying for a loan or line of credit in the near future. Otherwise, there’s very little downside to locking your report.
Will Credit Lock Prevent Utility Fraud?
In most cases, yes. As long as the utility company pulls your credit report prior to activating service, a credit lock will prevent utility fraud.
Does Locking Your Credit Report Help Raise the Score?
No, locking your report won’t help raise the score. It will prevent people from opening fraudulent accounts in your name, so it can protect your score from being damaged.
What if Only One Credit Reporting Agency Is Locked?
If only one credit reporting agency report is locked then people can still use services that check the other two reporting agencies to open up fraudulent accounts in your name.
Does Locking My Credit Report Stop Soft Pulls?
Sometimes. It doesn’t prevent soft pulls from current creditors for things like interest rate revaluations or requests to raise your credit limit.
Can You Still Run Credit Check When Accounts are Locked?
Sometimes. Current creditors and lenders can still check your credit report and report payments or missed payments, but your credit can’t be pulled for applications for new credit.
Will Locked Credit Report Cause Credit Applications to be Rejected?
It depends on the creditor in question. Most creditors will put a hold on your application and ask you to unlock the report so they can check your credit. If you're needing to raise your score to qualify for lending then take a look at the best credit repair companies 2020 has to offer.
Can You Lock Credit Report to Prevent Employer Viewing?
In most cases yes. However, that doesn’t mean that your chances of gaining employment will go up. Your potential employer will most likely request you temporarily unlock the report so they can evaluate it.
Effects of Credit Freeze
This section covers the effects of a credit freeze. That includes how freezing your credit affects different credit report aspects and abilities.
What Does Freezing Your Credit Do?
Freezing your credit report means that lenders and other companies can’t view it. That means you can’t get access to new loans or lines of credit, but it also prevents others from using your name to open fraudulent accounts.
Should I Freeze My Child's Credit?
Probably. As long as you aren’t planning on doing anything with your child’s credit that will require a credit check, then there’s no downside to freezing their report.
Does Freezing Your Credit Damage It?
No, freezing your credit doesn’t damage your credit score. It just prevents people from taking out loans and lines of credit in your name, which would hurt your score.
Can LifeLock Freeze My Credit?
No, LifeLock cannot freeze your credit. They can inform you if someone is trying to use your credit report so that you know to freeze it yourself.
How to Temporarily Remove Credit Freeze?
You can temporarily remove a credit freeze by using the PIN or password you set when you initiated the freeze. You’ll need to contact the individual reporting agency to temporarily lift the freeze.
Do I Have to Freeze My Credit With All Three?
It’s usually best to do so. If you only freeze your credit with one or two agencies, then people can still open up loans and lines of credit in your name.
Other Credit Lock and Credit Freeze Questions
This section covers credit lock and credit freeze questions that don’t fit into our other categories.
What Is Credit Lock vs Credit Freeze?
Credit locks and credit freezes are two ways to protect your credit report from being used illegitimately. When you freeze your report you restrict access so most creditors can see it unless you unfreeze it. That requires the use of a special PIN or password.
Lock services also restrict access, but you can unlock your report at any time from any device. Lock services usually have a monthly fee, but freeze options are free.
Which Is Better Fraud Alert or Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze offers more protection than a fraud alert. A fraud alert tells you after the fact that someone is trying to open an account in your name. A freeze will prevent them from doing so from the get-go.