The possibility of having your identity stolen is scary — and it could happen to you. Ten percent of people over the age of 16 have been a victim of identity theft, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In addition, 85% of identity theft victims said that a thief attempted to use their identity to misuse their credit card or hack their bank details.
Identity theft can cost you money, a boatload of stress and a lot of time. Protect yourself with a credit lock or a credit freeze to keep your sensitive information out of the hands of criminals.
Contrary to popular belief, credit freezes and credit locks are different. Understanding the difference between the two can help you decide which type of protection is right for you. We’ll show you the benefits and drawbacks of both and teach you how to freeze and lock your credit. Finally, we’ll show you how MoneyLion can help you protect your credit.
What is a Credit Lock?
A credit lock is like a temporary credit freeze. When you lock your credit, you restrict access to your credit reports, just like you would when you freeze your credit. This helps prevent identity theft because lenders and banks usually require a credit pull before they’ll give you a new loan, card or account.
You’re able to unlock and relock your credit at your convenience and without waiting for approval with a credit lock. You can even lock and unlock your credit from the convenience of your smartphone. People use locks as a precautionary measure against identity theft, but not when they need serious protection after a breach or data hack.
One important thing to remember is that credit locks aren’t legal protections with a federal standard like credit freezes are. Credit reporting bureaus advertise credit locks as a more convenient way to prevent people from accessing your credit, but they aren’t regulated or controlled by federal standards. This means that credit reporting bureaus aren’t required to offer locks for free under federal law.
Remember that you need to lock all three of your credit reports if you do decide to lock your credit. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion all issue their own individual reports, so you’ll need to lock all of your reports by contacting each bureau individually if you want to protect your credit.
What is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze is the best, most secure type of protection that you can get for your credit reports. When you freeze your credit, you stop anyone from viewing your credit report. You’ll prevent thieves from opening new accounts or loans using your name, as most providers deny requests without credit info. Credit freezes also stop legitimate requests to view your credit, so you’ll need to remember to “thaw” your report before you apply for any kind of loan. Under federal law, credit reporting bureaus have to provide credit freezes for free.
Many consumers believe that a credit freeze is a type of total protection against identity theft. This isn’t actually true. Credit freezes prevent anyone from opening a new account using your information, but they can’t stop thieves from using accounts you already have. For example, if a thief gets a hold of your credit card information, he or she can use it to make purchases because the credit line is already open. However, if you’ve been a victim of identity theft in the past, it’s a good idea to keep your credit frozen.
The downside to freezing your credit over locking it is that thawing your credit takes more time than unlocking it. Most credit bureaus claim that they usually unfreeze your credit in as little as an hour. However, federal law gives them up to three business days to actually unfreeze it. This means that you may end up waiting much longer to unfreeze your credit than to unlock it. In the meantime, you could get rejected for loans or cards that you qualify for if you don’t submit your request in time.
Applying for a big loan or a new card soon but you still want to keep your credit secure? A lock might be a better option. Just like when you lock your credit, you need to freeze and unfreeze your credit at each individual bureau.
How to Choose Between a Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze
Not sure if a freeze or a lock is right for you? Let’s take a closer look so you know which option makes sense.
When a Credit Lock Works
A credit lock is a type of temporary loose protection that isn’t federally regulated, so you may enjoy the ability to adjust your credit without dealing with too much red tape. You might want to consider a credit lock if:
- You haven’t been the victim of identity theft in the past, but you still want to protect your credit.
- You’re getting ready to apply for a loan or a new credit card and you aren’t sure when you’ll need to open your credit reports.
- You don’t mind paying a little money for the convenience of being able to lock and unlock your credit at will.
When a Credit Freeze Works
A credit freeze is the most serious type of credit protection. Credit freezes are free, regulated and offer you the best possible protection. You might want to consider freezing your credit if:
- You’ve been a victim of identity theft in the past and you want to keep your information out of the hands of other criminals.
- You don’t plan on applying for any loans or new accounts anytime soon.
- You’re good at remembering to freeze and unfreeze your credit a few days before you need to access your reports.
- You want a free way to totally protect your credit.
How to Lock Your Credit
Locking your credit is free with two of the three credit reporting bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. Experian offers credit locking services for $4.99 for your first month and $24.99 for each additional month. Here’s how to lock your credit with each bureau.
Equifax’s credit lock service is “Lock & Alert,” a free tool that you can download from both the Google Play and the Apple App store. You can also access Lock & Alert from your desktop or mobile browser. Sign up for Lock & Alert online through Equifax’s website.
TransUnion’s credit locking service is “TrueIdentity.” TrueIdentity is a free product like Lock & Alert that allows you to lock and unlock your credit at will through a free mobile app. TrueIdentity also provides basic credit monitoring services if you decide to opt in. Get started by downloading the app or pay TransUnion a visit online.
Unlike TransUnion and Equifax’s credit locking services, Experian’s system isn’t free. You’ll need to sign up for a subscription to CreditLock if you want to lock or unlock your credit. CreditLock subscriptions cost $4.99 for the first month, then $24.99 for each month thereafter. Like TransUnion and Equifax, Experian also offers a CreditLock app that you can use to turn access to your credit on and off with the push of a button. Sign up for an account through Experian’s website to get started with CreditLock.
Remember that if you want the best protection possible, you need to either lock or freeze all of your credit reports. Don’t think that locking only your Equifax and TransUnion accounts will protect your personal information.
How to Freeze Your Credit
Now, let’s cover how you can freeze your credit. Unlike credit locks, credit report freezes and thaws are always free. Remember to freeze all three of your accounts if you’re the victim of a data hack or breach.
The most convenient ways to freeze your Equifax credit report is by calling or freezing your credit online. You can freeze your credit by phone by calling 1-800-685-1111 (1-800-349-9960 for New York residents). You can also freeze your credit online by creating an account with Experian’s online credit reporting center.
TransUnion also allows you a few ways to freeze your credit. You can request a freeze over the phone at 1-888-909-8872. You can also freeze your report online by creating an account and requesting a freeze online through the help center.
You can freeze your Experian credit report by calling 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742) or by creating an account through its credit freeze request center.
You’ll need to answer a few verification questions after you create your account or make the call. Verification questions confirm your identity and ensure that you’re the only person who has the ability to freeze your credit. You might have to answer a few questions about your address, places you’ve worked in the past or loans that are on your report. Once you verify your identity, you can request a credit freeze at each bureau.
You’ll also receive a PIN that you can use to quickly request a credit thaw or another freeze in the future. Keep this PIN in a safe place and write it down so you don’t forget it. If you do forget your PIN, you’ll simply need to answer more verification questions to generate a new one.
Watching Your Credit with Free Credit Monitoring
Are you looking for the best possible protection for your credit? Have you been the victim of identity theft in the past? Are you on the path to a better credit score and can’t afford a breach? If you answered “yes” to any other these questions, credit monitoring from MoneyLion might be right for you.
MoneyLion’s credit monitoring systems keep tabs on your credit reports even when you’re away from your computer. MoneyLion offers 24/7 credit monitoring services so you’ll be the first to know when something changes on your reports. The earlier you catch instances of identity theft, the less likely they’ll damage your credit. Credit monitoring services can put your mind at ease so you don’t have to watch those reports yourself.
The best part? Credit monitoring services are included for anyone who has a Zero-Fee Checking account from MoneyLion.
Protecting Your Credit
Even if you haven’t been a victim of identity theft, it’s a good idea to keep your credit locked or frozen when you aren’t using it. In some cases, you’ll even be able to freeze your credit but allow access to authorized users so you won’t have to worry about remembering to unfreeze when you apply for a job or a new loan.
It’s important to remember that neither freezes nor locks can totally stop identity theft. If you notice fraudulent items on your bank report or credit card statement, cooperate with your bank or credit card provider and law enforcement authorities to get back on track.
MoneyLion can make protecting your credit a little easier. Get started on the road to a healthier credit profile today by downloading the MoneyLion app from the Google Play or Apple App store.