From your full name, to your address, to your social security number – almost every detail about you is stored in a database somewhere. This information floats around in digital clouds and servers, always at the risk of being accessed by malicious hackers. Given the importance of keeping your personal information safe, you should know what your options are. In particular, this article will look at the differences between a credit freeze and a credit lock, and how they can help to keep your credit score safe from identity theft.
A credit freeze is a process whereby you restrict access to your credit report to prevent lenders from accessing your information. It is generally recommended that you initiate a credit freeze if you feel as though your credit report and personal data have been leaked. To reverse this process, a 10-digit pin is required (which will be provided to you when you first initiate the freeze). There is a one-time fee to freeze your credit and another fee to unfreeze your credit, unless you have been a victim of ID theft – the freeze is then free. Credit freezes are governed by federal law and can afford you more legal protections than a credit lock. There are three unions’ through which you should freeze your credit: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It is important to note that even though your data has been frozen to the outside world, you will still be able to access and monitor it yourself.
A credit lock is a similar process to that of credit freezing but doesn’t require a 10-digit pin to reverse the process. You can control the locking and unlocking of your credit yourself. A credit lock is purely a preventative measure to protect your credit report. There are no costs linked to credit locks, except when working with Experian, which charges $9.99/month after the first free month has finished. Credit locks are not governed by federal law, so it doesn’t guarantee error-free locking or uninterrupted service.
Types of credit locks:
• Equifax’s free credit lock product called Lock & Alert.
• Experian bundles, which start off at $9.99/month and includes identity theft insurance.
• TransUnion’s free product lock
You can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your credit history and personal information, so it can certainly be worth exploring credit freezes and credit locks as a form of protection from identity theft. This way, the next time you hear about a data breach at a major company, you will be able to rest just a little bit easier.