Earlier this month, we learned that four members of the Chinese military were charged with hacking into Equifax’s computer system in 2017, causing the breach that shocked the world. With this type of headline back in the news cycle, it serves as a great reminder as to why it’s important to protect your data with credit freezes and credit locks.
Credit Freezes and Locks: What’s the Difference?
To guard your personal information from the next data breach, there are precautionary actions you can take, like freezing or locking your credit file. So what’s the difference, and when should you consider each?
According to data expert Jackie Drziak, credit freezes and credit locks are similar, but there are key differences which make each acceptable in certain situations. “If you feel your credit report and personal information has been breached, you should consider freezing your credit on all three bureaus. It’s free by federal law, and is essential to fully securing your data,” Drziak says.
A credit lock, by contrast, serves better as a precautionary measure to prevent fraud in the first place. Credit locks are also free on the TransUnion and Equifax bureaus, and are useful because they enable lenders to access and then immediately lock the report again if the consumer wishes to apply for new credit(mortgages, car loans, etc.).
How do I freeze my credit?
In order to completely freeze your credit file, you’ll need to contact each of the three major bureaus individually- that is, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Here’s how:
How do I lock my credit?
Locking your credit is free on the Equifax and TransUnion bureaus, and It comes at a price of $4.99 on Experian.
Equifax has a credit lock program called Lock & Alert™. Once enrolling on their website, you can lock and unlock your credit online, even from your smart device. If you’re applying for credit, you can temporary unlock your file using Lock & Alert.
TransUnion’s credit lock program is called TruIdentity, and like Lock & Alert, it’s free. It also enables you to lock and unlock your file quickly on the web of from your smartphone. To sign up for TrueIdentity, visit TransUnion’s site here. You can also sign up for their “Credit Lock Plus” feature, which allows you to lock both TransUnion and Equifax reports simultaneously. This feature comes at a cost of $19.95 per month.
Experian’s locking service is called CreditLock, and costs $4.99 for the first month, and $24.99 per month thereafter. Although Experian’s lock program comes with a cost, it provides additional features like credit monitoring that may make it worth the price. You can enroll here.
It’s time to protect your data.
Of course, the concept of identity theft can be frightening, and there’s no guarantee that a large scale data compromise won’t happen again. But with the major breach behind us, we’re now armed with strategies that can best protect us, and freezing and locking can do just that.