If your identity is stolen, reporting the incident to the proper authorities and companies where you hold a credit account is your first move. When you call your creditors, placing a credit freeze on your account might be your first instinct. After all, it’s a surefire way to stop bad actors from opening unauthorized accounts with your personal information.
While credit freezes are beneficial, they can also be mildly inconvenient, especially if you need to apply for a new personal loan or credit card. Depending on your situation, you might consider locking your credit instead.
Like a credit freeze, locking your credit protects your credit and your finances from fraudsters. However, locking your account is usually easier and faster. Credit Karma explains how to lock your credit with the three major credit bureaus.
Locking Your Credit At Each Bureau
Another difference between a credit freeze and a credit lock is that you can place and lift a freeze when necessary, while a credit lock stipulates that you enroll in a program. To ensure the latter option is as effective as possible, you should enroll in programs offered by the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Equifax and TransUnion charge no fees for enrolling in their individual credit lock programs. However, there is a cost if you decide to use their cooperative program, which locks your credit at both agencies simultaneously and comes with credit monitoring.
Experian will always charge to enroll in a credit lock program. Still, it also gives consumers extra features such as credit monitoring, which might be worth the fee if you’re concerned about fraudulent activity.
When enrolling in any of the three credit bureau’s programs, you will need to complete an online form and submit personal information such as your name, address, and Social Security number. You’ll also need to answer several questions to verify your identity correctly.
Here’s what to expect from each agency and how to enroll in their programs.
You can enroll in Equifax’s Lock & Alert credit lock program at no cost. After you register online through the Equifax website, you can lock your credit yourself using the Equifax mobile app or through its website — all without contacting Equifax for assistance.
This way, if you want to apply for a new line of credit, or if a potential employer or landlord needs to perform a credit check, you can temporarily lift the lock as simply as you set it up.
Experian’s CreditLock program is provided under the umbrella of the comprehensive Experian CreditWorks Premium program. You pay $4.99 the first month, then $24.99 every month afterward.
While the monthly fee seems high to some, you will receive additional benefits such as credit monitoring from all three agencies, monthly updates for your FICO credit score, reports from each bureau, up to $1 million in identity theft coverage, and your personal agent to support you if you suspect fraudulent activity. To enroll in this program, visit Experian’s website for more details.
Like Equifax, TransUnion offers a free credit lock program called TrueIdentity, which lets you lock and unlock your account easily with your phone or going online. Once you enroll, you can view your report from TransUnion, receive complimentary monitoring and insurance up to $25,000 for identity theft.
For $19.95 per month, you can upgrade to TransUnion’s premium product, Credit Lock Plus. This lets you conveniently lock your accounts with TransUnion and Equifax at the same time. Visit TransUnion’s website to enroll in the bureau’s free program.
Advantages And Drawbacks Of Locking Your Credit
Like anything else, there are pros and cons when it comes to locking your credit. Here are a few things to consider before making this decision:
- Credit locks can minimize your chance of falling victim to identity theft because creditors can’t view your account while it’s locked.
- You can place and lift a lock at no cost through TransUnion and Equifax
- Since you can lock and unlock your account by yourself, it’s much quicker than putting or reversing a credit freeze when a lender or someone else needs to run a credit check.
- You won’t be completely protected from identity theft or unauthorized activity unless you enroll in all three credit bureaus’ programs, which means paying nearly $20 every month for Experian — or more if you also enroll in TransUnion’s premium program.
Locking your credit is faster and easier than a credit freeze and offers the same level of protection if your identity is stolen. However, you won’t be 100% protected unless you enroll at all three credit bureaus, but the cost to enroll in Experian’s program can add up.
- Starbuck Gerson, Emily. “How to Lock Your Credit at the 3 Major Credit Bureaus.” Credit Karma, 3 Nov. 2020, www.creditkarma.com/advice/i/how-to-lock-credit.