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Credit Lock or Credit Freeze. What’s the Difference?

If it seems it’s getting harder to protect your personal and financial information, you’re not wrong. As more of our financial activities migrate online, hackers and thieves are working overtime to find ways to compromise it.

Fortunately, there are also more options for keeping your information safe and out of the wrong hands. Two of these include a credit lock and a credit freeze. You’ve probably at least heard both terms, but you might be confused about what they are — or assume they’re the same thing.

While both a credit lock and a credit freeze serve to protect the information in your credit report, there are some key details that should help you decide which one is better for you. Let’s see what they are.

What is a Credit Lock?    a credit lock or credit freeze can protect your information

Locking your credit prevents lenders from accessing the information on your credit report. Since nearly every creditor does a credit check before extending new credit, a credit lock can help prevent identity thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in your name.

When Should I Use It?

It’s a good idea to initiate a credit lock as a preventive measure, before you suspect your information has been compromised.

Is it Permanent?

A credit lock remains in effect until you “unlock” your information, which is easy to do online or through an app. So if you’re actively seeking credit, such as when buying a home or a new vehicle, you can unlock it long enough for creditors to check, then lock it down again when the credit check is complete.

Does a Credit Lock Cost Money? 

If you’re going to lock your credit, you’ll need to do so with each major credit bureau. There is no cost for a credit lock at Equifax or Transunion. Experian charges a monthly fee for a credit lock, which they bundle with other identity theft protections.

What is a Credit Freeze?

A credit freeze serves essentially the same function as a credit lock, which is to guard the information on your credit report from being used to open unauthorized lines of credit.

When Should I Use It?

If you know or suspect you have been a victim of identity theft, you’ll want to utilize a credit freeze. But you can also use a credit freeze as a precautionary measure.

Is it Permanent?

Here’s the main difference between a credit lock and a credit freeze. While you may lock and unlock a credit lock relatively quickly, it takes longer to “thaw” a credit freeze using a PIN or an account that’s password-protected. It can take up to five days to honor the request.

Does a Credit Freeze Cost Money?

Federal law requires all three credit bureaus to offer credit freeze services for free.

Additional Benefits of a Credit Lock or Credit Freeze

Along with protecting the information on your credit report, putting a credit lock or credit freeze in place is a good way to control the temptation to apply for new credit. Because you’ll have to think twice about taking on additional debt, it can be one more effective tool to help you keep your finances under control.

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