With the number of data breaches that have happened, it’s almost a given that your personal data is compromised. Experts recommend locking or freezing your credit report as one way to help prevent identity theft. Here’s how to do it for the three major credit reporting agencies.
Lock vs. Freeze
Credit locks and freezes both prevent agencies from accessing your credit report. This prevents hackers from opening new credit cards, loans, etc. in your name. Credit locks may have a fee though.
Credit freezes do the same things, but are regulated by the government, are always free, and guarantee certain legal rights. A freeze might require a new PIN to be used every time you want to freeze.
So if freezes are free, then why would anyone use a lock? Well, the credit agencies might make credit locks more convenient to do. But, if you are willing to spend a few minutes learning, then freezes are not difficult.
Perhaps due to a dose of humility after their disastrous data breach, Equifax makes it pretty easy to lock or freeze your credit report, and both are free!
Equifax handles credit locks through their free Lock & Alert service. You can sign up here:
If you prefer to freeze your Equifax report, you’ll need to sign up here:
Transunion also offers free locks and freezes!
Transunion handles credit report locks through their free TrueIdentity credit monitoring service. You can create an account here:
Note, I was unable to sign up on this site using the Chrome browser on Windows (I tried two different PCs); it gave me an error message with a white screen of death. Try it on Edge on Windows, Safari on Mac, or Firefox. After signing up, though, I was able to log into that site using Chrome.
To do a credit report freeze on Transunion, go here:
I wasn’t able to sign up on this site using Chrome for Mac or Windows. Try it on Edge on Windows, Safari on Mac, or Firefox.
Experian handles locks through their IDnotify service, which starts at $9.99 per month unless you got it for free (some companies offered free memberships to appease their data breach victims).
But, Experian’s freezes are free so there’s no reason to pay for a lock.
I’d also avoid Experian’s USA website. It tries hard to upsell you to a paid plan. And worse, it allows unlocking your credit report but you have to upgrade to a paid plan to re-lock. Terrible!
Instead, you can do a credit freeze at Experian for free (which is what I would recommend) here:
For best security, you should lock or freeze your report on all three credit agencies.
Be sure to keep your logins and PINs in a secure place so you can unlock or unfreeze your reports when you need to.
If you apply for a credit card, loan, or many other types of financial services, your application will be rejected unless you unlock or unfreeze your report at the specific credit agency they are using.
I guarantee that you’ll forget that you locked your reports, and that you’ll need to unlock them at some point. You’ll be at a department store, maybe about to purchase something expensive, when you try to apply for a new credit card (to get some amazing cash back deal), and your application will be rejected. So, you may want to make sure you’re able to unlock your reports using your phone.
I hope this was helpful to you! – Brian