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 seeing your credit report (and therefore, from opening new credit cards, loans, etc. in your name).
Credit freezes 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.
Credit locks are an unregulated alternative that may be easier to administer but may have a fee.
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 it’s 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, however, some of their sites had problems on the Chrome browser in my testing. Aside from this bug, Transunion offers a pretty good user experience.
Transunion handles credit report locks through their free TrueIdentity credit monitoring service. You can create an account here:
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.
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’s credit report locks are not free, so there’s no reason to do it that way. Use a freeze instead.
If you’re curious, 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).
I’d also avoid Experian’s USA website as well. 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 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.
Remember that if you apply for a credit card, loan, or many other types of financial services, your application probably will be rejected unless you unlock or unfreeze your report at the specific credit agency they are using.
I hope this was helpful to you! – Brian