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Offbeat Free Credit Freezes: Time to Rethink Your Protection?

00:00  29 august  2018
00:00  29 august  2018 Source:   nerdwallet.com

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Credit freezes and unfreezes with the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — will be free for everyone by federal law starting Sept. Potentially time -consuming; if you lose your PIN, you may have to request a new one via U.S. mail. Credit locks are: Offered voluntarily by each

Credit Lock: An additional protection or alternative to a security freeze is to lock your Experian credit file. Experian CreditLock allows you to easily and instantly control access to Free Dark Web Scan: Get a one- time scan for your Social Security number, email and Phone Number, that also includes a

Video  by Money Talks News

The days of paying to protect your credit files are coming to an end.

Credit freezes and unfreezes with the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — will be free for everyone by federal law starting Sept. 21. Fraud alerts, which always have been free, will be extended from 90 days to a year. Credit locks, a product promoted by the credit bureaus, will continue to be free at two bureaus and offered as part of bundled services at a third.

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A credit freeze locks down your credit . A fraud alert allows creditors to get a copy of your credit report as long as they take steps to verify your identity. For example, if you provide a telephone number, the business must call you to verify whether you are the person making the credit request.

Freezing your credit prevents criminals from using your info to access your line of credit . This protection has a huge upside. However, there are some downsides too. Once you place a credit freeze , also known as a security freeze , you’ll encounter a lot of legwork to lift it.

How will these changes affect which you should pick? Consumer advocates continue to recommend freezes, and not having to pay to freeze or thaw credit makes the case even more compelling. But some people instead may want locks for the convenience; they can be done using the credit bureaus’ smartphone apps.

At the very least, everyone should set up fraud alerts, which require businesses to take reasonable steps to ensure that a person applying for credit in your name is actually you.

If you want to block access

choosing-credit-freeze-lock-alert: Credit freezes offer the strongest protection against an authorized person opening an account or getting credit in your name.© Getty Images Credit freezes offer the strongest protection against an authorized person opening an account or getting credit in your name.

Credit freezes offer the strongest protection against an unauthorized person opening an account or getting credit in your name.

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Many experts agree that freezing your credit report is the strongest way to protect against identity theft. While a fraud alert offers less protection , it does allow a consumer to open a new account without Under law, you can access your report for free once a year from each credit rating agency.

Freezes are federally regulated. To freeze your other credit reports, you will need to contact Experian and TransUnion directly. You'll also have the option to receive a one- time PIN by text message or answer questions based on information in your Equifax credit report for identity verification.

Credit locks, which the bureaus voluntarily offer, do much the same thing as freezes: They make your credit records off-limits to potential lenders and credit card issuers.

Here’s a breakdown:

Credit freezes are:

  • Mandated by federal law to be made available.
  • Free from each credit bureau, without special conditions.
  • Placed and lifted online or by phone, requiring a PIN to change status (taking minutes).
  • Potentially time-consuming; if you lose your PIN, you may have to request a new one via U.S. mail.

Credit locks are:

  • Offered voluntarily by each credit bureau.
  • Offered free from Equifax; offered free with an agreement to receive marketing emails from TransUnion; and offered for a fee as part of a monthly monitoring service by Experian.
  • Placed and lifted with an app (taking seconds).
  • Relatively quick and easy to regain access to if you forget a password.

Another issue is legal rights, depending on the credit bureau and what service you use.

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Freezing your credit with all three major credit bureaus is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself against identity theft and stop We’ll also answer questions that Team Clark gets most often surrounding credit freezes and let you know about the one key step you need to take

A credit freeze blocks access to your credit reports to stop new accounts from being opened in your Every time . We believe everyone should be able to make financial decisions with confidence. Contact all three credit bureaus individually to get a freeze , which is the best protection for your

With credit locks at Experian and TransUnion, you give up the right to sue the companies in class-action lawsuits. Freezes and Equifax’s lock don’t require you to sign such a waiver.

What the experts choose

Credit report with score© Courtney Keating/Getty Images Credit report with score

So which is better? Chi Chi Wu, staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, says it’s the freeze, hands-down.

“A freeze is something that is now mandated by federal law,” she says, “whereas the lock is a voluntary feature, and so if something goes wrong … there’s really not much recourse, except for maybe contract law.”

Her credit reports are frozen.

But credit expert John Ulzheimer made a split decision. At Equifax, “the practical difference between a lock and a freeze is negligible in my eyes,” he says. He chose the lock because it’s more convenient.

He froze his accounts at the other two bureaus because he was unwilling to pay for a lock or to accept marketing emails in exchange for a free lock.

Fraud alerts: added security

Concerned woman holding bills and talking on cell phone© Echo/Getty Images Concerned woman holding bills and talking on cell phone

Both Wu and Ulzheimer say no one should be without at least a fraud alert.

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“There’s really nothing wrong with obligating a bank to at least call you and say, ‘Hey, John, are you really the one who is standing in front of a finance manager at a car dealership trying to get an auto loan right now?’ I think that’s just smart credit management,” Ulzheimer said.

Ulzheimer has fraud alerts in addition to his freezes and lock. “People tell me it’s redundant, like putting a safe inside of a safe,” he says, but he likes having the extra protection.

More From NerdWallet

  • How to get your free annual credit reports
  • Should you place a fraud alert on your credit?
  • Why you should freeze your child's credit


Bev O'Shea is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.


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