Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze: Which Do You Need?

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Yaniv Masjedi

Organic Growth at Aura

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    Do I Really Need To Lock My Credit? 

    In 2021, there were over 5.7 million accounts of fraud, identity theft, and other scams, a 17.9% increase from the previous year[*]. 

    It feels like every week there’s a new data breach or case of major fraud[*]. Aura's research has revealed that 60% of people are worried about data breaches and the safety of their personal information online, but 34% have stopped caring because data breaches happen so often.

    Sometimes, scammers can use the stolen information from a security breach to open bank accounts or lines of credit in your name. That's why locking or freezing your credit is one of the best ways to protect your identity, credit and overall financial reputation. 

    A credit lock and a credit freeze are similar in that they prevent unauthorized access to your credit file. 

    Credit freeze, security freeze and credit lock are often used interchangeably. 

    However, they have key differences. 

    💡 Here's What You'll Learn Today:
    • Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze: Comparison.
    • What Is a Credit Lock?
    • Can I Lock My Credit On My Own?
    • When Should I Lock My Credit?
    • What Is a Credit Freeze?
    • Will a Credit Freeze Hurt My Credit Score?
    • Are There Any Downsides to Freezing My Credit?
    • How Do I Request a Credit Freeze?
    • When Should I Freeze My Credit?
    • Which Is Better — Credit Lock or Credit Freeze?
    • What's The Main Difference — Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze?
    • Do I Need Identity Theft Protection? Is It Worth It?

    Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze: Comparison Chart

    Credit Lock Credit Freeze
    What is it? Agreement between you and a credit bureau that pauses any new accounts in your name. Limits access to your credit report. With a freeze, no one can open a new credit account.
    How to use Must enroll in a locking program at all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Contact each of the three credit bureaus individually, by mail, phone, or online to request a freeze.
    When to use As a preventative measure to protect your credit files. If you suspect that your personal information has been exposed.
    Governed by law? No Yes
    Cost Experian: $24.99/month. Equifax: Free. TransUnion: Free Free.
    Benefits Lock and unlock your credit reports in seconds. Fast and accessible credit protection. Can add and remove freezes from your account as needed. Offers legal protection backed by the government.
    Downsides Costs money. Not protected by law. Lifting a credit freeze requires a PIN you input online or via written request.
    How long does it take? Instant. Within one business day by phone or email. Up to three business days by mail.

    What is a Credit Lock?

    A credit lock prevents creditors and lenders from accessing your credit history. They stop anyone, including you, from opening a new credit account. Credit locks are not protected by law. Instead, they are governed by a contract between you and the credit reporting bureau. 

    Under a credit lock, not even a credit card company would issue you a new credit card, which makes it a very appealing option if you’re worried about someone opening a fraudulent line of credit in your name. 

    To lock your credit, you must enroll in a program with the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

    It's free to lock and unlock your credit with TransUnion and Equifax. Experian charges a monthly fee of $19.99 to enroll in its credit lock program. 

    💡 Tip: Instantly Lock Your Credit With Aura

    Credit locks are more convenient than credit freezes because they are instant. You can lock and unlock credit file online or via Aura's mobile app using biometric identity verification techniques like FaceID. You can conveniently toggle the credit lock switch on/off as desired from the Aura mobile app.

    lock your credit with aura
    Source: Aura Credit Protection

    Can I Lock My Credit On My Own? 

    Yes, you can lock your credit on your own. All three major consumer credit bureaus have credit locking programs available. You must sign up for each program to lock and unlock your files. However, we'd recommend that you allow Aura to do this for you.

    Once you sign up, you'll have access to your credit files via smartphone app or desktop. If you want to lock your credit, toggle the settings to “locked”. Then toggle them back when you are ready to unlock. This takes only a few seconds. 

    With Aura, you can lock your Experian credit with one click. If you need help locking your credit files and setting up credit monitoring, Aura's team of U.S. based agents are ready to assist.

    aura credit lock and freeze
    Try Aura's Credit Lock: Free for 14-Days

    When Should I Lock My Credit? 

    Some experts advise to lock your credit only under the suspicion of fraud. Others advise a credit lock as a proactive measure (even if no fraud is suspected) out of an abundance of caution.

    Because you can immediately toggle a credit lock on/off, it’s advisable to keep your credit locked 24/7, and only unlock it when you apply for a loan or need to open a new credit account. 

    When you're shopping for a home or car, for example, you can:

    1. Log into your credit monitoring app and unlock your credit files. 
    2. Let lenders access your reports for a credit check.
    3. Lock your credit files again, immediately.

    There are three main credit lock programs:

    1. Equifax Lock & Alert. This program lets you control your Equifax credit files for free. You can also access other products including free credit reports and fraud alerts. 
    2. TransUnion TrueIdentity. You can lock your TransUnion credit report for free through TrueIdentity. You also get unlimited credit report refreshes and real-time alerts for free.
    3. Experian CreditLock. Through Experian's service, CreditWorks, you can lock and unlock your Experian credit files. It’s free for 7 days and then costs $24.99 per month.  
    💡 Tip: Get Aura Credit Protection for 50% Off
    save 50% off aura
    Get 50% off Aura to receive proactive fraud alerts and get ahead of suspicious activity.

    What is a Credit Freeze?

    Credit freezes, also known as security freezes, will seal your credit history to help prevent identity theft and financial fraud. It limits access to your credit information until you “thaw” your credit, or remove the freeze. 

    When an identity thief tries to open a new credit account in your name, a lender will first check your credit report and credit score to process the application. A freeze on your account blocks anyone from accessing your credit information and can prevent unauthorized accounts from being opened. 

    Will a Credit Freeze Hurt My Credit Score?

    Placing a freeze on your credit does not impact your credit score, but it’ll stop credit bureaus from calculating your scores until you lift the freeze. 

    Are There Any Downsides to Freezing My Credit?

    • You’ll need to unfreeze reports before applying for a legitimate loan, mortgage credit card, and other accounts that require a credit check.
    • You'll need to lift a credit freeze to apply for certain jobs, services, and other situations that require a credit check.
    • Unfreezing your credit takes time. It can take between one hour and a few days to thaw your credit.
    • In cases where criminals already have access to your account (like when you've had your bank login information stolen by hackers), a credit freeze wouldn't protect you.

    How Do I Request a Credit Freeze? 

    To freeze your credit, you’ll need to contact each of the three major consumer credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — and request a credit freeze.

    Freezes last indefinitely, or until you thaw your file. In a few states, freezes expire after seven years. 

    When you make the request, you’ll need to provide your:

    • Name,
    • Birthdate
    • Address history 
    • Social security number

    When requesting a credit freeze online, you can send these items electronically. Verifying your identity will follow. Upon approval, you'll receive a Personal Identification Number (PIN). To refreeze or unfreeze your file, you will need this PIN.

    You can unfreeze your credit report online, by phone, or by mail. Federal law requires credit reporting agencies to lift the freeze within one business day if you call or submit online.

    When Should I Freeze My Credit?

    If you suspect you are a victim of identity theft, you should freeze your credit.

    Common warning signs of identity fraud include:

    • You get bills or collection notices sent to your home, in your name or under someone else's name.
    • Your credit report shows inquiries or new accounts from companies or lenders you don't know.
    • You get a fraud alert from one of your banks or credit unions.
    • Someone stole your personally identifiable information (PII) in a security breach.

    Read more: Fraud Victim Checklist: How To Recover From Fraud [10 Steps]

    Which Is Better — Credit Lock or Credit Freeze?

    Choosing between a credit lock or a credit freeze comes down to two factors: cost and convenience.

    1. Credit locks are more convenient, but cost money. With just a tap of a button, you can lock down your credit within seconds, instantly. But services like Experian will charge you $24.99 per month. That's why you should try Aura instead, since pricing starts at $12 per month.
    2. Credit freezes are free, but take more time. Credit freezes require more steps and take longer to activate / deactivate. However, freezes are free thanks to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

    What's The Main Difference — Credit Lock vs. Credit Freeze?

    The main difference between a credit lock and a credit freeze is how they work.

    • A credit freeze involves going through a series of steps online, by phone, or by mail. If you wish to apply for new credit, you can lift your credit freeze and refreeze it on a specific date. Freezes and unfreezes can take one or more business days to execute. 
    • Credit locks happen instantly. You can lock your credit with an app on your phone or computer. Just click a button, and your file is secured. 
    💡 Note: You cannot freeze and lock your credit reports at the same time.
    • If you want to lock your credit and the file is frozen, you’ll need to thaw your accounts first. Only then you can use a credit locking service. 
    • Enabling fraud alerts is another to protect your credit. A fraud alert requires that creditors verify your identity, like calling you on the phone, before opening new credit. It’s easy to put a fraud alert in place. You can do it online, or Aura can help you with this process.

    Do I Need Identity Theft Protection? Is It Worth It?

    The truth is - you probably do. Identity fraud has gotten out of control, reaching shocking new heights last year.

    Criminals are smart, but we need to be smarter.

    Credit locks and freezes are one of the best ways to protect yourself from identity theft.

    When you sign up for Aura, you can secure your Experian credit report with one click, and do much more to protect your personal data online, including:

    • Monitor credit and fraud alerts in real-time: Track all your bank and credit accounts (including your credit report) for suspicious activity.
    • Monitor online accounts: Know right away if your online accounts have been compromised or scammers are targeting you with a credit card scam
    • Monitor the Dark Web: Aura will continuously scan the Dark Web for your personal information, like your credit card or Social Security Number.
    • Use a VPN with Wi-Fi and malware protection: Keep all your devices safe from hackers and malware with military-grade encryption and Wi-Fi protection.
    • Access a $1,000,000 insurance policy: Every Aura plan comes with a generous insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft. 
    aura provides 4x faster fraud alerts

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers