You probably already know that your credit is valuable information that can help you achieve some of life's biggest moments. But because it's valuable to you, it can also be valuable to thieves and fraudsters bent on identity theft and credit fraud. Combining an identity theft incident with a mortgage application process is a double-whammy just when you'll want your credit to look its best. If you're in the process of an important life decision, like applying for a mortgage or a car loan, then your credit standing has even more impact at that moment.
So, what can you do?
There's a new way to secure your credit information
If you are ready to apply for a loan or get a new credit card, you may not be able to wait days while you sort through the headache of identity theft cleanup to lock in financing and keep the process moving.
Wouldn't it be so much more convenient, secure and empowering if you could lock and unlock your credit report immediately, whenever you want, with the touch of your finger? Wouldn't it be great if locking your credit report not only blocked someone from opening new accounts but helped you keep an eye on existing ones as well? The same way that you secure other valuables—from important documents to fancy jewelry—to protect them, you can help do more for information as important as your credit by locking it away from intruders.
Experian CreditLock allows you to do all that and more. As a part of your membership in Experian CreditWorks, you can lock or unlock your Experian credit report whenever you want, with no additional fee and no waiting period. If someone tries to access your locked report, you'll immediately receive a notification.
Credit information isn't something you'll want everyone to have access to all of the time. Need to allow a mortgage company to access your file? You can unlock it and let them review it right away.
What locking does
When you use Experian CreditLock to lock your Experian credit report:
- Lenders and financial institutions you don't currently do business with can't access it.
- Utility companies, some collection agencies, mobile service providers, landlords and others who might want to check your credit report won't be able to view it.
- You can still access your Experian credit report, and can view it as often as needed.
- You'll still receive personalized, right-sized credit offers from Experian partners if you wish.
You can unlock your Experian credit report to temporarily allow access to:
- Lenders and financial institutions who want to view your report as part of processing your legitimate credit application with them.
- Any company, such as an insurer or employer, who requests access for a verifiable reason, such as opening a new utility account in your name.
It's on-demand security that can come and go—instantly—to help protect your information from prying eyes and cruel intentions.
Credit security and identity theft 101
When there's a chance your identity has been compromised and you've been exposed to the risk of fraud, it's important to take action to protect your credit file. One tool for protecting your credit is a fraud alert.
When you ask the credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file, new creditors can still obtain a copy of your credit report as long as they verify that you really are the person applying for credit in your name. Fraud alerts can help block someone from opening new credit accounts in your name, and there is typically no charge for placing one on your credit file. A fraud alert usually expires after about 90 days unless you specifically ask to have it extended.
With a credit freeze, no one can access your credit report. Because creditors typically want to review your credit report before extending credit, a freeze makes it virtually impossible for someone to open a new credit account in your name.
You'll need to contact each of the three major credit bureaus to institute a freeze. You'll have to supply your name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and other personal information to verify your identity. If you've been the victim of identity theft, there's no charge to freeze your credit. If you're freezing your credit proactively because you fear identity theft, you'll have to pay a fee.
A freeze remains in effect until you ask to have it lifted. Lifting a freeze can take about three business days, and the credit bureaus usually charge a small service fee to do so.
Neither a fraud alert nor a credit freeze can protect the security of existing credit accounts. They also don't replace regular credit monitoring. You'll still need to be vigilant about existing accounts.
The Experian CreditLock difference
Locking your Experian credit report with Experian CreditLock differs in many ways from placing a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit file. You'll get protections similar to a credit freeze, but with additional advantages, including:
- Daily monitoring of your credit report, and alerts if someone applies for credit while your credit report is locked.
- Easy, real-time online access to lock or unlock your credit report whenever you want, without any additional fees to do so.
- The ability to temporarily unlock your credit report when you apply for credit or financing, without delaying the application process. You'll receive a confirmation alert whenever you lock or unlock your Experian credit report.
- Access to all the other benefits of your membership in Experian CreditWorks.
CreditLock comes at no additional charge as part of your Experian CreditWorks membership. To begin taking advantage of the extra protection that Experian CreditLock offers, log into your Experian CreditWorks account through any Web browser on your desktop or mobile device.
To lock your Experian credit report, press and hold the lock icon on the Experian CreditLock home page. Press and hold the icon again to unlock your report. The changes require less than a minute to take effect and are available to you on-the-go in our app, too.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.
This article was originally published on March 17, 2017, and has been updated.