In this article:
If you're concerned that your personal information may have been stolen or misused, or that criminals are attempting to apply for loans or credit cards in your name, you can use a security freeze or Experian CreditLock to limit access to your Experian credit report.
Both options indefinitely block new credit checks from potential new lenders using your Experian credit report until you deactivate them. They prevent most unauthorized credit checks, but can also block a credit check related to a valid credit application made by you, so you'll need to remove CreditLock or lift a security freeze before you can apply for a new loan or credit card.
While similar in function, Experian CreditLock and a security freeze work somewhat differently. Here's how each works:
|Experian CreditLock vs. Security Freeze|
|Experian CreditLock||Security Freeze at Experian|
|Cost||Included with paid subscription to CreditWorks PremiumSM or IdentityWorksSM||Free|
|Activation speed||Instant||Instant when freezing online|
What Is a Credit Lock?
Experian CreditLock lets you use a secure a web page or smartphone app to:
- Lock your Experian credit report instantly, preventing access related to new credit applications.
- Unlock your report instantly, to allow new credit applications to be processed.
- Notify you anytime someone tries to access your Experian credit report while it's locked.
With CreditLock, you'll continue to get prequalified credit offers from Experian, such as loan and credit card offers you may qualify for.
What Is a Credit Freeze?
A credit freeze, or security freeze, is a free option that lets you limit access to your credit report at each of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax).
Each bureau has its own procedure for activating a security freeze, and you must notify each bureau separately to freeze your credit file there. (This is one way a security freeze differs from another free credit security tool, the fraud alert, which is automatically activated at all three bureaus when you request it at any single bureau.)
All three credit bureaus offer options for activating and deactivating, or "thawing," a credit freeze online, by phone or by mail.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act, the law that regulates credit bureaus and credit reports, requires each credit bureau to activate or deactivate a credit freeze within one hour of receiving a phone request.
Online activation and deactivation of an Experian security freeze takes place in real time. When you activate an Experian security freeze online, you also can schedule a temporary thaw to lift the freeze when you plan to apply for a loan or credit card.
If you prefer to contact the credit bureaus by phone or mail to place a security freeze, you can do so by using the contact information below.
|P.O. Box 9554|
Allen, TX 75013
|P.O. Box 160|
Woodlyn, PA 19094
|P.O. Box 105788|
Atlanta, GA 30348
Who Can Access a Frozen or Locked Credit Report?
Locking and freezing your credit freeze blocks most requests for access to your Experian credit report, but the following entities can still access a locked or frozen credit report under specific circumstances:
- You, when you view your own credit report
- Lenders and card issuers with whom you have accounts, who conduct credit checks for account-management purposes
- Landlords and rental agencies, screening you (with your permission) as a potential tenant
- Phone carriers and utilities, when determining how much to require as a security deposit on equipment
- Debt collection agencies attempting to obtain payment
- Child support agencies determining child support
- Credit card issuers who have prescreened you for credit offers (If you don't wish to receive prescreened credit card offers, you can opt out at OptOutPrescreen.com.)
- Auto insurance companies that use credit scores in their rate-underwriting processes
- A current or potential employer you've authorized to conduct a credit check
- Government agents executing court orders or warrants
Should You Freeze or Lock Your Credit?
Recent improvements to the security freeze process make online access via a free Experian IdentityWorks subscription as convenient and nearly speedy as the premium Experian CreditLock service, but CreditLock offers some additional benefits that may make it better suited to your needs.
- Automatic alerts whenever anyone attempts to access your locked credit file can help you detect fraudulent activity so you can notify the lender and appropriate law enforcement authorities.
- Experian CreditWorks Premium combines CreditLock with additional services such as monitoring the dark web for trafficking in your personal data; access to credit reports and credit scores based on data at all three national credit bureaus; and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.
- Experian IdentityWorks Premium and IdentityWorks Family plans combine CreditLock with additional services such as advanced identity theft monitoring; monthly privacy scans and removal of personal information from people finder websites; monitoring and alerts to credit activity at all three national credit bureaus.
Can You Freeze and Lock Your Credit?
It's possible to activate a credit lock and apply a security freeze to your Experian credit report at the same time, but there's really no point in doing so. Either procedure will prevent criminals from opening new loans or credit accounts in your name, by preventing the credit checks required to process those applications.
The Bottom Line
Using a security freeze or Experian CreditLock to limit access to your Experian credit report can help protect your credit and personal information, but both must be deactivated before a lender or credit card issuer can check your Experian credit report to process a loan application. Fortunately, it's quick and convenient to manage both processes, whether you choose to control a credit freeze through a free Experian CreditWorks Basic account or opt for CreditLock through a paid CreditWorks Premium or IdentityWorks subscription.