Credit locking is a way to “freeze” your credit report and prevent identity thieves from opening a credit account or a loan in your name. When you opt to lock your credit, no-one can access the information in your credit file or open a new account in your name – not even you!
Credit locking is effective if you want to make it harder for identity thieves to access the sensitive information in your credit file. If you want to open a new credit account while the credit lock is in effect, you will need to give lenders a PIN number that allows them access for a certain number of days. After they have checked the information in your credit report, the reports are locked again.
Most people are not aware that locking their credit report is an option, or they confuse it with a “fraud alert” – which allows consumers to put a “red flag” on their accounts to alert the consumer credit bureaus of fraud. But credit locking is a more recent option for consumers, and many believe it is more effective. California was the first to pioneer the credit freeze law in 2003, and now 38 additional states and the District of Columbia have subsequently passed laws to allow residents to lock their reports. Now the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, Experian – are offering the option of credit locking to any consumer that wants them.
Freezing your credit reports does not prevent your current lenders from accessing your information and checking up on you. But it does stop new lenders, or possible identity thieves, from using the information in your credit report to open an account in your name.
If you want to lock your credit report, you will need to contact the three credit bureaus separately and possibly pay a fee to each. If and when you decide to lift the freeze, you can do so at no additional charge. Credit locking, or credit freezing, is not a permanent condition if you don’t want it to be.