Credit freeze and credit lock - What is the difference?

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Credit freeze and credit lock are terms that anyone who is even remotely familiar with identity theft and its effects should be familiar with. But a common mistake that many make is simply categorizing both of these terms as one and the same, which is not correct.

There are significant differences between a credit freeze and a credit lock.


What are Credit freeze and Credit lock?

Credit freeze and credit lock are two different types of services offered by credit bureaus. A Credit freeze is a service that prevents the release of your personal information, including your social security number, to anyone but you.
A Credit lock is a service that allows you to lock your account at a specific institution or with a particular creditor so that no one else can use it.

The difference between a credit lock and a credit freeze

The difference between a credit freeze and a credit lock can come into question due to the overlapping nature of their functions. The two should not be confused. But for inexperienced customers, it can be challenging to understand what is going on. Here is how they differ.

Credit freeze and what it does

A Credit freeze, as mentioned earlier, allows one to freeze their credit reporting at all of the top credit bureaus that have been tracking the individual and their credit history. What this does is it limits access to the credit history by anyone who requests it.
It does a couple of things. First, naturally, it informs all the credit bureaus that your credit information has been compromised, and they pause any new request for access to your credit information. However, you might need to individually connect with all credit bureaus to make sure your request has been followed through.
Secondly, it automatically generates a request to the cyber crime department.

Here is how to request a credit freeze:

To initiate a credit freeze, you would need to connect with the credit bureau at their helpline and request the process. You might be required to verify your credentials, but it is overall an easy process. To lift the credit freeze, follow the same steps.

Credit lock and what it does

A Credit lock is quite different from a credit freeze, and it would pause all new account openings under your name by information your credit bureau. A credit lock is an agreement between the credit user and the credit bureau, and it is far easier to request than a credit freeze. But since it is a voluntary feature, the user might not be covered for any loss they might face. The users in the case of credit lock are also required to pay a fee for this request, whereas for a credit freeze, the charged amount is nil. One should also note that credit lock is not usually for children that are under the age of 18.
In some cases, the credit user might even have identity theft insurance in place, but that is a premium feature, and one is required to request such from the credit bureau.

How to lock one’s credit:

The guidelines for this are pretty much the same. But in the case of a credit lock, one might even use the online apps that are provided by the credit bureau to switch off and on the lock. It is considerably faster than the credit freeze.

Conclusion: Which is better: Credit freeze or Credit lock?

It is understandable if this is a question that has been plaguing your mind, especially after understanding the fundamental difference between the two. Sure, at the core, they both serve a similar purpose, but which one should one opt for?
The answer is pretty much dependent on the individual. The security limitation on access to the credit is the same in both cases. And since they are that much similar in restricting unauthorized access to your credit, it is dependent on the individual to decide which is right for them.
We would recommend a credit freeze over a credit lock. Sure, it might take a while for the credit bureau to unlock the credit account after lifting the freeze, compared to credit lock. However, in case of identity theft, the credit freeze even notifies the cybercrime unit of any fraudulent activity. And in most cases, it would only take the credit agencies only a couple of hours to lift the freeze, so there is not much of a difference.
Another reason for opting for a credit freeze over a credit lock is it may even offer stronger protection than a credit lock. During the freeze, the credit holder is not liable for any financial transaction that takes place without their notice. Also, the credit freeze service is free of charge, which is another reason why it is better. But again, the final decision results rest on you.