If your data is stolen through cybercrime like a hacking or phishing scam, it could be misused to fraudulently apply for loans and credit cards in your name. You can credit freeze or credit lock your account to stop any new checks being made by lenders. But what does that mean for you and your credit report, and which is better: credit lock vs freeze?
Before we get into credit locks and credit freezes, the reason to securely protect your credit report is because it’s the key to being accepted for new credit agreements, like loans and mortgages. The data in your report is used to give you the best deals and offers on favourable interest rates. Getting better interest rates can save you £1,000s in the long run so you want your report to be as strong as possible.
What is a credit freeze?
When you freeze your credit report, lenders can't access it without your permission. So, if someone tries to open an account in your name, they'll hit a brick wall. It’s a powerful way to prevent unauthorised access. And you can put the freeze across your three individual files held by the three main credit reference agencies (CRAs) in the UK: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
How do I freeze my credit report?
For those of you wondering how you can put a security freeze on your credit report in the UK, it’s pretty straightforward. You will have to contact Experian, Equifax and TransUnion separately, as they all hold a separate file with your data.
But just reach out to them and ask for a ‘credit freeze’. It’s the same process when you want to turn it off again, or ‘thaw’ out your credit report (bear in mind, this could take some time to reverse).
Cifas Protective Registration
If you’re looking for information on a credit freeze because you’re concerned that your financial data has been fraudulently exploited or exposed, or you’ve noticed unusual behaviour happening under your name.
Then you can get in touch with Cifas to add a note about this to your credit reports.
You may also be eligible to apply for Protective Registration from Cifas for £25 for two years. This is a fraud prevention tool, rather than a freeze or a lock on your report. It means that when you apply for credit agreements, the company will take more time to do an in-depth look at your application to rule out fraud.
What is a credit lock?
In January 2023, Experian released a new product called ‘CreditLock’, which you think of as a digital padlock on your credit report. It provides similar protection as a freeze, but it's often more user-friendly allowing you to toggle the ‘credit lock’ on and off. You can quickly unlock it when you need to apply for credit, then lock it when you're done. So while they both do the same thing, a credit lock is a more temporary measure if you’re worried about security.
How can I lock my credit report?
It is simple to set up a Credit Lock - you just need to contact each of the credit reference agencies, as you would with a credit freeze. Unfortunately you can’t lock all of your credit reports in one go. Credit locks may be available via apps and can often be managed quickly online. But you may have to pay a fee, so be sure to check.
Credit lock vs freeze: Which should I choose?
So, should you go for a credit lock or a credit freeze? Well, it depends on how often you think you’ll need to access your credit report. Here is a quick summary of each to help you make your decision:
A credit freeze is a good deterrent against identity theft but may have some extra steps to take if you want to temporarily lift the freeze when applying for credit. This is the more extreme measure to take if your identity has been stolen and you want to lockdown your credit report, but it is also less expensive and often even free.
A credit lock is more flexible if you think you'll need to access your credit report frequently, but you may have to pay a fee. A credit lock can be put on your report even if your identity hasn’t been stolen. Because it will often be as easy as swiping a padlock on an app, it can give you peace of mind and protect you against anything happening in the future.
Who has access if I lock or freeze all my credit reports?
If you credit lock or put a freeze on your credit report it will deny access for anybody trying to make applications for credit in your name. But it doesn’t completely freeze everybody out. You will still have access to view it, and any lenders who you already have loans, mortgages, or lines of credit with will still be able to manage your accounts.
Whether you lock or freeze your credit report, it will also be possible for some other entities to check your credit report while it is frozen. For example, landlords can still do a soft credit check on your details (with your permission). Government agencies, insurance companies, and current or potential employers can also look at information on your credit report.
So, should I put a credit freeze or lock on my credit report?
If your identity is being misused, you should definitely look at a credit freeze or a credit lock to see which is best for you. A credit freeze is probably the best for a one-off predicament, whereas the credit lock is a good preemptive measure that can quickly be reversed. However, it’s important to remember neither option can stop your data being stolen in the first place.
If you’re worried about identity theft, you should consider taking some other measures to keep your data safe. Make sure your passwords are varied and strong, don’t give out your personal information unless you really trust the source. Lots of companies will never email you asking for information, so be wary of phishing scams with fake emails if this does happen.
Either way, it’s important to take your credit score seriously. A good credit score can help you to get accepted for loans and mortgages, and get the best possible deals. A better interest rate can save you £1,000s over years.
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