In case you missed it (as I did), Equifax extended their credit freeze fee waivers through June 30th, 2018. A credit freeze is regulated by your state, and generally prevents access to your credit reports to open new credit accounts. To unfreeze, you must notify them directly by mail/phone/website and provide a 10-digit PIN. However, unless there is new legislation, eventually state-specific fees will apply.
Equifax also rolled out Lock & Alert, which allows you to instantly lock and unlock access to your Equifax credit report. A lock also generally prevents access to your credit reports to open new credit accounts. One difference is that this service is run by Equifax and not regulated by the government. The benefit is that you can lock/unlock instantly via website, iOS app, or Android app. Equifax also promises that this feature will be free forever. Embedded below is their explainer video:
Exceptions. The following places may still access your credit report even if frozen/locked:
- Companies like Equifax Global Consumer Solutions that provide you with access to your credit report or credit score or monitor your credit file
- Companies you have an existing account or relationship with
- Federal, state and local government agencies
- Collection agencies acting on behalf of companies you owe
- For fraud detection purposes
- Companies that wish to make pre-approved offers of credit or insurance to you
- Companies reviewing your application for employment
My experience. I installed the Lock & Alert app and it’s pretty barebones. Basically a toggle switch with no additional features. To sign up, you’ll need your Social Security number but no credit card is required. The “Alert” part doesn’t mean they tell you if someone tried to check your Equifax report, it just means they’ll let you know when it is locked and unlocked. I was a little confused by that part. Why do I need an alert for something that only I can activate/deactivate?
The recommended practice is to keep it locked by default and then unlock temporarily when you apply for a mortgage, credit card, car loan, or some bank/credit union accounts. I personally prefer using locks over freezes, but am disappointed that it took so long for such a simple feature to be rolled out to consumers.
TransUnion has a similar service called TrueIdentity with free locks. Experian offers locks only as part of their $19.99/month credit monitoring plan. I guess we’ll have to wait until (our information stored on) Experian servers get hacked too, and then maybe they’ll be so kind as to allow us free access.
Bottom line. I plan on using the Equifax instant lock/unlock feature. You may still want to consider a freeze. I think consumers should get both locks and freezes for free from all three credit bureaus as it is our information they are selling and we are the ones impacted if it is incorrect or hacked.
© MyMoneyBlog.com, 2018.