Are you hoping to buy a house or apply for a car, personal, or business loan at some point? A great credit score helps to achieve all those things. You never know the twists and turns life might take you, so even if these financial milestones aren’t on your radar now, it’s nice to know that a great credit score will open many doors for you when you’re ready. The better your credit score, the more likely you are to get the loan you want at the best interest rate. People spend years (even decades!) working to improve their credit scores to unlock numerous opportunities. In the blink of an eye though, a credit fraudster can erase all that hard work and inflict long-term credit damage. It can cost huge sums to repair and take years to correct.
Many people feel lost on how to prevent these problems or what to do if they suspect identity theft. Luckily, new McAfee services called credit lock and security freeze, which includes credit freeze, are great tools to add to your credit protection toolbelt. They’ll help protect your most personal information from thieves, and both services will help give you the peace of mind you need to confidently go about your day.
Keep reading to learn more about McAfee’s credit lock and security freeze and find out how you can use them to help you from the negative consequences of identity theft.
First, What Is Credit Fraud?
Credit fraud is a type of identity theft where a criminal uses your information to borrow money, open a new credit or debit card, or uses your card to make purchases that they never intend to pay off. Then, when the loan defaults and the bills stack up, the victim is often left with their credit score in shambles.
According to the FTC, credit fraud is the most common type of identity theft in 2020 and 2021, receiving nearly 18,000 reports from people saying that someone used their information to gain illegal access to their credit card accounts.1
What Are McAfee Credit Lock and Security Freeze?
To make sure we’re all on the same page, here are quick definitions of McAfee’s credit lock and security freeze services.
- Credit lock. A service that provides a very quick and easy way to lock your credit information with one of the major credit bureaus when your personal information is compromised and also can be used as a preventive measure. You can quickly turn the function on or off at will for TransUnion through the McAfee Protection Center.
- Security freeze. A service that provides guidance and the contact information to set up credit, bank, and utility freezes. A credit freeze can be set up with each of the three main credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. The credit freeze prevents most credit-related fraud by preventing companies from accessing your credit reports, a step that’s necessary to open a loan, credit card, and more in your name. A credit freeze requires more information than a credit lock to set up and usually takes 24 hours to apply or remove.
A credit lock and a credit freeze both stop companies from accessing your credit information without your consent when an application for a loan or credit card is submitted. The main difference lies in their speed and credit bureau coverage. By toggling a switch in the McAfee Protection Center, turning on a credit lock is almost instantaneous. A credit freeze can take up to a day to enable or remove; however, it may offer stronger financial loss protection in most U.S. states if an unauthorized line of credit goes through while all three credit bureaus are frozen. Also, McAfee’s credit lock stops one credit bureau from accessing your account, while a credit freeze enables you to halt all three.
Just make sure that you unlock and unfreeze your credit before you do the following:
- Apply for a loan
- Apply for a credit card
- Make a large purchase that requires financing, such as an expensive home appliance, car, or house
- Refinance your mortgage
These are all situations where a bank or creditor will need to access your credit files. Luckily, with significant purchases and financing opportunities like these, you usually plan ahead, so you should have plenty to time to enable access to your credit. To unlock your credit, just click the credit lock toggle. To unlock a freeze, use the same provided links, sign into your account, and follow the instructions from there.
To further help you decide which service may be best for your needs, here are the situations where credit lock and credit freeze would be most helpful.
What Is Credit Lock Most Effective Against?
McAfee credit lock lets you simply toggle on and off one credit bureau’s ability to access your credit report. Usually, filing a lock on your credit with a bureau requires filling out forms and remembering a PIN to apply or remove a lock. Not with McAfee’s credit lock! You can turn a lock on and off at will through the McAfee Protection Center.
Convenience and blazing speed are ideal in situations where you’re worried that a criminal has your personal information and may use it to open accounts in your name that could then damage your well-earned great credit. Some people may choose to always have the credit lock enabled and only unlock it when they’re applying for a credit card or loan. That way, they can feel better about the safety of their credit score.
What Is Credit Freeze Most Effective Against?
Credit freeze provides protection and peace of mind just like credit lock; however it enables you to freeze your account at all three major credit bureaus. When creditors check your credit score, they could do so with any credit bureau. If you only freeze one bureau’s access to your information, that still leaves the other two to make inquiries, so it’s important to set up a freeze for each one to cover all your bases.
As mentioned, a credit freeze is just one type of security freeze offered by McAfee. If you’re worried about an identity thief opening not just credit cards, but also utility and/or bank accounts in your name, McAfee’s utility freeze and bank freeze may be additional services for you. Security freeze helps stop unauthorized fraud attempts by giving you quick links and phone numbers. Having all these contact details in one place really speeds up the process and takes the guesswork out of if you’re contacting the correct offices.
Preventing Identity Theft Is Key
Dealing with identity theft or credit fraud is a scary and stressful situation. That’s why McAfee is here with tools that help you protect you. Credit lock and credit freeze may help you feel calmer in a situation of suspected or real identity theft and gives you peace of mind to help prevent credit fraud from happening in the first place. Speed is of the utmost importance when foiling a criminal, so both solutions are easy to use with intuitive design so you’re not wasting time trying to figure out how they work. Plus, neither will affect your credit score. They just stop creditors from looking at your credit files, while you continue to boost your credit with your smart habits.
With both credit lock or credit freeze in your back pocket, you can feel more secure knowing you’re better protected from credit fraud.
1Fortunly, “20 Worrying Identity Theft Statistics for 2022”