Feb. 14, 2018
Equifax has just launched a new service to help fight identity theft. It's called “Lock & Alert” and it enables those who sign up to limit or allow access to their Equifax credit file with a click of the mouse or a swipe on the smartphone.
Lock & Alert is available to anyone 18 or older with an Equifax credit report. The company promises the service will be free for life. For most people in Washington, there's a $10 fee to freeze their Equifax file or to unfreeze it, if they want to apply for credit. Lock and Alert is free.
Also, those who sign up will not be bound by the company’s mandatory arbitration clause for other Equifax products.
A lock is similar, but not the same as a credit freeze. A freeze is your right under law. A credit lock is subject to the conditional terms set by the credit bureau and those terms can be changed at any time.
Privacy experts point out that with a lock you give the credit bureau permission to use your sign-up information for marketing purposes. They can’t do that with a freeze.
By the way: Equifax has also extended the deadline for consumers to put a free freeze on their Equifax credit file — or unfreeze it for free — until June 30, 2018.
Remember, you still have two other files to protect at TransUnion and Experian.
TransUnion has a free locking service called “TrueIdentity” that’s similar to Lock & Alert. It enables real-time control of your credit report – and it also includes free credit monitoring and free access to your TransUnion credit report.
Experian does not offer a free locking program.
The locking products offered by Equifax and TransUnion are a free and simple way to fight back against identity theft — and clearly, better than doing nothing. But they’re only one tool in the fight against identity fraud.
A lock/freeze can only stop a crook from opening a new account in your name. It will not stop tax fraud, medical identity theft, account takeover or many other financial crimes. That’s why it’s so important for you to monitor all of your financial account.