There are three main types of credit card protections available to consumers and businesses: credit locks, credit freezes, and fraud alerts. Each protection comes with a variety of different services and policies but ultimately all serve the same purpose: protecting you or your business from fraud and financial identity theft.
In order to be proactive in protecting yourself and your business, it’s important that you understand how to enact credit protections and when the right time to do so is.
How to Set Up Credit Card Protections
If you already use a financial or personal credit card protections service, you can typically lock your credit report from their mobile app or online. This is a simple and easy way to protect your credit and you can turn it on and off instantly. Most financial protection services lock your reports from all credit bureaus at once, but be sure to read their specific policies.
This is almost exclusively available to consumers, but there are some options available to help protect your business credit.
To freeze your credit report you will need to contact each of the three nationwide credit bureaus directly via phone or website.
Equifax: Online or by phone at 1-800-685-1111
Experian: Online or by phone at 1-888-397-3742
TransUnion: Online or by phone at 1-888-909-8872
Once you’ve verified your identity and made the request you will receive a PIN. Make sure to store the PIN in a safe place as you will need it to unfreeze or thaw your credit report before establishing new accounts. To unfreeze your credit report you’ll need to contact each of the three credit bureaus directly again.
This option is exclusively available to consumers.
Fraud alerts can be set up through by directly contacting any of the three nationwide credit bureaus. Once you’ve placed an alert with one of the bureaus, that bureau will send your request to the other two.
There are three different types of fraud alerts: initial, extended, and active duty. All three are completely free, but last for anywhere from one to seven years. Initial fraud alerts also require no documentation, while extended fraud alerts require that you’ve completed an FTC Identity Theft Report or police report.
Fraud alerts are the best way to protect your business credit. They help prevent lenders from extending lines of business credit or business loans without confirming that you, the owner, are in fact requesting one.
Even after placing credit card protections on your credit reports, it’s still smart to request a free business credit report every six months to ensure that your credit file is accurate. It’s possible for companies to misreport the timeliness of payments, and a credit freeze can’t protect you from these errors.
When to Use: Locks, Freezes, and Fraud Alerts
Ideally business owners and consumers should be proactive about utilizing credit card protections to keep their finances safe. However, if you’re planning on opening a new line of credit or having your business credit reports checked in the near future, you don’t want to place more obstacles in the way of getting approved.
While it can be challenging to know when the right time to enact cautionary measures is, you should consider putting protections such as these in place if you have previously experienced any type of identity theft. These security measures help defend you and your business against misuse and exploitation of your data and money, as well as help to keep your business credit in good standing.
You should also consider embracing credit card protections, like a credit lock, freeze, or fraud alert if you:
- Have found unfamiliar charges on your bank or credit card statements.
- Find out your personal or business information was leaked in a data breach.
- See unfamiliar or unrecognized hard inquiries on your credit file.
- Get calls from debt collectors about debts that you don’t recognize.
- See sudden changes in your credit score.
- Notice that your tax return went missing or was stolen.
- Become locked out of online accounts.
It’s good practice for all consumers and businesses to have a credit lock or freeze in place semi-permanently to ensure better protection of your data. The harder you make it for criminals to gain access to your credit report, the better protected you are from financial identity theft or stolen business information.
For consumers or businesses not planning on opening a new line of credit in the near future, credit card protections are a great way to proactively keep your data safe.