(NAPSA)—You may have heard the terms “security freeze” and “credit report lock.” While they are sometimes used interchangeably, they aren’t exactly the same. While both are designed to help you restrict certain access to your credit information, they do so in different ways.

A credit report lock may allow you to lock and unlock your credit report online or on a mobile device through an app, using a username and password. Options to lock your credit report are available from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

If you’re applying for insurance or credit—buying a car, for example, or applying for a loan—you will need to unlock your credit report to allow a credit check. Equifax now offers Lock & Alert, a free service that allows you to quickly lock and unlock your Equifax credit report online or on your smartphone.

A security freeze is also known as a credit freeze. Placing, lifting or removing a security freeze can be done online, by phone or by mail. To lift or remove a security freeze, you will need the PIN you receive when you place it. Security freezes are subject to regulation by each state. Once a freeze is placed on your credit reports, it prevents access by certain third parties, such as lenders or creditors you’re requesting new credit from, and insurance companies when you apply for insurance coverage.

If you’re applying for insurance or credit, you’ll need to temporarily lift or permanently remove your security freeze. A temporary lift of your freeze can be for a specific period of time or for a specific company.

Security freezes must be placed separately at each of the three major credit bureaus. Depending on the state where you live, you may pay a fee at each credit bureau for placing, lifting or removing a security freeze. Equifax has waived fees to place, lift or remove security freezes through June 30.

Security freezes and credit report locks don’t keep everybody out. There are exceptions, which may vary by state, as to who can still access your credit report when it is frozen or locked.

These exceptions may include:

• 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 preapproved offers of credit or insurance to you

• Companies reviewing your application for employment.

To sign up for Lock & Alert, go to www.equifax.com/personal/products/credit/credit-lock-alert.

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