Our worlds are more digital than ever before, which means our private information is more vulnerable to potential threats like fraud and scams. Keep reading to learn how credit monitoring can help you safeguard against these risks.
What is credit monitoring?
Credit report monitoring is when someone — either yourself or a company — monitors your credit history in order to detect any changes or suspicious activity. This is an effective way to stay diligent to potential identity theft and fraud.
Without monitoring your credit, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional company, your personal information could be compromised along with your access to credit.
What credit monitoring does
Credit monitoring does exactly what it sounds like — it monitors your credit. And whenever changes are made to your credit report, the credit monitoring service will alert you to verify the change(s).
It’s possible to do this on your own without the help of a professional service, however, these services typically have an automated and efficient method for monitoring your credit faster and more accurately.
Credit monitoring alerts may include:
- When a new account is opened in your name
- When someone applies for credit in your name
- Balances and payments on your credit
- Address or name changes
- Access to public records, such as bankruptcies
- Personal information available on the dark web, including your social security, email address, and passwords
What credit monitoring doesn’t do
Credit monitoring is a great resource for spotting and preventing potential fraud, however, it’s not a 100% guarantee of protection against identity theft or unauthorized purchases.
The service will alert you of any changes made to your credit and provide resources to help you identify possible theft, but they can’t actually promise foolproof fraud prevention. They can, however, keep you completely informed in real time so you can take action if need be.
Here are some services credit monitoring doesn’t offer:
- Keeping your personal information safe from data breaches
- Preventing someone else from applying for and opening new accounts in your name
- Stopping phishing emails
- Reporting fraud
- Fixing credit report errors
- Contacting you if someone withdraws money from your bank account
- Alerting you if someone else files a tax return in your name
How to monitor credit
Monitoring your credit requires a strong attention to detail. You’ll first want to verify that your personal information is correct. Double check your name, address, marital status, and employment information.
If you see any discrepancies, such as an address you’ve never lived at or an employer you’ve never worked for, consider these suspicious activities that should be reported as soon as possible.
You should also close any accounts you no longer use, as these are prime targets for criminal activity since they aren’t frequently monitored. Typical criminal activities may include illegal purchases made with a stolen credit card and/or filing fake Social Security or Medicare claims.
Most times, this information is used without the victim’s knowledge and it is very hard to detect after the fact.
Paid vs. free credit monitoring
Like we’ve mentioned, it’s completely possible to monitor your own credit. But we’re also full advocates of knowing yourself. If monitoring your own credit is something you’ll never make a habit of, it’s worth investing in someone else to get the job done.
Credit monitoring services might also make sense if:
- You’ve already been the victim of identity theft (or at high risk). For example, if your Social Security number has already been accessed in a data breach or you lost your Social Security card.
- You don’t want to freeze your credit.
Credit monitoring services
A credit monitoring service provides information about your credit report in a timely manner. What you do with that information is up to you. This isn’t a full-proof guard against identity theft and fraud, just a way to stay informed about what’s happening with your credit.
Here are a few tips to make credit monitoring the most effective for you:
- Avoid free trials. Companies that offer free trials are notoriously hard to cancel after you complete the trial period.
- Cater your notifications to your lifestyle. If you’re always on the go, a text message may be a better way to communicate changes than an email or phone call. Your goal should be to get the most important information as quickly as possible without interrupting your day.
- If you see something suspicious, DO something. Don’t wait to dispute incorrect changes or anything that looks incorrect. The point of credit monitoring is to catch these right away!
Free annual credit reports
Thanks to The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), everyone in the U.S. can get a free credit report from all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. This is available once every 12 months. Check out AnnualCreditReport.com to find yours.
Tips to protect yourself from identity theft and fraud
There are many other preventative measures to protect yourself from fraud in addition to credit monitoring. Here are some extra steps to consider:
- Freeze your credit report. This will make your report(s) inaccessible to anyone attempting fraud and ensure new accounts can’t be opened in your name. This is a totally free service you can do with your credit bureau.
- Stay wary of spam emails, phone calls, and advertisements. If you don’t know who’s sending the email or calling you, it’s best to just not open it or answer. And be sure to check the legitimacy of the company from any advertisement that looks too good to be true. If they’re asking for personal information right upfront, it’s a red flag.
- Safeguard your personal information. Don’t share your passwords with anyone and keep these stored in a secure app.
What is the best credit monitoring service?
The best credit monitoring service depends all on your needs. There are three types of services available:
- Do-It-Yourself. This requires the most of your time and energy. You’ll only need copies of your credit reports to check them for errors and inaccurate information.
- Free Services. There are many free credit monitoring services that can keep track of everything you could do yourself. This option saves you time and energy.
- Paid Services. This could potentially be the safest and most effective way of monitoring your credit. Companies will monitor your credit on a schedule and report any changes or potential problems immediately. It will save you energy, but cost you money.
Do credit cards have credit monitoring?
Many credit card companies are making credit report information readily available for free. In most cases, they provide a credit score from one of the three creditable bureaus, but not a full report.
Do banks offer credit monitoring?
Some banks and credit unions do offer credit monitoring, and it could be cheaper to go through them. Be sure to confirm that their service covers all three reports and how long it will take for them to notify you of any suspicious activity.