How Does Credit Monitoring Work?
A credit monitoring service is a company that tracks your credit reports and notifies you if there are any changes or suspicious activity on your accounts or your record. This can help you improve your score and help prevent fraud. With the recent wave of data breaches at commercial companies, the time seems ripe for expert guidance in how to reduce fraud on your accounts.
Credit monitoring services track your credit reports at one, two, or three of the major credit bureaus. They send you a message whenever there is some activity on the report. Many of them give you unlimited access to your credit report and telephone support with fraud resolution.
What should be understood about these services is that they only deal with fraudulent access to your personal information and other things that will show up on credit reports. They can’t alert you to when someone has gained access to your account number and tries to buy something.
These companies help with certain kinds of credit issues, but not necessarily all kinds of issues. For instance, if someone tries to open an account in your name, then you will get an alert concerning this problem. However, if they use your information to get a job or a cell phone, those things will not alter your credit report. Because of this issue, many services are offering more complete identity monitoring. They track public records, databases, and websites where your information may have been used.
One of the reasons that some say that this type of service is unnecessary is that you can actually do the same thing for yourself. However, it might be a good idea if your information has been recently compromised, because you will get an alert as soon as the issue happens.
To monitor your reports yourself, you simply go to the credit bureaus and order a copy. If you are having issues, you put a temporary freeze on your information, so no one can access it until you remove the freeze. It might cost you a few dollars for the freeze, but you will be saved from paying a service fee every month. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major bureaus annually. You can get this free copy through annualcreditreport.com.
People can also reduce their exposure to identity theft by deciding not to receive unsolicited credit card or insurance offers. You can do this on optoutprescreen.com. What this does is it blocks preapproved and pre-screened offers for credit and insurance.
Another issue is that sometimes a criminal will only use part of your information, and it will not show up in a report until a later time. The information will not show up in the main credit file.
Some people like the comfort of knowing that their credit is being monitored all the time and that it is all consolidated under one service. Therefore, the service is useful to them.
Where Can You Find Affordable Credit Monitoring Plans?
You can get access to a credit monitoring service through your bank or credit union, the credit bureaus, or directly from those companies that offer it. The experts recommend that you shop around for the best package and offer these tips for finding the best one:
- Find out how many credit bureaus are checked by the company. There is sometimes variation from company to company in what is reported.
- Check out how long the company has been in business. Also, find out exactly what there expertise is based upon.
- Don’t buy a claim about a guarantee of protection. Companies can only alert you to an issue and offer advice, they can’t make any promises.
- The Federal Trade Commission advises that you contact the Better Business Bureau and your state attorney general to see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
- Try going to a business that you already have found that you can trust, like your bank.
- Make sure that you aren’t buying services that you don’t need. Many companies offer different plans for you to choose from.
Who Offers The Best Credit Monitoring Services
SCF.com reviewed nearly two dozen credit monitoring agencies, and they say that IdentityGuard is the best one. It is a superior service, but a cheaper one than others. You get access to all three of your credit scores plus a report with complete analysis of identity and credit threats. They have 24/7 award winning customer support and monitor your credit cards, bank account, and social security number. This plan is free for thirty days and then $16.99 monthly for a full plan subscription.
SFC.com’s next pick is LifeLock.com. This service is a little more expensive than the number one pick, but it offers some service perks that are worth it. They have excellent customer service. With the addition of LifeLock Junior, you can also monitor your children’s credit reports for fraud.
IdentityForce.com is their next pick. They use a more proactive approach, continually monitoring your accounts for suspicious activity. They then send you a message via their early-alert system. They also offer 1 million dollars in identity theft insurance and personal credit restoration assistance. This is a highly respected company and they are established in the business.
All in all, credit monitoring services are good for certain issues. They can track your credit reports for suspicious changes in them and also certain types of personal information such as your social security number. Many of these services you could do yourself, but these companies can alert you immediately to any changes you need to be aware of. They are not that costly either. You should do some shopping around to find the best service to provide your needs at the cost that you can afford.