Most people know that in today’s technology-driven world, monitoring your credit report is essential to preventing financial disasters. Because of this, many people find it convenient to pay for credit monitoring services that do the monitoring for them. Customers who use these services pay a monthly fee and receive notification in the event of identity theft. Some additional services can include insurance coverage to pay for losses, access to credit scores, and alerts regarding credit activity. While most personal finance experts agree that regularly monitoring your credit report is extremely important, they are divided about the best way to do it.
Monitoring services may also provide a false sense of security because they do not actually stop the opening of new accounts; they only alert you to suspicious activity. Monitoring services can, however, help you act quickly in the event of possible identity theft and limit the impact on your finances. They can also place fraud alerts or freezes on your credit reports or remove your name from marketing mailing lists. Since the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reports that it takes 12 months, on average, for a victim of identity theft to notice the crime, a credit monitoring service may be able to help you stop the theft before it gets out of control by alerting you daily or weekly to changes in your credit. Some say credit monitoring services provide an extra layer of protection that is smart to have, but there are alternatives to the services as well.
The best low cost alternative to credit monitoring services called a security freeze. A freeze locks your credit files at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) until you unlock your file with a password or PIN. A security freeze will not, however, stop misuse of your existing bank or credit accounts and you should still check your monthly statements for suspicious activity should you choose this option. For more information about security freezes and laws in your state, the following website contains helpful information http://consumersunion.org/research/security-freeze/.
There are also several free alternatives to paying for a monitoring service, depending on your situation. You are entitled to place a free fraud alert on your credit reports which essentially place a “red flag” on them, alerting potential creditors to take extra precaution before extending credit. This is in addition to your right to your free annual credit reports available to you for your review. Credit Karma and Credit Sesame both offer free credit monitoring services, but do not include all three credit bureaus.
Choosing to monitor your credit is a decision that can only benefit you and whatever route you choose to do so, you should always research the pros and cons of each before opting to pay for services of any kind.