What is a Credit Monitoring Service?
Nobody wants to be the victim of identity theft. Having your personal financial data compromised can be one of the most stressful predicaments you'll face in life. Unfortunately, according to Javelin Research, over 11 million Americans were the victims of identity theft in 2009.
How can you eliminate, or at least minimize the chances of becoming a victim of identity theft? With a good credit monitoring service, that's how.
A credit monitoring service can protect your against identity theft, but you've got to be smart about choosing one, and then getting the right tools you'll need to keep the bad guys away from your critical financial data. Sure, you can undertake your own credit monitoring campaign, but it's time consuming and expensive.
For less than a dollar a day (most reputable credit monitoring services run anywhere between $12.95 and $30 a month) you can all the help you need – and have more time for your life (hey, time is a commodity, too, right?)
Start your search by doing a little window shopping – and then kick some tires
before you pick a credit monitoring service. In general, you'll want a credit monitoring service that does two key things:
- Offers complete protection against identity theft and fraud.
- Alerts you any possible signs or instances if identity theft or fraud before it happens.
From there, you'll want to make sure your credit monitoring service offers full coverage, especially a three-in-one credit report monitoring of all three major credit bureaus (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax).
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That's an important item of your checklist. If a credit monitoring service is watching only one credit bureau, it could be missing fraudulent activity on your other credit reports (each credit bureau acts independently of each other). That's a huge red flag in your credit monitoring campaign.
Also, how often your credit monitoring service is watching for identity breaches is important. Very important. You'll want a service that monitors your credit reports on a daily basis. Sure, you can pay less and get a service that checks in weekly or monthly, but you'll only be doing fraudsters a favor – they can get a big head start on you and the authorities if your credit report is only being checked every month or so.
When you're grilling your credit monitoring service, make sure to ask what kinds of information and activity they'll be monitoring. A short list must include:
- Credit file changes
- Recent inquiries
- Applications for credit
- Fraudulent activity
- New accounts opened
- Address changes
That's a lot of ground to cover and even a thorough credit monitoring service can miss a trick or two. The truth of the matter is that no one can guarantee that you'll never be victimized by identity theft. That's why insurance is a good idea. Most credit monitoring services offer either identity theft expense reimbursement coverage or insurance coverage that can compensate you for any financial losses suffered from identity theft.
Finding the right credit monitoring service won't happen overnight, so be patient. It's worth taking your time, asking the right questions, and vetting as many credit monitoring service as you can.
Remember, your financial life may depend on it.