With the rise of identity theft, credit monitoring services can be an attractive means to protecting yourself. But are they your only option? Before you sign up with a credit monitoring service you should know what they will do for you, and what you can do for yourself.
What Can Credit Monitoring Services Do?
For around $9 to $15 a month, a credit monitoring service will alert you if anything changes on your credit report. The logic behind this constant observing and reporting is: If you're made to be aware of fraudulent activity as soon as it occurs, you'll have a better chance at minimizing the potential credit damage. The service that you pay for will let you know if the following happens.
- Hard Inquiries: These are the kinds of inquiries that are made if you apply for a loan or a credit card. You have to authorize these, so if one shows up on your report that you didn't initiate, it's fairly clear that fraud has occurred.
- New Accounts: These will necessarily be tied to hard inquiries. If you didn't request a line of credit that shows up on your credit report, it's probably indicative of illegal behavior. However, sometimes creditors can make mistakes that lead to the opening of unauthorized accounts.
- Changes in Purchasing Behavior: For example, if a large purchase is made with a credit card that you rarely use, this will be flagged as uncharacteristic spending and you will be alerted.
- Address Changes: While it is common for people to move, it is also known that criminals can change your address with the postal service in order to get your bills rerouted to their own places of residence. This gives them a certain amount of control over your financial life.
Credit Monitoring on the Cheap
Of course if paying for a credit monitoring service seems like a needless cost, you can always monitor your credit on the cheap and do it yourself. While some people enjoy the security of knowing that someone is being paid to look after their financial interests, it's difficult to put a price tag on peace of mind. However, with the tools that most of us have at our finger tips, it's possible to successfully monitor your own credit for $0 a month.
- Take advantage of your free credit reports. All three major reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) are required to provide you with a credit report once a year. Make sure that you request yours annually, learn how to interpret them and go over the information that is contained carefully.
- Set up free online alerts with your bank. Most of the major ones offer this service at no charge. With this service, any time anything happens with your checking/savings accounts, you'll receive a notification.
- Exercise caution with your identity. If you shop online, make sure that you're only making transactions or giving personal information on secure websites. And try not to carry your Social Security card, birth certificate or checkbook (if you have one) around with you. Also, make it a practice to shred important documents and sensitive mail as soon as you no longer need them.
Have you been a victim of identity theft?
If your credit has been damaged because of fraudulent activity and you're currently rebuilding your financial reputation, we at Auto Credit Express would like to help you improve your score and get the auto loan that you need. If you think that your situation will make the acquisition of reliable transportation impossible, think again. Our network of trusted lenders can work with you to get you financed. Just fill out our quick and secure online application to get started today!