You’ve seen the ads on TV and over the Internet for credit monitoring services and identity theft protection. If you’re like most people,you wonder what the difference is between all of the products and services each credit-monitoring company has to offer. By understanding the basis for each of the features that most companies promote you can make the best decision for you and your family based on your financial situation and needs.
Basic Monitoring Services For Identity Theft & Credit Reporting
Most providers of credit monitoring offer at least one basic service to consumers. This generally includes tracking your credit file through one or all of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. The credit-monitoring company will usually alert you by text, email, or U.S. mail to any changes in your credit file.
This includes inquiries for credit from banks, credit card providers, retailers, or credit unions. Basic monitoring services often offer consumers access to credit reports and credit scores on a limited basis throughout the year as well. The cost for basic monitoring services varies depending on the number of credit bureaus the company monitors and the frequency of consumer access to credit reports and scores.
Why It’s Important
Credit Bureaus receive millions of pieces of information each day on consumers and their credit profiles. This includes uploaded and written correspondence from credit providers across the nation. Much of the data is used to report on the status of new or existing credit accounts held by consumers in the country. Some of this will involve fraudulent activity as well as inaccurate information from data furnishers.
Until data is matched properly with legitimate consumer credit files, no one in the lending or credit reporting industry is aware of mistakes or intentional misuse of consumer information that can prevent accuracy in credit files.
Once a person is alerted to specific changes in their credit file, they can determine if identity thieves are applying for credit in their name or if creditors have reported erroneous information. This allows consumers to report identity theft or dispute inaccurate information in a timely manner. Credit monitoring can be the front line to protection for your credit reputation so credit opportunities are available when you need them.
Before basic credit monitoring was developed, many consumers even wondered, “What is identity theft?” Internet scanning involving credit-monitoring services that scan Internet sites for your personal identifying information detects this every day. This is an additional service companies provide consumers that can help detect fraudulent activity. Credit monitoring services scan a multitude of sites looking for your name, address, Social Security number, and birthdate.
Common government sites where applicants apply for government benefits such as Social Security, or unemployment benefits are monitored regularly using this extended service. IRS identity theft, http://www.irs.gov/uac/Identity-Protection is also on the rise according to the Internal Revenue Service and identity theft statistics, so many monitoring services scan for this type of fraud as well. This is different from FTC identity theft that deals with stolen information to purchase goods and services that are traded in the consumer market place.
Some credit-monitoring services even check state fishing and game license sites for personal identifying information and enhanced identity theft protection. Fraudsters use personal and account information everywhere including “test sites” such as Internet dating sites where they can test whether or not charges will go through, with little or no risk of being caught.
Because some sites are very discreet for the protection of clients, identity thieves know they can easily test whether you’re aware that your personal information has been stolen. Based on whether there is a “credit freeze” on your credit bureau reports or a hold on a credit card account number fraudsters will be declined for services or purchases.
By extending their detection services beyond that of basic credit bureau monitoring, companies stand a greater chance of identity theft protection before it’s too late.
Additional help in the way of theft assistance is provided as an extended service by many credit monitoring services and can mean many things. Some companies offer insurance against identity theft that covers out-of-pocket charges such as telephone calls, faxes, and photocopying related to resolving an identity theft case. Others offer information on how to prevent identity theft, and 24-hour online or telephone support to notify bureaus and creditors of theft of credit cards or personal information immediately. Many monitoring services provide information about credit reports as well as statistics, and analytics that contribute to credit scores.
With a variety of credit monitoring features available to you, it’s important to find the right plan that meets the needs of you and your family.