Credit monitoring services are built to protect your credit score from cybercriminals. Many of today’s providers also shield your personal data with identity theft protection to keep an eye on your credit and information and alert you if there’s fraud or other suspicious activities. The best credit monitoring services also notify you when your score changes from all three bureaus so you’re always in the know.
What is Credit Monitoring?
Your credit score is the key to filing applications for new homes, cars and other expenses. If cybercriminals get a hold of your Social Security Number (SSN) or other personal data, it’s often easy to file applications for credit cards and more on your behalf. In the long run, it could damage your credit and ability to make big purchases.
Credit monitoring services keep track of your credit score, inquiries and reports from one or all three bureaus. If there’s a change in your credit, your monitoring provider will alert you to look further into the inquiry or change so you can act on the problem before too much damage is done.
Keep in mind that credit monitoring is different from identity protection and doesn’t stop cybercriminals from accessing your credit. If that happens, you must lock or freeze your credit. But monitoring services regularly check for suspicious activity and changes so nothing goes unnoticed.
What to Look for in a Credit Monitoring Service
Before you commit to a credit monitoring service program, here’s what you should look for to find the perfect match for you:
1. Pricing - Fee or Free
Some credit monitoring services, like Credit Karma, will monitor your credit score across one or all three bureaus free of charge. Some free services can also alert you if your Social Security Number was found on the Dark Web and track your debt owned from each lender.
Other services require a monthly or annual fee to gather this information, like IdentityForce. But paid providers offer more services including identity theft recovery insurance, social media and fraud monitoring.
2. Bureau Monitoring and Reporting
Some credit monitoring services only report one bureau’s score changes or alerts, but many cover all three for your convenience. You’ll also want to keep in mind how often you receive credit reports from each bureau. While some credit monitoring services only offer annual reports, some offer quarterly. As you consider different providers, make sure your package includes the monitoring and reporting you’d like from the bureaus you want.
3. Trial Period
Each credit monitoring service offers different features to protect your credit, and it may be hard to find the right fit for you. Experian and other credit monitoring services offer a trial period to try their services and features lasting between a week and a month. Keep in mind, some providers may charge a $1 fee during the trial period, while others are free. On the other hand, some providers, like myFICO, don’t even offer a trial period to see if it’s right for you.
Starting monthly cost
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ID theft protection
24/7 customer service
DIY Credit Monitoring
You can access your credit score and annual credit report from each bureau without a credit monitoring service. Check your bank and account statements regularly to spot changes, and if you see something suspicious you can freeze your credit across all three bureaus for extra security. You can also opt for free services, such as Credit Karma, to check your score and suspicious changes any time. However, you’ll miss out on expert assistance, recovery insurance and other services that could make restoration easier.
Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Monitoring Services
Credit monitoring services make it easy to know immediately if there’s a change in your credit. Without a monitoring service, it’s easy to overlook suspicious changes, inquiries and activity.
Most credit monitoring services will send you an email and mobile alert to alert you of suspicious activity in your name so you’ll know if applications have been filed on your behalf.
The big difference between credit monitoring and identity theft is that credit monitoring only alerts you of credit score changes or inquiries on your behalf. On the other hand, identity theft protection monitors additional personal data including SSN, accounts, social media and more to keep all of your data safe.
Call your credit card lender immediately to report the incident and check all of your other bank or credit accounts. Be sure to change passwords to your accounts immediately. Your lender will also advise other steps to prevent further damage.