With the Experian breach of 2015 behind us and the Equifax 2017 breach settlement just finalized last month, most people are worried about protecting their private data but not sure how to go about it. Advertising for credit monitoring services are everywhere and you’re wondering if you should buy it or not. Here's our question:
Credit monitoring services track data that’s found in your credit report may indicate fraudulent activity. There are variations in what does get tracked but generally a purchased monitoring service includes:
Some services go beyond credit monitoring and into privacy protection where your online identity is monitored.
The purpose of credit monitoring is to mitigate the impact of credit fraud. I say mitigate, instead of prevent, because credit monitoring only detects questionable activity after it’s occurred. The service doesn’t predict something may happen, it can only report on suspicious activity that may indicate fraud. A credit monitoring service alerts clients when it detects questionable activity. You, the client, can then take corrective action if the activity is in fact, fraudulent.
Well, maybe. However, there are other options such as doing your own monitoring or freezing your credit, both of which are free.
There are steps you can take to monitor your own credit: utilizing free credit reports, alerts from your bank and credit cards, and keeping track of your expenses.
The most effective way to protect your credit is to freeze it. Freezing your credit restricts access to your credit report which prevents new accounts from being created with your identify. You can also temporarily unfreeze and refreeze you credit reports if you need to open a new account, rent an apartment or get insurance. As of 2018, freezing and unfreezing your credit is free to everyone. Follow these steps to freeze your credit:
If you are looking to protect your credit, you can pay for the service or you can do it yourself, whichever best fits your needs and your budget.