One of the scariest financial prospects that many of us face is the possibility that we will be a victim of identity theft. In a world where almost anyone can have their information stolen from just about anywhere, it’s not much of a surprise that your information could be next.
Identity theft is such an important topic that the Justice Department has an entire information resource devoted to identity theft statistics. When you’re concerned about your identity, and how it might impact your credit, it can make sense to consider paying for a credit monitoring service.
What Does a Credit Monitoring Service Do?
A credit monitoring service basically scans your credit report regularly and makes an attempt to identify red flags that indicate your identity has been stolen. When a new account is opened, or when someone checks your credit, you are notified.
While credit monitoring won’t stop your information from being stolen by hackers or through something like the Heartbleed vulnerability, it can provide you with immediate information that you can act on quickly. When it comes to heading off identity thieves and limiting damage, the faster you act, the better off you’ll be.
There are also more advanced credit monitoring services that go beyond just your credit report. More advanced identity monitoring services actually keep an eye on your public records, and make it a point to even use algorithms to check through black market sites and look for other unusual activity that might indicate your identity has been compromised.
A credit monitoring service can help you keep tabs on your information, providing peace of mind.
Can You Monitor Your Credit Yourself?
Of course, a credit monitoring service isn’t going to do anything for you that you can’t do on your own. It’s possible for you to keep tabs on your situation for less than it costs to pay for credit monitoring.
You can access your credit report for free on a regular basis through AnnualCreditReport.com, as well as use free consumer credit reporting sites to keep tabs on your credit report and use it to watch for identity thieves.
It’s also possible to do your own public records search and watch for suspicious activity on your bank and credit card statements — and even your investment statements.
However, all of this takes time and effort. Yes, you can do it yourself, but you can’t be watching all the time. If you check in once a month with your accounts, and even if you use various tools to protect you against identity theft, you could still miss something. And, if you only check in once a month, you might miss a red flag that pops up a day or two after you last checked. That gives the thief almost a month’s head start on you.
In most cases, though, if you report fraudulent charges on credit cards (the rules are different for debit cards) within 60 days, you won’t be liable for most of the charge. But it can be a real pain to deal with during that time.
The point of a credit monitoring service is that it provides immediacy, while taking the bulk of the legwork off of you. While a service can certainly miss something, it is less likely to miss something than you are. Additionally, there are services that provide an immediate alert when a new account is opened, or when some other action takes place. This can help you get on top of the situation immediately.
Most people who sign up for credit monitoring services do it for the peace of mind, and to get a break from some of the workload. Whether or not a credit monitoring service makes sense for you depends on how concerned you are about identity theft, and how much time you have to complete the due diligence that is required to properly monitor your own credit.