Identity Theft:  Should You Sign-up for Credit Monitoring?

The major credit bureaus have been selling credit monitoring services for more than a decade now, claiming that they prevent identity theft or reduce the amount of damage caused by identity theft.  Credit monitoring services cost about $100 or $120 per year.  For this fee, the credit bureau will contact you by email or telephone when any company or entity pulls your credit report.  By notifying you immediately, the idea is to stop an identity thief from obtaining credit in your name.

Do credit monitoring services work?  Yes and no.  The credit bureaus claim that credit monitoring services can help you catch inaccuracies on your credit report; however, you can obtain one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus online. Click here for more info.  Checking your credit report once a year for unauthorized activity is sufficient for most people.

The credit bureaus also claim that they can help prevent identity theft.  This is true if the identity thief applies for a loan or credit card in your name and the credit bureau with whom you have purchased credit monitoring services is notified.  But what if one of the other two credit bureaus where you haven't signed up for credit monitoring services is contacted when a credit card or loan is taken in your name?  You still wouldn't know about the identity theft until much later.  If it is important for you to be notified immediately when any person, company or entity pulls your credit report, you would have to sign up for credit monitoring services with all three credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.  Credit bureau contact information.

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Do you really want to spend about $300 a year for credit monitoring services that might not be effective?  Probably not.  The best way to prevent identity theft is to freeze your credit. Once your credit is frozen no one can view your credit report and therefore, an identity thief can't steal your identity.  The problem with freezing your credit is that you can't apply for loans or credit either until you unfreeze your credit. Unfreezing your credit involves paying a fee and can take up to two weeks.  How do you freeze your credit? Contact each of the three credit bureaus   There is a small fee to both freeze and unfreeze your credit.

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