In today’s age of information technology and data, identity theft and data privacy issues have become an uncomfortable reality that we have to live with. Credit card frauds and bogus charges are seen to be rising. We read about data breaches and hacking regularly in the news. Our financial information is not immune to these data breaches. People who indulge in data theft have become quite sophisticated. It is entirely possible that your personal information may get compromised when you conduct a legitimate and safe transaction, and even after you take all precautions from your side. Credit card information gets stolen from ATM machines or financial institutions, and it is used to conduct fraudulent transactions. Sometimes, entirely new accounts get opened in your name without your knowledge. All of this happens while you go about your daily routine and then one day, all of a sudden, your transactions get declined due to credit card limit exhaustion or credit freeze. Or even worse, you start getting bills for transactions which you have not made.
Given the situation at hand, it has become essential to make sure that we are aware of the safety and security of our financial information. There is a need for a service which can keep a track of changes in our financial records and automatically update us whenever any change takes place. Such updates will allow us to flag right away any unauthorized or fraudulent transactions/changes which have taken place. Being able to take swift action before it’s too late can go a long way in protecting ourselves from financial fraud. A credit monitoring service is the solution to all of these problems.
A credit monitoring service keeps track of your credit files at the three biggest credit bureaus in the nation – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. If any new accounts are opened in your name, if any credit card limits increase or decrease, if any large transaction takes place, if any credit inquiry is made, if any payment is missed, or if any activity happens which is financial significant, then the credit monitoring service will alert you via text or email. This alert allows you to distinguish between legitimate changes to your credit file and fraudulent activity. This type of credit monitoring service is generally known as credit report monitoring.
There is a second type of service offered by credit monitoring companies. It is known as identity monitoring. This service monitors your personal information and alerts you if there is any sign of an identity thief attempting to use your personal information. Identity monitoring basically keeps a tab on when your personal information gets used in situations which will not show up in a credit report. Your social security number, driver’s license, passport, etc. can be used to make a loan application, attempt a change of address request, to order utility services, on social media, and in many other undesirable and fraudulent situations. Such a service constantly collects data from various databases and then verifies and compares the information with its records.
One feature linked to identity theft and monitoring is the identity theft insurance. It reimburses certain expenses which occur in connection with reclaiming your stolen identity. Such insurance policies normally do not reimburse you the lost/stolen money arising out of the theft, but they do reimburse expenses which you will incur in the process of reclaiming your identity such as legal fees or postage fees. It is important to read the fine print of these policies as they may have a deductible amount associated with them.
There is another service which is often bundled together with a credit monitoring service and sold as a package by various credit monitoring companies. It is known as a recovery service. This service focuses on everything that happens after an identity theft. It is different from monitoring services, which focuses on the prevention of theft and everything before a theft takes place. A recovery service offers you guidance from experienced counselors and managers, who walk you through actions which you need to take in order to deal with the consequences of identity theft. Such actions could include writing notices, writing letters to debt collectors, putting a freeze on your credit report, or other document review. In some cases, the trained professionals can even represent you when dealing with financial institutions. Depending on your preference and willingness to spend, you can partially or completely outsource the entire work for identity theft and recovery to a credit monitoring service company.
There are some options related to credit monitoring which do not cost any money. Firstly, you can avail one credit report from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax every year for free. Federal Law requires these three biggest credit bureaus to do so. You can spread out your requests in such a way that you get one every 4 months or so.
Secondly, you can place a credit freeze or a security freeze on your credit report. You can call up the three major credit bureaus and request them to freeze and block anybody from accessing your credit report. The only way someone can access your credit report if you give them the authorization to do so. So, by putting a freeze, you control access to your financial information and fraudulent activities such as opening accounts in your name cannot take place.
Thirdly, you can always stay more vigilant and frequently review your bank accounts and credit card statements. Any suspicious activity should be reported and flagged. This is a time and effort consuming process, but it does not cost you any money.
Lastly, there are some free services like CreditKarma and Credit Sesame which give you alerts on things like new bank account opening, so they may partially address your credit monitoring needs. However, you must note that these free services will not help you in the event of an identity theft or a financial fraud.
Dedebt has a highly trained and professional team of experts who offer a range of credit monitoring and identity theft recovery services. Feel free to call us or fill out the form below, and we will partner with you and help you overcome any stressful situation related to identity theft or financial fraud.