Monitoring your credit is the most vital action to protect your personal and financial information from any misuse due to data breach in the systems of the financial institutions that you deal with or hacking of your device. Identity theft exposes your data, which can fall into the wrong hands and cause enormous problems. The importance of credit monitoring has gone up many more times, especially after the high-profile data breaches like the one encountered by the credit bureau Equifax in 2017 and then the one faced by Capital One in 2019. Many consumers are now eligible for free credit monitoring, which helps you to detect suspicious activities before the damage happens.

The risks remain

Identity thieves might or might not use your personal information, but the risk of its misuse will haunt you forever. Freezing your credit is the best protection, but another way could be layering of monitoring, which is also helpful.  Credit monitoring involves constant watch on your credit reports and alerts you about the changes. For example, if someone uses your social security number to claim your income tax refund or tries to open a credit account, you will receive instant alert instead of discovering the malicious act after many months when the damage runs deep. The process of recovery gets complicated.

Free credit monitoring vs. paid services

For two years, free credit monitoring services are available from the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, which helps to protect your identity. Similar paid services are available from many other companies, including Identity Guard. The latter offers much better coverage than the free services and the recovery is much better. To know more about these companies’ services, refer to the Identity Guard review that provides deeper insight into what you can expect from such companies.

Although it is possible to do the credit monitoring by yourself, the scarcity of time and lack of dedication to do the task diligently compel people to avail the professional services of identity theft protection companies by paying some fees and enjoy complete peace of mind. Look for some company that offers credit monitoring of the three major credit bureaus along with a full suite of threat alerts.  It is worth spending money on protecting your identity if you are at high risk or have already been a victim of identity theft,but you do not want to freeze your credit reports. Ensure that the monitoring covers the three credit bureaus, or else the protection will be partial.

What does an identity theft protection service cover?

Although named identity theft protection services, no one can prevent thefts from happening. Neither they can put a stop to phishing emails reaching you or rogues, making pesky calls to deceive you and access your personal information. Please bear this in mind when you are availing of the services.  But the services can alert you on time about possible malicious activities so that you can take guard and thwart the intrusion. The services offer monitoring your credit reports as well as identity and help in recovery should anything go wrong.

The monitoring services comprise of credit monitoring and identity monitoring.

Credit monitoring – The credit reports of the three credit bureaus are under constant surveillance and send off alerts if any suspicious activity is detected, which can happen either by mistake or with malicious intent. On being alerted, you can take some preventive action. The alert goes off whenever a company checks your credit history. You receive a late payment notice from creditors. During the opening of a new credit or loan account, changes happen to your credit limits, changes to your personal information, or if there is a legal judgment against you.

Identity monitoring – When there is the use of your personal information like Social Security Number, bank account information, passport, or driver’s license that usually does not reflect in your credit report, you will receive an alert.  You will receive an alert when your personal information shows up during the request of an address change, payday loan applications, court or arrest orders, and orders for a new cable or wireless services, and new utility and on websites that cybercriminals and identity thieves usually use. To detect misuse of your personal information, the identity monitoring services check the databases of different information to detect any changes that might have happened.

Identity recovery – The identity recovery services help to regain control of your reputation and finance after any malicious incident or theft. Trained counselors will guide you through the process of addressing your problems of identity theft. They may help you to freeze your credits, write letters to debt collectors and creditors, or help in reviewing documents. Some services might even act on your behalf when dealing with creditors.

All identity theft protection companies offer identity theft insurance that covers for the out of pocket expenses related directly to reclaiming your identity.