Credit Monitoring Services
7 Quick And Easy Tips Before You Buy In 2020
A great question to be asking right now is, 'Do I need Credit Monitoring Services?'
There are plenty of articles on the internet that will tell you to do it yourself and don't waste your money paying for Credit Monitoring Services.
But here's the deal...
If you read the WHOLE DIY article, after the title draws you in, then you will be told that there is no easy way to monitor your credit for free...
I know you probably aren't too surprised that the title was only CLICK BAIT.
The Truth Is...
Unfortunately, there's no easy way to monitor your credit for free.
You will see many websites offering the classic bait-and-switch...
FREE CREDIT MONITORING SERVICES!
However, when you try signing up and start reading the fine print, the services are not actually free but are only a free trial.
Others offer free Credit Monitoring Services but, for ONLY one or two of the three major credit bureaus; Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
Choosing not to monitor all three major credit bureaus can leave you dangerously exposed to misreporting by merchants and ID Theft at the non-monitored credit bureau(s).
I know because I've experienced it firsthand!
Presently, I am fighting a dispute with TransUnion where they incorrectly recorded my payment history for a credit card.
Which has negatively affected my credit score.
The other two bureaus recorded it as paid but if I didn't monitor all three credit bureaus, I may have never known that I had a delinquent payment on my credit card history.
I have filled this simple article up with multiple insider tips and secrets to help you wade through the 'bull$^%&' and get the answers you need.
Grab your shovel because we are going to dig deep into the Can's, Should's, What's, Why's and, the How's; of Credit Monitoring Services.
And, as a bonus, tortured puns free of charge throughout this article!!!
What Are Credit Monitoring Services?
What Is Credit Monitoring?
Credit Monitoring Services are offered to timely report to you the recent activities found on your credit report and credit score.
Every time you do anything that involves credit, it is reported to one of three credit bureaus.
The credit monitoring service alerts you to whatever was reported to the credit bureau.
Make a payment on a credit card, you'll get an alert.
Pay down some debt, again, you'll get an email or text letting you know that your lender reported your loan balance was lowered.
Most providers will notify you within a day if certain types of activities are reported on your credit history.
Credit Monitoring Services are protection against identity theft and inaccurate reporting by merchants to Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian (the big three credit bureaus).
By monitoring your credit report and score, you can identify fraudulent activities such as stolen credit card numbers, fake social security claims, and other forms of ID theft, almost immediately.
You will have the ability to dispute merchant reported inaccuracies almost as soon as they happen.
With a Credit Monitoring Service, you can request notifications via phone, email, and/or text, anytime someone tries to access your financial and credit information.
Having this information as soon as possible will help you minimize the potential damage to your credit score and history a criminal may have.
One tool a credit monitoring service will provide you with is the ability to immediately (almost) freeze any credit inquiries to the big three credit bureaus.
This tool can help stop the would be criminal from being able to access your accounts and ruin your credit.
Most Credit Monitoring Services will notify you if specific credit activities occur on your account.
Usually, these types of activities occur due to an action you took.
If you receive a notification unexpectedly, this could mean that something fraudulent may have happened.
Did You Know?
You can have your credit reports frozen if you suspect ID theft or fraudulent activity.
This will stop anyone from accessing your credit reports with your information until you can get the problem resolved and unfreeze the account.
You Should Be Notified Of These Credit Activities
‘Hard Pull’ Inquiries
When you apply for a credit account, the potential lender will perform a ‘Hard Pull’ or ‘Hard’ inquiry of your credit history to assess if they want to extend you credit.
New inquiries are one of the five categories that the big three credit bureaus track to calculate your credit score.
If a criminal was to steal your identity and apply for multiple credit accounts, the sudden increase in new inquiries and the volume of inquiries, would be a red flag for the credit bureaus and could result in you receiving a lower credit score.
By having a Credit Monitoring Service you will be notified of all hard inquiries and be able to take action should someone else attempt to access your credit.
New Credit Account Opened
If you open a new credit account, the lender will report this account to the big three credit bureaus.
Your credit monitoring service will see that a new account has been opened in your name and will then notify you of the new account.
This is a helpful service, similar to how credit card companies will notify you immediately after each time you use your credit card.
So long as you DID open the new account, this service is redundant and only confirms what you already knew.
However, if you DID NOT open the new credit account, then you will have the advantage of being able to take immediate action to mitigate the potential damage to your finances and your credit score.
If a change is made to one of your open accounts, the credit monitoring service will notify you that a change was made.
You should be the only person making changes to your credit accounts, and if someone has stolen your identity, they may attempt to make changes to your existing accounts for fraudulent purposes in secret.
New Public Records
The Credit Monitoring Services will watch for public records with your information and notify you when someone matching your profile has a public notice of:
You would want to be notified if your name is associated with any of those activities on the list.
You can especially see how troubling some of those activities could be for you if you didn’t know anything about them because they were the result of fraudulent activity due to ID theft.
Before the internet and the mini computers we carry around everywhere (aka cell phones), ID theft was much easier if you had the necessary information on the victim.
A criminal could contact the victims credit accounts and request them to change the address to theirs.
With that information, it was challenging for the victim to gain back control of their account, let alone fix the damage the criminal may have caused.
Today, with a credit monitoring service, if someone changes the address to one of your accounts, you will receive a notification of that requested change and be able to address the issue immediately.
Paid Credit Monitoring May Include Identity Theft Which Tracks Black Markets On The Dark Web
Could you imagine if people could purchase your financial information?
How bad would it be if your private information was made public on the dark web?
People can anonymously, with crypto-currency, purchase bundles of credit card numbers, account numbers, birth dates, social security numbers and unfathomable historical data tracked on the internet.
And that information could be yours!
Some of the paid credit monitoring services offer various forms of identity theft protection.
For instance, MyFico tracks many known dark web black market websites that sell stolen financial information and notifies its subscribers if they find any of your data for sale.
I have the FICO Ultimate 3B+ Credit Monitoring Service and recently received a text that my cell phone number along with my address and full name was available for sale in a bundle on the dark web.
While creepy and a bit disturbing, no financial information was compromised, so I chose not to take any action.
However, had the text contained a credit card number or an account number, I would have immediately contacted my provider and reported the problem.
Or if they had obtained my social security number and date of birth, I could have contacted Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and had my credit accounts frozen so that they could not be used to obtain fraudulent accounts in my name.
Why Do I Need A Credit Monitoring Service?
Let's start by making sure that we both are in agreement that your credit needs to be monitored?
I, for sure, believe that your credit should be monitored, either you need to do it or you need someone else to do it for you.
We agree on that, right?
And the reason we agree that credit monitoring is so important is because if we do not monitor our credit, no one will.
Monitoring your credit prevents people from fraudulently opening up credit card accounts in our name, signing up for government benefits in our name, and from stealing our identity; to name only a few criminal activities daily purpotrated upon us by hackers and anonymous (or is it anonymous hackers?).
So the real question isn't, 'Why do I need a credit monitoring service?' but...
'Can I do it myself or should I pay for someone to do it for me?'
How Do I Monitor My Own Credit?
Check Your Free Credit Reports
AnnualCreditReport.com is the government website that allows you one free credit report each year from each of the big three credit bureaus; Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
You will be able to take a free look at your credit report each year to see if there has been any inaccurate reporting from your creditors or any fraudulent activity involving identity theft.
But here is the problem...
Only reviewing your credit report one time a year is not often enough to prevent potential problems.
Umm, what about the other 364 days in the year?
There are a lot of fraudulent activities that can happen in a year.
Plus, some creditors only report your activity to just one or two of the credit bureaus which makes checking all three credit bureaus reports carefully, kind of important (anyone else hear a snotty teenage girl saying 'duh' here).
What you will find on one of the credit bureaus reports you won’t find on another, and vis-a-versa.
Check Your Statements Closely
Do you know the #1 way that identity theft is discovered?
The way most identity theft is discovered is by the victim checking their banking or credit card statement and finding something on it that they did not purchase.
Be sure to look at every item on your banking and credit card statements.
If you do not recognize the charge, immediately contact the merchant and get to the bottom of it.
Do you know the #1 mistake that people make who are victims of identity theft?
They don’t react fast enough to the unauthorized purchases and before they know it there are too many of them to deal with.
Then you end up spending years trying to clean up your credit report.
If you choose to monitor your credit yourself, you will have to review all your statements carefully and address any unknown charges quickly.
Your Bank Or Credit Cards Might Offer Free Monitoring Services
Take advantage of your any free credit report monitoring offered by your bank or credit card companies.
Most credit card companies offer a free credit score, and some offer a limited notification alert system for when an activity affects your credit score.
These notifications may appear a month or two after the activity, but, if fraudulent, you will be made aware so that they can be addressed.
Limitations of Monitoring Yourself
While diligence and tenacity will be your guide, you will still be limited as to the resources at your disposal to protect your credit.
Self-credit monitoring has its limitations; for instance, only having access to your Experian credit report one time a year leaves a long time for a would-be criminal to wreak some havoc.
Closely watching all of your financial statements makes a lot of sense.
But, this is a very reactionary way to defend yourself, by waiting for the attack and then taking action.
Credit monitoring services can notify you of questionable activities before they turn into time-consuming fraudulent criminal activities.
There are free monitoring services available from your financial institutions and even online, such as Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
The problems with these free services are that they do not include the reported activities of all three of the big credit bureaus, monitor public records or the monitor the dark webs black markets.
To get a complete credit monitoring service you will need to pay for it.
After reviewing all of the credit monitoring services available online, I decided on MyFico.
It includes a robust notification system for any reported activity associated with your credit, public records, and if it finds your information on the black market (happened to me recently!).
What Credit Monitoring Services Are Not...
It can be confusing to identify everything that Credit Monitoring Services do for their customers outside of notifying them of possible credit threats from all over the internet.
While companies like MyFico will notify you about any credit related information they find about you on the internet, they still cannot stop the actual act that led up to the identity theft or stop the criminal activity.
They are a watchman in a tower who will alert you as soon as they see a potential problem.
That being said, they can't stop scammers from sending you emails trying to obtain your account logins or stop you from falling for those scams.
Monitoring services can't stop someone from using your information illegally to make purchases with your credit card numbers or open accounts under your identity, they can only alert you of the activity.
Last, don't mistake the Credit Monitoring Services for the Credit Repair Services, they cannot correct errors on your credit report.
Should I Buy Credit Monitoring Services?
Simply... Yes, you should buy Credit Monitoring Services.
If you do not purchase monitoring services then you will have to monitor your credit yourself.
The problem with monitoring your own credit is that there is no way to do it for free and in one place.
This means that to monitor your credit, you will need to use four or five different resources on the regular to do what one credit monitoring service can do for a small monthly fee.
Keep in mind, that if you decide to not purchase Credit Monitoring Services then you are committing to checking multiple statements and reports on a routine basis for the rest of your life.
In addition, most of the credit monitoring services offer identity theft protections and insurance, so if your credit gets hacked, they will reimburse you for your expenses to fix it.
MyFico offers not only identity theft protection insurance of up to 1 million dollars but also, identity restoration specialists who will help you if you suspect that your identity has been stolen.
To learn more about the Ultimate credit monitoring service, visit...
What Are Free Credit Monitoring Services?
Have you ever heard that nothing in life is free?
Well, unfortunately, when it comes to 'Free' Credit Monitoring Services, it is true.
The vast majority of sites claiming free credit monitoring services are only offering a free trial.
Here’s a list of ‘Free Credit Monitoring Services’ that turn out to be only a ‘Free Trial’:
There are a few services that offer ‘Free Credit Monitoring Services’ but only for one or two of the three big credit bureaus; Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
The problem with only monitoring one or two of the credit bureaus is that merchants don’t always report to all three of the credit bureaus,
AND, in most cases, they may only report to one or two of them.
Keep in mind that 'Free' Credit Monitoring Services are offered by multiple websites with the intent to sell you credit cards and auto loans.
With their services you can get a limited snapshot of your credit activity, but the free services won’t show credit fraud or reporting mistakes to the bureau(s) that they do not monitor.
A few of those Free Credit Monitoring Services selling credit cards and auto loans are:
What Should I Look For In A Credit Monitoring Service?
Three Bureau Monitoring
The first thing that you need to look for with a Credit Monitoring Service is that they monitor all three credit bureaus; Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian.
If they do not include credit monitoring for the big three credit bureaus, you will need to purchase a second Credit Monitoring Service to monitor the other bureau(s).
Identity Theft Protection
Some Credit Monitoring Services only offer the monitoring services.
If you are getting the monitoring services for free, you most likely will not also get identity theft protection for free.
The paid monitoring services offer identity theft protection along with the credit monitoring.
You want the identity theft protection because it will provide you with tools and resources should you suspect you are a victim.
Each monitoring service offers their box of tools and resources but be sure that they at the least offer free phone identity theft specialists to discuss your problems.
When you suspect that your identity has been stolen, you will need to get in touch with a specialist immediately to walk you through all the steps that will need to be taken.
This isn't a situation where you can email the support team and wait 48 hours for a response.
Make sure that your credit monitoring service 24 hours telephone identity theft specialists.
ID Theft Insurance
Identity theft insurance is offered by some paid credit monitoring services.
If you are a victim of fraud or identity theft your Credit Monitoring Service will reimburse you for the money you spend fixing your identity.
Of course, there are some policy limitations and exclusions but, generally, the offered coverage can include:
MyFico offers credit monitoring services for all three of the credit bureaus, ID Theft Protection and offers 1 million dollars in Identity Theft Insurance.
Your credit is the single most important financial asset that you own.
The decision you need to make is if you are going to monitor it yourself (all the frickin' time) or if you are going to purchase a credit monitoring service.
I reviewed the 10 top credit monitoring services and decided that MyFico was the best of the rest.
If you think about it logically, it makes a lot of sense.
If I surveyed 100 people and asked them to give me a synonym or another word for 'Credit Score', quite a few would say 'FICO Score'.
That's because your credit score is your FICO score calculated based on one of the three credit bureaus history they have on record.
After looking at everything that FICO offered and considering that my goal is to increase my FICO Score aka Credit Score, I chose FICO for Credit Monitoring.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.