You know you need to protect your accounts and personal information – but what is the best method? Should you use a credit monitoring service or subscribe to identity theft protection instead? What's the difference between the two methods?
Credit monitoring services do exactly what they say they do – monitor activity on your accounts with the major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax). Creditors report all activities related to borrowing money, including your payment history, to credit reporting agencies. Monitoring services may monitor your history with all three agencies or be exclusive to a certain agency.
With credit monitoring, you're alerted to various changes in your credit report – for example, when a potential creditor asks for your credit history or when new credit card accounts or loans are opened in your name. Any activity that is reported to the credit reporting agency is monitored.
However, identity theft can involve more than fraudulent loans or credit accounts in your name. Thieves can use your Social Security number and other personal information to open bank accounts, get jobs, receive government benefits – even commit crimes in your name. None of these activities will show up on your credit report because borrowing is not involved.
Identity theft protection services incorporate credit monitoring and go beyond to check for non-credit related abuses of your information – or let you know that your compromised information is out there, available to thieves for future abuse. Monitoring may include dark web scans, arrest records, court filings, changes of address, and social media accounts.
Identity theft protection services may also include help to restore your identity and resolve fraudulent uses and claims, as well as identity theft insurance. Services and fees vary by vendor. Check the details of any program before signing up. Let MoneyTips protect your credit and identity theft with a 7-day free trial.
Victims of security breaches often receive free credit monitoring or identity protection services for a limited period of time – but the protections from these programs may not be sufficient. You need long-term protection, especially once your personal data has been compromised. You can always cancel accounts and change passwords, but once your Social Security number is compromised, you are in for a lifelong battle with identity thieves.
If identity theft protection generally includes credit monitoring, why would you opt for credit monitoring alone? Cost could be a factor, along with any extra services that the credit monitoring service provides that an identity theft service does not. Evaluate your options as a full package to get the best comparison. If you would like to monitor your credit and see your credit reports and scores, join MoneyTips.
Note that most credit monitoring and identity theft protection services are reactive, not proactive. They let you know when suspicious activity has occurred, but they can't prevent it from happening. You can supplement either service by using common-sense proactive tactics.
Use strong passwords on all your accounts and change them often. Shred any sensitive information before discarding it. Protect all electronic devices with up-to-date anti-virus software. Avoid e-mail scams and suspicious requests for information. Store your personal information in as few places as possible. Check your credit frequently, and consider a credit freeze on your accounts to prevent thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in your name.
Help either service by making it more difficult for identity thieves to get your information, or to use your information if they do get it.
Review the details of each type of service and find the best fit for your comprehensive protection strategy. Just make sure that you follow through with whatever protection you choose. Identity thieves look for the easiest unprotected targets. Don't be one of them.
Protect your credit – protect your identity – protect yourself with a free MoneyTips trial.