Have you ever had a credit card number stolen? It can be an awful experience and even worse is an actual case of identity theft. When a thief obtains your personal information and actually opens new accounts as if they were you, it can get real bad in a hurry. Luckily, you have a means of protecting yourself, credit monitoring. Here is what credit monitoring does.
Services Offered With Credit Monitoring
Your credit monitoring service will monitor at least one of your files from one of the three major credit bureaus. For the most part, they are looking for unusual account activity.
Unusual Account Activity
If there has been a change to your credit usage or credit score, you will usually be notified by your credit reporting agency. Small changes of a few dollars here and there are normal, but any significant change to your balances may be reported by credit monitoring services. In addition, activities such as new accounts, changes of address and credit inquiries will be reported to you. These are all events that could be a sign of identity or credit theft.
In most cases, you will be notified via email if there has been a change to your credit file, but some services may also offer text notifications. Keep in mind that credit monitoring is a notification system only. The monitoring services will not take action, this is left to you. If notified of a possible problem you will need to investigate and take action. The monitoring is only beneficial if you use the information to take action.
Dark Web Monitoring
Some credit monitoring services will also check the dark web for your personal information. This is the internet that you can not access without a special gateway. It is a place where criminals sell illegal products and information, such as credit information.
Detection of your information on the dark web does not mean that your identity has necessarily been stolen, but it does mean that you may need to take action. You might need to change passwords or even request new credit cards or account information.
How Much Does Credit Monitoring Cost?
Although there are services that charge for credit monitoring, it does not have to be a costly service. Services like CreditKarma offer monitoring for free with the help of advertisements. In addition, your own credit card provider may offer you monitoring for free. Capital One, for example, has a credit monitoring service that is free for card holders and the service even includes dark web screening.
Due to the availability of these free services, it makes sense for consumers to take advantage of at least one of them in order to aid you in the awareness of your credit status. These free services do not come with many perks beyond monitoring however.
In order to receive such perks as identity theft insurance, you will need to move to a paid service. This can cost anywhere from $10 to $40 a month. Close to nearly $500 a year, but the peace of mind may be worthwhile.
Can I Monitor My Credit Myself?
Self monitoring is another option available to consumers and, even if you take advantage of a monitoring service, you should consider doing at least some credit monitoring. In addition to obtaining a free credit report every year, frequent account queries can keep you out of trouble.
Using browser folders, it is not terribly difficult to set up a list of credit accounts that can be checked on a daily basis. Since credit card thieves often do a test transaction with freshly stolen cards, this can be a way for a consumer to detect a stolen card number before any damage is done.
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