A credit-monitoring service merely provides timely information; it’s up to you to put this information to good use. Just remember that credit monitoring isn’t an all-inclusive shield against identity theft and fraud. Ideally, it should be used as but one cog in a broad protection plan.
Follow these tips to maximize the effectiveness of credit monitoring:
• Say No To Free Trials: Some credit-monitoring companies offer free trials that automatically enroll you in a monthly subscription once the trial is up. However, these offers are notoriously difficult to cancel, suggesting that the companies hope you’ll either forget to cancel or give up trying to do so out of frustration. Avoid falling for such traps.
• Tailor Your Notification Preferences: For credit monitoring to be effective, it must complement your lifestyle and organizational preferences. For example, if you’re always on the go and check text messages more often than email, make sure your service of choice offers text alerts. The goal is to get the most important information ASAP without the distraction of communications that aren’t time-sensitive such as marketing emails.
• Act On Suspicious Changes: Procrastination will defeat the purpose of paying for credit monitoring, so make it a practice to act on important notifications immediately rather than later. Experience teaches us that “later” may take an awfully long time to come around.
• Monitor Your Own Credit: Every consumer is entitled to a free copy of each of his or her credit reports every 12 months. So you can do your own credit report monitoring. Ordering one of your three major reports every four months will enable you to regularly check your files for suspicious inquiries, accounts, and other activity. In addition, you should review your monthly credit card statements for unauthorized transactions.
• Apply A Credit Freeze: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax all allow you to effectively put a “lock” on your credit report. This prevents unauthorized access to them, making it impossible for fraudsters to open new accounts with your identity. A so-called credit freeze is free for victims of identity theft but may cost up to $10 per freeze for everyone else. The cost depends on your age, military affiliation, state of residence, and whether you’ve made previous requests.