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Your personal information is everywhere. Your employers, retailers, doctors, schools, banks and social media accounts all have your private information. This information can be used by nefarious individuals or groups to open credit accounts in your name, create fake checks and even commit any number of criminal acts in your name. You can help protect yourself from unauthorized use of your personal information by performing regular credit report reviews. In addition to identity theft, you also need to make sure all your information is accurate. Errors can be just as costly when you go for a loan or go to open a new credit account. Credit monitoring services are one way to help you to stay informed of any changes to your credit.

Monitoring Plans

Credit monitoring programs average from $10 to $25 per month. These services pull your credit data from one or more of the top three credit bureaus. They scan your reports for changes and alert you to suspicious activity. Services range from basic to comprehensive and provide you with the level of help that you need to stay on top of your credit.

Pros of Credit Monitoring

Regular credit report reviews can provide peace of mind. Basic plans typically give you access to your credit reports once a month. They also monitor your reports and email you if there are any changes. Some lower plans offer your credit score. They usually provide some level of identity theft insurance and assistance if you have a data breach. The differences between basic plans and more comprehensive plans often involve the amount of data the services provide.

You pay more for a credit monitoring service that provides a higher level of detail. Instead of having access to one or two credit reports, you get access to all three. Rather than monthly reports, you may have unlimited access to your reports. You may also get three credit scores. Higher plans also offer greater insurance coverage and more assistance with credit recovery. Additional monitoring of search engines, social media and blogs is available to ensure that your personal data is not compromised online. The best credit report monitoring services provide security apps for all your devices so you can access your information from anywhere.

Credit Monitoring Cons

Paying a monthly fee for credit monitoring services is an investment. There is no 100 percent protection from credit card fraud. Credit report monitoring can t prevent theft; it only helps you detect it once it occurs. ID fraud insurance does not cover you if theft has already happened, even if you didn t know your credit has been compromised.

In some situations, you will not receive alerts if someone has used your ID. For instance, if someone applies for a job using your ID, credit reporting services will not be able to detect that. They are not alerted when someone applies for cell service with your personal information, nor can they monitor if your information is used to acquire medical services.

Other Types of Fraud

The criminal use of personal information is always evolving. Thieves have started to commit synthetic identity fraud. This type of fraud utilizes fragmented files to avoid detection by using part of someone s identity. For instance, they may use your social security number to open a checking account but not your name. This ties to you and can negatively impact your credit. This type of fraud can be very challenging to detect and adds more complexity to credit recovery.

There are also some methods of identity theft that are low tech. Criminals can get your information using social engineering, taking it out of your trash or mailbox, from your stolen wallet, or by just looking over your shoulder while you work away at a coffee shop.

There are free options to check your credit. Federal law allows you one free annual credit report from all three agencies. Banks and credit cards often offer alerts as well. If you suspect fraud, you can freeze your credit to stop any new accounts from being opened in your name.

Conclusion

Credit monitoring services offer additional layers of protection and ongoing activity tracking. There is no way to completely avoid ID theft, so you should weigh credit monitoring against the monthly costs. Monitoring cannot detect all identity theft, but it is one of several tools that can help you protect your credit reputation. If you suspect thieves have compromised your personal information, credit report monitoring can help you keep a close eye on your credit report activity.

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