A credit monitoring product can be a great tool to help you stay informed about your credit accounts. It can also alert you when a new account has been opened in your name—which, if you don’t recognize the account, could be a red flag for identity theft.
How to get the most out of your credit monitoring product
Credit monitoring products can help you better track both your credit activity and your credit history. Here are six ways to help you make the most of your credit monitoring purchase:
1. Thoroughly monitor your credit report.
A credit monitoring product usually enables you to monitor your credit reports from at least one of the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs)—and sometimes all three. Take the opportunity to review your credit reports where possible, and make sure all the information that appears is accurate.
If there is any incorrect information, such as names, addresses, or accounts that you don’t recognize, that could be a sign of identity theft. If a thief has used part of your information, such as your name paired with a different address, some incorrect information will likely be added to your credit report. Contact the CRA reporting the information and the lender listed on the account to initiate a dispute.
2. Pay attention to credit alerts.
Credit alerts are one of the most important features of credit monitoring products. If you purchase a credit monitoring product that monitors all three credit reporting agencies, any time that a request is made in your name for credit, such as for a new credit card account, an auto loan or a mortgage, you should receive an alert notifying you of a change to your credit file. You’ll also receive an alert if names or addresses are added to your credit file.
Credit alerts can give you a heads up if someone is attempting to use your information, or if someone is opening up a joint account without your knowledge—provided the creditor reports to the three credit reporting agencies. If someone opens an account in your name but that creditor does not report to the credit reporting agencies, you will not receive an alert. If you do receive an alert, make sure that you respond quickly.
3. Check your credit score.
Some credit monitoring products provide you with regular access to a credit score. Be sure to check your credit score as often as your product allows. This will help you understand how your credit behavior is impacting your credit score, and it will also allow you to document the damage if erroneous information has affected your credit score. In addition, the ability to regularly review your credit score may help you stay informed about the interest rates for which you may qualify when you are applying for loans.
The credit score you receive is for educational purposes, and may not be the credit score your lender uses. Lenders use different scoring models to gauge your risk as a borrower, and some use credit scores that are weighted according to their industry.
4. Ask about privacy monitoring features.
In this digital age, many businesses store your information—sometimes without your knowledge. Some credit monitoring products may help you find out where information is available about you and guide you through the process of removing unwanted information.
5. Place a fraud alert on your credit file.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft or have had your information stolen in a data breach, you may want to place a fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert will encourage lenders to take extra steps to verify your identity when opening new accounts.
6. Review your identity theft insurance and lost wallet protection benefits.
Some credit monitoring products include identity theft insurance which will reimburse certain out-of-pocket expenses in the event you are a victim of identity theft.
Some plans also include lost wallet services that will provide you with assistance in cancelling and reissuing debt cards, credit cards, Social Security documents, and other personal documents.
Staying informed about your credit report and credit score will alert you to suspicious activity. Credit monitoring can also help you find out if someone has used your information to open new lines of credit.
The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.