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Online credit protection - What is it and do you need it?

Kurtis Avatar By: Kurtis | Last updated June 3, 2019

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A significant part of our existence is spent online and we share a lot of sensitive data to the world, through the use of internet. We use the internet for almost anything these days. We use it to entertain ourselves and keep in touch with our closed ones, we use it to pay our bills, do our shopping, book hotels, buy plane tickets, invest in the online stock market and more.

Roughly anyone who uses the internet has online access to their bank accounts and we carry a lot of financial operation via the internet. A lot of the websites we use require personal and/or financial information when we want to sign up and make an account and the same goes for online purchases of any kind.

So it is only natural to feel somewhat exposed and vulnerable with so much personal data up for grasp for the entire World Wide Web. Data breaches make the daily news and they occur in both large corporations or at a more individual level. Regardless of the magnitude of the breach, there are nasty repercussions to having your data stolen. Hackers can use the information to steal your identity, mess around with your credit, empty your bank accounts, get medical insurance using your identity and more.

Falling victim to financial fraud can cause your credit score to deteriorate badly and we all know how unpleasant it is to have a bad credit score. A bad credit score can cause you a lot of difficulties whenever you’re trying to get a job, rent a place, get a loan, lease something and so on.

Because thieves use your personal and financial information without your knowledge and approval, it is usually hard to notice anything is wrong until is too late and your credit score was already severely damaged. That is why it is crucial to keep track of all your finances and personal information and verify everything on a regular basis to make sure everything is okay. But that can be a very exhausting and time consuming job and few have the ambition to undertake it.  

Credit monitoring services - What do they do?  

One of the easiest way to protect your credit online is to sign up for a credit monitoring service. They are very popular nowadays and they can save you a lot of time and headache. Online credit monitoring services work like a 24/7 watchdog that monitors all your credit information and immediately alerts you in case of any suspicious changes to your credit report and credit scores.

When will you be alerted by your credit monitoring service?

Credit monitoring services will notify you if a credit card is opened in your name, if they see any changes to your account balance, if your personal information is used to submit an application for a credit card, a loan, if there have been any address changes related to your credit cards, loans and more. These notifications can be sent via email, SMS, phone, depending on the service you choose and on your preference. Regardless of where they are sent to, you will usually receive them in a timely manner, meaning within 24 hours from the incident discovered by the credit monitoring company.

Depending on the service, you can benefit from the following with a credit monitoring service:

  • Alerts and notifications in case of any changes to your financial and personal documents/data
  • Periodical access to your credit scores and reports; the most reputable credit monitoring services offer them from all 3 major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion), while others only offer them from 1 or 2 credit bureaus
  • Free trials (some without credit card requirements)
  • ID theft protection (they monitor your Social Security Number, several credit numbers and email addresses, depending on the company, your passport number and more)
  • Credit score simulators
  • Credit freeze option
  • Mobile apps so you can have access to the service from your smartphone
  • Protection for your family members
  • Identity theft restoration and more

Tips to help you choose a good, reliable credit monitoring service

The first thing you have to be aware of is that credit monitoring services can’t help credit fraud from taking place. They can just inform you (in a timely manner, which is very important!) in case of any suspicious activities, such as those mentioned above. However, these alerts and notifications are sometimes crucial, because you can minimize the effects of credit fraud, if you detect it in its incipient phase. Having cleared that up, here are some aspects to consider when looking for a credit monitoring service:

  • Look for a service that offers a free trial, so you can test it before you sign up for a plan
  • Choose a service that offers monitoring for all three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) and offers access to credit reports from all three on a regular basis
  • Opt for a service that offers top-notch customer support; you should aim for a company that offers 24/7 assistance, via phone, live chat and email
  • Identity theft restoration is another useful feature you should consider in a credit monitoring service
  • Do some online research on the company you want to sign up with and check out its rating from the BBB (Better Business Bureau), customer reviews, how long has it been in business and so on
  • A mobile app would be a nice addition to the included set of features
  • Compare several credit monitoring services and aim for the best one in terms of price and quality; as a guideline, more than $20 per month for such a service would be considered a high price
  • Try to avoid free services because they are limited in what they offer

Here are some of the most popular and reputable credit monitoring services to consider: 

Identity Guard - it offers a free 30-day trial, it covers all 3 bureaus, includes a $1 million theft insurance, has a mobile app (compatible with iOS and Android)

MyFico - bundles up credit monitoring and identity theft protection in a single package, offers credit reports and scores from all 3 bureaus, has a mobile app, top-notch customer support

Privacy Guard - it is affordable, offers credit monitoring for all 3 bureaus, good, 24/7 customer support, includes a free antivirus in the package