More than 98.2 million people were impacted by the 10 largest data breaches during the first half of 2021. With breaches and identity theft on the rise, many people have turned to credit monitoring services for protection. These services automatically notify you of errors or inconsistencies in your credit reports so that you can proactively address the potential misuse of your personal information.
Let’s look at the basics of credit monitoring, what to look for in your credit reports, and proactive steps you can take to help ensure you receive early signals of identity theft. We’ll also show you how to extend these practices to create comprehensive identity theft protection.
WHAT IS CREDIT MONITORING?
Credit monitoring services search the Dark Web and monitor your credit reports to identify abnormalities that signal possible fraud. If discovered, the system alerts you of any changes via email, text, or phone alerts.
Credit monitoring is a great start to protecting your identity. Just don’t become complacent because credit monitoring alone only identifies 20% of fraud.
You need to be clear about what credit monitoring does and does not offer to ensure you have full-scale protection.
What credit monitoring does
Credit monitoring provides instant notifications of recent data breaches involving your personally identifiable information (PII) so that you can take action to correct or ward off any future financial intrusion.
What it does not do
Credit monitoring services are not designed to:
- Prevent identity theft
- Block unauthorized transactions
- Take action to correct or ward off any future financial intrusions
- Help you restore your identity if identity theft occurs
In short, credit monitoring alone provides essential cyber fraud warnings. It doesn’t provide protection from various identity and cybersecurity threats that lead to financial loss and emotional strain.
PROACTIVELY REVIEW CREDIT REPORTS
Having credit monitoring does not absolve you from taking other actions to protect yourself and your family.
If you transact business online (or in person), you should regularly review your credit reports to help spot potentially fraudulent activity and protect against identity theft. Shockingly, only 33% of Americans checked their credit reports in the last year.
The three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — must provide you with free access to your credit report once a year to help red-flag errors or attacks on your credit. However, each agency follows its own process, which means you could miss mistakes. That’s why it’s important to remain vigilant for the warning signs of identity theft that may lurk in your credit report(s).
Warning Signs of Identity Theft in Your Credit Report
- Payments reported that you didn’t make: Overdue consumer debts are often batched and sold to collection agencies. Mistakes can occur during the data transfer process, however, that turn up in your credit report. For instance, an identity thief may have been the one racking up the debt, and you may not find out until it appears on a collection report.
- Credit accounts you don’t recognize: Look carefully at all the data provided for your credit accounts, which can sometimes reflect more than a decade’s worth of accounts you’ve opened and closed. This is one of the easiest ways to spot fraud.
- Incorrect personal information, including mistakes with your name and address history.
- Court decisions you didn’t know about: Your credit report includes a section usually called “adverse accounts,” which assembles bad-credit items pulled from public records such as court judgments, bankruptcy decisions, and tax liens. This is also where you may find you’re a victim of criminal identity theft and a criminal has claimed to be you during an arrest or in a courtroom.
- Hard inquiries that seem suspicious: Most companies looking to legitimately offer you credit or insurance coverage don’t need your permission to view your credit report. But others, including employers, need your say-so. Look closely at recent credit report requests from lenders, credit-card issuers, and other financial institutions that you don’t recognize to ensure you’re not being targeted for fraud.
OTHER CREDIT SMART MOVES
- Use credit cards over debit cards when shopping online. Credit card fraud is usually easier and quicker to fix.
- Check your credit card statement at least once a month to verify all charges are expected. Immediately notify the card company of an unauthorized charge. Be aware that in 2020, according to the FTC, credit card fraud made up a total of 393,207 instances of reported identity fraud. So be thorough.
- Question unfamiliar charges on your statement, especially for small amounts. Fraudsters use smaller, often overlooked charges to see whether a credit breach is working.
- Use caution when using money tracking apps, which are still susceptible to data breaches. Before downloading an app, read its terms of service to what data it will gather and potentially share with third parties.
- Remotely disable your mobile phone if it is lost or stolen, especially if it’s not password- or face-recognition protected.
BEYOND CREDIT MONITORING: IDENTITY THEFT PROTECTION
Credit monitoring and credit reviews that you perform are important first steps of holistic cyber threat protection for you and your family.
For even greater peace of mind, you may want to consider advanced identity theft protection from a global identity security leader such as IdentityForce. In addition to credit monitoring, IdentityForce offers:
- Customized credit card alerts by individual bank and credit card account
- Smart notifications when a charge, withdrawal, or balance transfer exceeds a dollar amount determined by you
- Quick alerts of credit card fraud and bank account fraud in one centralized place with alerts through the IdentityForce mobile app.
There’s more to IdentityForce than simply monitoring your credit, which tends to alert you after the fraudulent activity appears. IdentityForce proactively monitors all the critical components that make up your digital identity, including:
- Triple-credit-bureau protection
- Personal information in public records
- Social media networks
- The Dark Web
- People search sites
IdentityForce also provides insurance coverage for eligible expenses associated with resolving identity theft and restoring your identity if it is compromised.
By regularly monitoring your credit reports, you are taking the credit-savvy, proactive steps that provide an early warning of any attempts to steal your PII. But, to reduce the threat of serious financial losses, an investment in a comprehensive identity theft protection service can give you additional peace of mind from what credit monitoring does not do: blocking unauthorized transactions, taking action to correct or ward off any future financial intrusions, and helping you restore your identity (and good credit) if identity theft occurs.