Can Credit Monitoring Really Fight Identity Theft?

Protection against identity theft is one of the biggest concerns for consumers today and rightly so, this crime has shown a progressive growth over the last few years, spiking in numbers of cases on holiday seasons. For today’s busy consumers, it may be confusing whether to simply buy identity theft insurance or sign up for credit monitoring. Either way people are looking for peace of mind when it comes to the security of their identity. But it’s important that you as consumer don’t get too comfortable with your decision to opt for either one of these choices until you understand what the service really does.

Credit monitoring is an important piece in the equation of total identity theft protection, which involves this and other aspects. Credit monitoring services may emphasize the importance of protecting against credit fraud, but as mentioned above, identity theft involves more than just your credit or the monitoring of your credit report.

Let’s quickly analyze what a credit monitoring service does for you. Companies that offer this service, usually also offer additional services, and often it is your credit card company that offers the service of watching after your credit card transactions in order to detect credit fraud, but they may fail to mention that it is only the credit card you have with them that they’re watching after, but still call it credit monitoring. Yes, a savvy marketing trick.

Companies that offer true credit monitoring have the task of monitoring your credit report from all three credit bureaus, although that’s not always the case. So it’s important that you ask and get a clear answer to whether they monitor all three credit bureaus or only one, how often they monitor your credit, what exactly the monitor and how many times can you request a copy of your report. If there is a limit, any additional requests will cost you extra fees.

So this credit monitoring service will typically cover:

New accounts being opened under your name
Credit inquiries
Address changes
Collections accounts
Negative changes on your credit report
Closed accounts
Credit line increases

It can certainly be very useful to know when some of these activities take place on your credit report, so any additional service that can be included to this list of features at no additional cost would be a plus. But the question remains, Can credit monitoring really fight identity theft? Well that all depends on who you ask, a credit monitoring company may insist that this is what you want if you’re looking for identity theft protection.

The correct answer is: “Not if you’re looking to cover every aspect of your identity”. Our identities are not based on our credit reports alone. When identity theft strikes it isn’t always through credit fraud. With the convenience of the internet, there are so many opportunities for identity thieves to get an easy pay day.

To answer the question in a different way, credit monitoring can not stop identity theft, it can only inform you of the illegal activities once they have started so that you can take immediate action. Yes you can certainly minimize the length of the damage by acting quickly, but something has to happen for you to take action.

What’s a better option? Since you are considering outsourcing the monitoring of your personal information, then don’t dismiss the possibility of becoming a victim of identity theft in other ways, such as medical identity theft, or having utility and phone accounts opened in your name. These are aspects that credit monitoring can not help you with. So instead do some research on what identity theft really is, how it happens and what ways people can be victimized besides credit fraud. You may be shocked to find out how your identity can be used.

The take away message here is for you to take action and become proactive in the protection of your own identity. Once you do your research and assess your own risks then begin your search for a system of total identity theft protection, only then will you have peace of mind.

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