The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2020 — almost double the number in 2019.¹ With identity theft on the rise, credit monitoring has become a benefit commonly offered by credit card companies.
Because your credit report (and credit score) are easily affected by fraudulent financial activity, suspicious activity on your credit report is a huge red flag that identity theft may have occurred.
So what is credit monitoring, what are its benefits, and is it enough to help you catch and respond to identity theft?
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) found that 42% of victims surveyed first discovered they were the victim of an identity crime when they checked their credit report!²
Why Is Credit Monitoring Helpful?
Federal law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Checking your report manually every couple of months is better than not checking it at all, but it means you may not discover fraudulent activity until months after it has happened.
When you sign up for a credit monitoring service, you’ll receive automatic alerts about changes to your credit file. This means you’ll know immediately when changes happen and you won’t need to remember to manually check your credit report on a regular basis.
It’s important to note that credit monitoring, whether automated or done manually, cannot prevent identity theft from happening. The benefit, especially of a credit monitoring service, is to help you catch identity theft as soon as possible so you can limit the amount of damage done to your finances and credit score, and minimize the amount of time needed to restore your identity.
What Does Credit Monitoring Include?
Exactly which alerts and features are included in a credit monitoring service will depend on the credit card provider. Credit alerts can (of course) help you track your own activity and are useful for detecting activity linked to identity theft. Common alerts include:
- Credit Score Changes: Fraudulent activity on your credit report can negatively impact your score (which is calculated based on your report).
- New Credit Inquiries: Credit inquiries that did not originate from you can indicate that fraudsters are trying to open new credit cards or loans in your name.
- New Account Openings: Someone else successfully opening accounts in your name is a clear sign of identity theft.
- Credit Utilization: Sudden changes to your credit utilization due to maxed-out credit card balances (that you did not open) is typically an indication of fraud.
- Missed Payments, Collections, and Bankruptcy: Identity thieves that are able to open new accounts or take control of existing accounts will run up large debts which they’ll never pay back.
- Change of Address: Fraudsters may add a new address when conducting business in your name or try to redirect your mail to a new address to steal personal information contained therein.
What’s Missing From Credit Monitoring?
While setting up credit monitoring is an extremely useful step you can take, it’s just one piece of a holistic plan for identity protection. There are many signs of identity theft that won’t appear on your credit report, meaning you’ll completely miss them if credit monitoring is the only precaution you’re taking.
A quality identity monitoring service will take a more comprehensive approach to protecting your identity and will provide multiple monitoring services in addition to credit monitoring.
All Identity Champion Members automatically have access to basic credit monitoring, internet and dark web monitoring, and social media monitoring, while Members with Protect and Complete plans can take advantage of even more services to help protect and restore your identity, including:
Credit Monitoring: Easily monitor your three major credit files in one convenient location and get alerts about credit inquiries, new accounts, large account balance changes, and credit utilization.
Payday Loan Monitoring: Detect fraudulent attempts to apply for payday loans, auto loans, and rent-to-own inquiries in your name — even if they don’t show up in your credit report.
Court & Criminal Record Monitoring: Keep an eye on criminal records associated with your name to help prevent potentially embarrassing events and reduce the damage of criminal acts being committed in your name.
Bank Account Takeover: Detect if third parties are trying to open new financial accounts in your name, or gain access to your bank accounts and change your personal information.
ExperianⓇ CreditLock3: Easily guard yourself against identity theft by locking and unlocking your credit file at key moments.
Fraud Resolution Services: Get a dedicated specialist who helps with identity recovery, including contacting banks and lenders, and filing reports to the police and government.
Lost Wallet Assistance: Get assigned a U.S.-based specialist who will work with you to contact card issuers to replace the contents of your wallet if it’s lost or stolen.
Identity Theft Insurance4: Get reimbursed for funds stolen from financial accounts and reimbursed for eligible expenses incurred as a result of identity restoration, including lost wages, attorney and legal fees, eldercare, and childcare costs.
Any action you take toward protecting your credit and your identity is worthwhile, but it’s important to know that not all monitoring services are of equal value. Learn more about how Identity Champion can give you greater peace of mind and help you to guard against identity theft with extensive monitoring services and identity restoration resources.