Are You Monitoring Your Credit?

Your credit report is the document used to determine how much interest you will pay for credit cards, home mortgage, or personal loans. You need to make sure that it is accurate and correct.

Q. What is a credit monitoring service?
A. With the growing concern about identity theft, many companies now offer credit monitoring services for a fee. Some consumers prefer to monitor their credit reports and personal information by themselves for free; others choose to purchase a service to handle some of the tasks.

A credit monitoring service will keep an eye on your credit report, keep track of certain kinds of changes, and send activity reports to you. For example, a service could alert you if someone tried to get credit in your name. Some services also provide you with additional copies of your credit report or help with resolving problems you discover on your report.

When you consider whether a credit monitoring service is right for you, ask:

Does this service track my credit with all three major consumer reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion)? These companies can have different information about you and it is important to look at all three reports.

Will the service notify me immediately about new activity on my credit files? How will I be notified?

Exactly what services will I get for my money? Does the fee cover daily credit monitoring, all three credit reports, credit scores, help with resolving problems, or insurance coverage for expenses related to recovering my identity?

Q. How can I monitor my credit?
A: Check your credit report regularly to catch mistakes or fraud quickly. Watch for any entries that do not belong to you. Your new right to free credit reports can help with this.

Instead of ordering reports from all three CRCs at the same time, you can order one report from a different CRC every four months. That way, you will get three reports in a 12-month period and be better able to check your credit report for changes or problems. You may also choose to buy your credit reports for about $9 each at any time.

Keeping Your Personal Information Safe

Q. What are signs of fraud or identity theft on my credit report?
A. Your credit report may show that someone is using your personal information: your name; Social Security number; credit card number; or other identifying information. Look for these signs:

– new credit card accounts, loans, or other financial commitments you didn’t make;
– inquiries you didn’t make;
– bad debts on your own accounts, or debts on accounts that you didn’t open;
– legal actions that you don’t know about.

Q. What should I do if my identity has been stolen?
A. Contact the fraud departments of any one of the three major CRCs and put a fraud alert on your credit files.

The alert means that creditors will contact you before they open any new accounts or make changes to existing accounts. The company you contact must notify the other two.

Close accounts that you think have been taken over or opened fraudulently.

Use the “ID Theft Affidavit” when you dispute new unauthorized accounts.

File a police report.

Send a copy of the report to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC keeps a database of identity theft cases to help law enforcement learn more about the crime and victims’ experiences.