There’s no one best credit monitoring service but there are a few that offer some great features to stop identity theft
A new case of identity theft happens every two seconds in the United States. The increase in hacking cases at retail stores like Target and even on the credit card companies has made credit monitoring services a necessary monthly expense.
I know, it sucks to pay out $10 or more every month for something you might not even need for years. I used to think of credit monitoring as one of those things only rich people needed and that most people would never be the target of identity theft anyway.
One out of every four people have had their identity stolen and it can strike anyone at any time.
Now I think of credit monitoring just like any other type of insurance. You may not need your car insurance for years but when that next accident comes, you’re sure glad you have it. It can take up to seven years to repair your credit score after a missed payment or some other fraudulent activity. During that time, your bad credit could cost you thousands of dollars in extra interest payments.
I read one case of identity theft recently where the hacker pled guilty to stealing $764,000 from the checking accounts of an insurance company’s policyholders. He got just 27 months in prison while they struggled with bad credit for years.
Prosecution of identity thieves is a joke and the problem is only going to get worse.
I started using a credit monitoring service two years ago. Not only does it protect me from identity theft but I’ve been able to improve my credit score and track my progress on financial goals.
Not monitoring your credit report or having identity theft protection is like assuming you’ll never be in another car accident, have a home emergency or will never need to go to the hospital. You can hope all you want but that won’t stop identity theft from happening.
4 Best Credit Monitoring Sites Review
I tried two other credit monitoring sites before settling on the one I use today. It’s difficult to call any one service the best credit monitoring site because they all offer slightly different features and services. Some offer discount services for basic protection while others are more expensive but more comprehensive.
I’ve included four of the best credit monitoring service providers below, most of which I’ve tried out and one that I’ve reviewed and talked to users. All of them offer some kind of free trial or discounted service to try out their credit monitoring plans. Look through the list for which features are most important to protect your identity.
LifeLock is the best known credit monitoring service for identity theft protection and the one I use to keep my identity safe. The company uses U.S.-based identity theft specialists to monitor and fix any suspicious activity on your credit report, notifying you of problems by phone and email. If your identity is stolen, LifeLock will spend up to $1 million to hire experts to help recover your credit score.
Many of the other credit monitoring services offer some kind of an identity theft guarantee, helping you to recover your credit score if your identity is stolen. The reason I use LifeLock is that it goes beyond just credit report monitoring. They monitor your social security number and investment account for any suspicious activity to go beyond just credit score monitoring.
Pricing for LifeLock credit monitoring services is less expensive than others for the standard plan and on-par for the advantage plan. I use the Advantage plan, a good in-between for price and service. With the advantage plan, you also get monitoring of your bank account and credit cards.
TransUnion is one of the three main credit reporting companies so they have access to your FICO score and report that other companies may not have. One of the features that makes TransUnion one of the best credit monitoring services is their mobile app, putting your credit score at your fingertips wherever you find yourself. It really makes ‘real-time’ alerts instant even if you’re not at your computer.
TransUnion offers a free credit score and $1 credit report on their 7-day credit monitoring trial with the price increasing to $9.95 per month after the trial. This is standard for most credit monitoring services though you’ll get different features with each company on their most basic plan.
With the basic credit monitoring service from TransUnion, you’ll get:
- Unlimited access to your TransUnion credit report and score
- Email alerts of suspicious credit activity on all three of your credit reports
- A personalized debt analysis and credit score consulting
- Credit score tool showing you how financial decisions could affect your score
- Unlimited access to identity theft specialists and a $1 million identity theft insurance protection
FreeScore360 is the only credit monitoring service to provide your credit report from all three credit bureaus each month. This means you’ll get your credit report from Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Not all lenders report to all of the credit bureaus and each bureau may collect data from different sources. This means your credit report could be different depending on which credit bureau you are monitoring.
The 3-credit bureau feature means the credit monitoring service from FreeScore360 is more expensive than any of the identity theft services. The site offers a free 14-day trial but the service goes up to $39.95 per month after that. The site does offer some good interactive tools to see how your credit score is affected by different financial decisions. It also comes with a $1 million identity theft insurance reimbursing you for charges and other losses if your identity is stolen.
Check out FreeScore360 on a trial subscription to see if you like the features and if they’re worth the extra monthly expense. I like the more economical package I get with LifeLock and other credit monitoring services but there’s also something to said for getting your report from all three credit bureaus each month.
I got a call from Experian a few weeks ago about their plan to roll out a new free credit score service that will provide your FICO score on a trial basis. It doesn’t look like they’ve rolled out the program yet but their credit monitoring service is still one of the best I’ve seen. Since Experian is one of the three main credit report providers, they have fast access to your report and score for identity theft monitoring.
The Experian Credit Tracker credit monitoring checks your credit report daily and notifies you of any changes or suspicious activity. You also get unlimited access to your credit report and FICO score to help track your progress in building better credit. The identity theft service provides a $50,000 guarantee which includes access to their fraud resolution specialists if your identity is stolen.
Experian knows credit scores and the credit monitoring service comes with a monthly statement including your FICO score, recent activity and some tips on the financial information lenders are looking at on your report when they decide on a loan.
How to Use Credit Monitoring Services to Stop Identity Theft
The best credit monitoring services will do most of the work for you in stopping identity theft and potential fraud activity. All will monitor your credit report and notify you immediately of any suspicious activity. Some will even help put a hold on your accounts if any fraud triggers are met.
The first thing you need to do after signing up for credit monitoring services is to make sure their emails are not going to your spam folder. I’ve tried a few of the providers above on trial plans and only the Debt.com emails were sent to my spam folder in Hotmail. It pays to double-check though because quick email alerts are your first line of defense against identity theft.
Most credit monitoring services will send you a weekly or monthly email summarizing activity on your credit report. This email usually offers tips on how to improve your credit and how to protect your identity. Make sure you read this email every month! It’s not junk email and I’ve picked up a lot of really good ideas on boosting my credit score and identity theft protection.
Of course, you need to open any email alerts immediately. One in four people have had their identity stolen and it happens more often than you think. I’m convinced that the direction identity fraud is going, it’s not really a matter of if but when your identity will be stolen. The best way to keep it from being a problem when it happens is to catch it as fast as possible.
If your credit monitoring service doesn’t include bank account monitoring, make sure you check your savings and checking accounts at least monthly but preferably twice monthly. The best credit monitoring services will include this but it’s always good to check your account anyway. You probably check your bank accounts each month to make sure they balance anyway and to track your financial goals.
Using a credit monitoring service isn’t just about stopping identity theft but about tracking your credit report and learning how to build a better credit score. Credit is one of those things we take for granted until we don’t have it when we need it. Check out these three credit score hacks to help boost your credit fast ahead of getting a loan. Most of the credit report monitoring services above offer a free trial plan to try them out. Try a few to see which features you like best before committing to a longer-term subscription.