Earlier this year, with the click of the mouse, I became a victim of identity theft.
I simply logged on to Bank of America’s web site, opened a new account, transferred $100 from an existing account, and ordered a box of checks.
Then I waited patiently for my introductory information to arrive in the mail.
One week went by and then two. Finally, I called the bank and learned that the checks were sent to an old address.
To make matters worse, charges had been incurred against my opening deposit from a cellular phone company.
Fortunately, unlike many other victims, it only took me a few phone calls and a police report to clear up the problem.
Nevertheless, this opened my eyes and sparked my interest in credit monitoring services. This article covers the benefits, costs, and companies offering this type of service.
The best advantage of subscribing to a credit monitoring service is that you are alerted on a weekly basis via e-mail, snail mail, or text message when any major changes affect your credit.
This includes credit inquiries, the establishment of new accounts, or address changes.
This instant alert service allows you to detect errors fairly quickly as opposed to waiting until an application for credit has been denied.
You also get, depending on the level of service you purchase, unlimited access to your credit score and report.
Other perks include regular tips and information on how to improve your credit. Some services also provide identity theft insurance up to $25,000.
There are two levels of credit monitoring.
The first is single bureau monitoring, which means you only receive information on your credit report from one of the three major bureaus.
The second option is three-bureau monitoring which provides you with access to your report from all three bureaus.
The latter is the better option because there is no guarantee that personal account information is reported consistently to all three bureaus.
In fact, it is not uncommon to have some information show up one bureau’s report and not the other.
Credit Monitoring Services are offered by True Credit (http://www.truecredit.com), Identity Guard (http://www.identityguard.com, and Equifax (http://www.equifax.com).
Fees for credit monitoring services start as low as $99 a year.
This can be paid in one lump sum or on a monthly basis. All three companies provide you with the option of selecting single or three-bureau monitoring.
Fight Identity Theft also (http://www.fightidentitytheft.com) provides a more detail comparison of the services available from these three companies.
Many banks are promoting credit-monitoring services to existing customers.
For example, SunTrust has arranged for discounts for its account holders through Equifax.
You can also go directly to the web sites of the credit bureaus to learn more and sign up for service.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (http://www.idtheftcenter.org), identity theft remains the #1 concern for consumers contacting the Federal Trade Commission.
A relatively easy crime to commit, victims often spend an average of 600 hours over a period of years disputing unauthorized accounts.
Credit Monitoring Services provide an extra level of comfort against fraud and give consumers more control over their financial information.