A Guide to Choosing the Best Credit Monitoring and Reporting Service
If you haven't fallen victim to an identity theft scam or a data breach, consider yourself one of the lucky few.
The rising number of these instances makes something like this almost inevitable, and some people have become victims several times in just the past few years. According to a Javelin Strategy & Research 2017 Identity Fraud study, there is a new identity fraud victim every two seconds. It's unsurprising, then, that using a credit monitoring service is becoming much more common.
The latest major data breach, of course, comes from credit reporting agency Equifax. On Sept 7, Equifax announced that they had suffered a cybersecurity "incident" which turned out to be quite serious. In fact, this data breach has now been labeled one of the worst in U.S. history. Between May and July 2017, there was unauthorized access to the company's servers which compromised the personal and financial data of more than 145.5 million Americans.
We live in a fast-paced world where having no access to credit cards and bank accounts can be both inconvenient and frustrating. When someone steals your identity or financial data, they can do irreparable damage to your credit in just a short period. More people are taking a proactive approach to their financial safety by enrolling in a credit monitoring and reporting service. Here's what you need to know about these valuable services, and how you can choose the best credit monitoring service for your needs.
What is Credit Monitoring and Reporting?
Because data breaches and identity theft have become so prolific, it no longer makes sense to take a reactive approach to protecting your finances. If you wait until one of your credit cards is denied, or you see a troubling story on the news, it may be too late. Credit monitoring is a way to keep track of any changes to your credit files from the three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can monitor your credit two ways—on your own or through a credit monitoring service.
Monitoring Your Credit Independently
DIY credit monitoring is one option that you can use to try to protect your personal and financial data. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that each of the three major credit bureaus provide consumers with one free credit report annually. Assuming you stagger your request for those reports, you can review one of your credit reports for any suspicious activity every four months at no charge.
There are a few drawbacks to handling your own credit monitoring. First, it's time-consuming and not something that you want to put off. Second, the delays between your free credit reports are simply too long. Anyone could get a hold of your information inside those four months and completely ruin your credit. Finally, the free annual credit reports don't provide you with your credit scores, which are a valuable financial yardstick.
Partnering with a Credit Monitoring and Reporting Service
Your other choice to protect your information is to partner with a credit monitoring and reporting service. These are automated services that charge an affordable monthly fee, which varies depending on the service you choose. Not only do these services provide some valuable features but they will also notify you immediately if there are any changes to your credit report. You can then verify whether or not those changes are authorized or fraudulent.
What Does a Credit Monitoring and Reporting Service Do For You?
Now that data breaches and identity theft have become such serious problems; many people are choosing to protect themselves and their financial futures with a professional credit monitoring and reporting service. These are valuable services for several reasons. As mentioned, the service will monitor your credit files and let you know if there have been any inquiries or changes. Second, people who are working on improving their credit find the constant updates both helpful and encouraging.
Most credit monitoring services will track changes to your credit files from the major credit reporting bureaus. The types of changes that they will monitor include:
- New credit inquiries
- New accounts
- Credit limit changes
- Large purchases on an account
- A dormant account with new activity
- Missed payments
- Bankruptcy notices
- Collection notices
- Other negative information
Some credit monitoring and reporting services will also provide you with your credit score, which is essential if you have plans to make major purchases with credit. Let's assume that you plan to buy a home in the next year and are concerned about your credit score. You have good reason to be. Fraud on your credit file can severely impact your access to an affordable mortgage. If your credit score takes a tumble because of the actions of someone else, you may have to put off your home purchase or pay more due to a higher interest rate. For example, the difference between a 4% and 5% mortgage interest rate on a $250,000 home over 30 years is $53,465 over the life of the loan and $148 per month.
How to Choose the Best Credit Monitoring and Reporting Service
As data breaches, phishing scams, and other financial schemes continue to increase in frequency; it's becoming more important than ever that consumers protect their data and take proactive measures to safeguard their financial future. Just one errant click in an email can download a hidden file onto your computer that will allow someone to access your financial data without your knowledge. Just imagine the potential data breaches taking place at companies around the world that you have already entrusted with your personal information. These are just a few of the reasons that consumers are signing up for these valuable services.
Unfortunately, not all credit monitoring and reporting services are created equal. Because there have been so many security issues over the past several years, there have also been quite a few entrants into the credit monitoring field, with some much more reputable and thorough than others. Not sure what to look for in one of these services? Many aren't, which is why we recommend looking for these features that are provided by the best credit monitoring services:
- Excellent customer service that is responsive to your needs and concerns
- Monitoring from all three credit bureaus instead of just one
- Get credit score reports in addition to credit reports
- Identity theft alerts 24 hours a day
- Other specialty scores such as auto insurance and hiring risk score
- Ability to dispute credit report items
- Credit score simulators with suggestions for improvement
- An intuitive mobile app that is available on iOS and Andriod
- Availability of ID theft protection
- Money management features such as budgeting, bill payment, and alerts.
If you've already been the victim of a data breach, you might receive an offer for free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services from the affected company. While there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of these free offers, there are a few things to know about them before you rest easy. The first is that they are often limited to just a year. The second is that the service that they offer could be subpar, considering the company is forced to provide the service to thousands (if not millions) of consumers for free. Finally, some of these offers even come with a hidden clause requiring that you waive your right to sue over the data breach. Often, the better and safer choice is to choose the credit monitoring service that offers the most options and financial protection.
We have done the hard work for you by researching companies that offer credit monitoring and reporting services and analyzing their features. Surprisingly, some offer a wider range of services than others.
Banks.com's Smart Credit Monitoring & Reporting Services
There are several choices of reputable credit monitoring services online, but none have the comprehensive list of features provided by Smart Credit from Banks.com. Smart Credit is not only an affordable credit monitoring service, but it is also the most thorough with Money Manager, Credit Report & Scores, and ID Theft Alert services.
With one simple login, you can manage all of your online banking, credit card, loan, and investment transactions in one place. You also have access to bill payment alerts and advanced budgeting tools. The Smart Credit program through Banks.com has partnered with more than 30,000 creditors and financial institutions to provide you with this integrated financial management solution.
The service's Smart Credit Report gives you advanced access to all three of your credit reports and scores. There is both an Easy and Advanced mode for reviewing credit files and scores. You can dispute inaccurate information on your credit reports and identity theft with the push of a button. Most importantly, you are provided with daily alerts via phone or email that tell you about any changes to your credit report.
The ability to halt illegal and suspect activity with the push of a button is one of the most important features of the Smart Credit service. Your financial data is monitored 24/7, and you will have the ability to stop unauthorized credit use, bank account theft, and even someone from trying to drain your retirement or college savings fund.
If you become a victim of identity theft, it could take months or even years to clean up the mess if you have to handle it on your own. The good news is that a reputable credit monitoring and reporting service can help you stop fraudulent activity and restore your credit quickly. Whether you are worried about your financial security, want to improve your credit, or both, Bank.com's credit monitoring and reporting service can help you achieve your goals.
When you choose a credit reporting and monitoring service, it's important that you take the time to review the features of each so that you understand what is being offered. Finding out that you've been the victim of a data breach or phishing scam is devastating enough. To later learn that the service you've been paying for and placed your trust in either didn't notice that something was wrong or won't be available to help you fix the issues will simply add to your pain and frustration.
No one has the financial goal of giving their cash to crooks and strangers on the internet. The days of attempting to handle credit monitoring on your own are long past now that the thieves have become sophisticated enough to wipe out accounts in a matter of seconds. Fortunately, there are reputable services that will watch over your bank, credit, and even investment accounts while you work, sleep, and go about the business of enjoying life.
Not only does Banks.com's Smart Credit program provide the most comprehensive services to its clients, but it is also the most affordable service on the market. This revolutionary program allows you to sign in online or through the app, manage your finances, check your credit reports and scores, and deal with incorrect or potentially fraudulent issues on your reports and accounts. Get your credit report with this simple and feature-rich program by signing up for our 7-day Trial Offer.