What is identity monitoring or "identity theft protection" service?
Identity monitors scan personally identifiable information in credit applications, public records, websites, and other places for any unusual activity that could be signs of identity theft.
Some services may help you correct problems if identity theft occurs. They may also offer identity theft insurance generally covering:
- Certain out-of-pocket losses
- Chat room monitoring
- Public record searches
- Monitoring of black market websites
- Virus protection software
Prices and services offered by identity monitors vary widely. The cost of identity monitoring services varies from as little as a few dollars a month to over $15 per month.
Before signing up for a service, make sure you understand what you’re getting. This is particularly important when you’re offered a “free” service. Before accepting a “free” offer, check for any hidden trial periods, fees or cancellation requirements. Also check with your local consumer protection agency and State Attorney General’s office to see if complaints have been filed against the company.
You should be aware that free and low cost services are also available to protect consumers including:
A security freeze. Putting a security freeze on your credit report will generally prevent new credit from being opened in your name. Just remember that if you put a security freeze on your credit file, you’ll need to unfreeze your file before you can open new accounts in your name.
Each state has its own rules about credit freezes and how much you pay for them. In most states, you can file a security freeze for less than $10, and if you are an identity theft victim, you typically can place a freeze for free.
A fraud alert. If you believe that you’ve been the victim of identity theft or fraud (or are about to become one), you can place a fraud alert on your credit report. Note that a fraud alert does not prevent a lender from opening credit in your name, but it does require a lender to take certain measures to verify your identity first.
You can request a free credit report from a nationwide credit reporting company once every 12 months. By requesting the reports separately, you can monitor your credit files at no cost more frequently throughout the year. Some credit card companies now are providing a credit score on your credit card statement, which is another free way to monitor aspects of your credit.
If you have a problem with credit reporting, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB online.