My Do It Yourself Identity Theft Protection Plan
These days, there are tons of ways criminals can steal your identity. They can copy your credit card information at a restaurant or go through your mailbox at home. There are some services out there that charge you to monitor your identity, but most of them only offer services you can get for yourself for free.
One of the things I hate most about credit scores is the fact that companies are allowed to charge you for it; this seems ridiculous to me. I don’t think you should have to pay for any of these services and here’s how I get the same level of protection for free:
Credit Score Monitoring
I’ve already talked about Credit Karma and how they provide you with an absolutely free TransUnion score that you can update at any time. Credit Sesame is a similar company that offers you your score based on your Experian credit report. Both sites are completely free and do not require a credit card like some of the other so-called ‘free sites.’ I like to check my score once a month to stay on top of any changes to my credit history.
Credit Report Monitoring
Credit Karma now offers a free option to monitor your credit. They will send you an update any time there is a significant change on your credit report. Any type of new inquiry or delinquent payment will trigger an e-mail alert. This is a great free service that will help you passively keep track of your credit report.
AAA also offers free identity theft monitoring service for it’s members. Credit Check Select is free with your paid membership and it monitors your Experian credit report daily for changes. Enrollment will also give you $10,000 identity theft insurance to help reimburse eligible expenses should you become a victim of identity theft.(Thanks to reader Jon for pointing this out!)
Lastly, you can use Annual Credit Report to get a free credit report from each of the three major bureaus once a year. This is the ONLY site that will give you completely free access to your credit report. I like to stagger my credit report every four months so that I can stay up to date for free. I’ll get my TransUnion in January, Experian in May and Equifax in September.
The last and probably most extreme step would be to get a credit freeze. A credit freeze essentially prevents your credit report from being given to credit card companies or other third party requestors. Unfortunately, this option costs around $10 to freeze/unfreeze your credit report and you need to do it with each bureau. If you decide to freeze, you must do so with all three agencies because you never know which one will be asked for your report.
Take any or all of these steps to help prevent identity theft. Personally, I like to check my credit card transactions on Mint every day to watch out for any unauthorized purchases. I also use Credit Karma to keep up to date on my score and I’m enrolled in their free credit monitoring service. At a minimum, I recommend signing up for one of the free credit monitoring services since it doesn’t require any active management.
Have you ever paid for your credit score or credit report? Do you use any of the sites mentioned above?
-PF ProTags: Annual Credit Report, Credit Karma, Credit Monitoring, Credit Sesame, Identity Theft