As the Target data breach last month has shown us, the prevalence of identity theft fraud continues to rise each year and is clearly here to stay. In order to keep your credit secure, it is smart to monitor your credit history, reports and scores frequently.
According to a recent survey of tax lawyers consulted for the Fair Credit Reporting Act, negative info on your credit report can remain on record for up to 7 years. Imagine the damage that could be done if you are not looking over your credit history regularly and had your sensitive information stolen while shopping at Target?
If you are one of the estimated 70 million Target customers that had their information stolen, the time to start watching your credit is now. The good news is that with Target’s free credit monitoring from ProtectMyId, you get a free year of their identity theft insurance service.
However, the bad news is that their program will not give you a complete view of your credit worthiness. This program only lets you check one score! When you want to get a total credit check on your finances, you really need a stronger program. You need instant access to all three of your credit scores from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Get peace of mind that your credit monitoring service is giving you the overall picture & is an accurate representation of your credit worthiness.
To start, you should get your 3 credit reports annually from each of the major credit bureaus. In the past, that would have been sufficient for a ‘do it yourself’ credit monitoring service. But in 2014, you want to get an immediate credit alert if you have some unusual activity taking place on your credit reports.
To get a step ahead of id fraud, you would ideally monitor your 3 credit scores each and every month. This will allow you to be able to react quickly and dispute the errors with the 3 major credit agencies before the damage takes a toll on your credit worth.
We realize that most of us don’t have time to do this the DIY route. You probably don’t want to take the time to sign up with each of the credit rating agencies or pay 3 different fee’s for access to each credit report.
This is where the demand for more complete credit score services has come from.
Services Should Give Consumers A Complete Credit History Checkup
As the numbers of reported cases of identity theft has continued to grow, consumers are finding more credit monitoring programs available for them to trial. Services like Free Score 360, Credit Sesame & Credit Karma allow customers to get a robust identity theft protection service via credit monitoring.
The main aspect to look for in the best credit monitoring services is that the program will help you fight identity fraud by letting you know immediately when a new credit inquiry, new account application, or address change update changes on any of your credit repots. Basically, you need to be notified of any activity that could affect your credit file takes place. From a new checking account, loan application, to opening a new credit card. If you did not authorize the activity, you will have a chance to alert the 3 major credit bureaus and dispute the information. If your monitoring service does not offer this real time protection, you need to move along and find a more professional service.
The best programs also feature educational tools, 24/7 real time monitoring and monthly credit scores for users. The educational aspect is important for new consumers that need to better understand how their score reflects on their credit worthiness.
Compared to Target’s ProtectMyId service, you are getting a much broader view of your total credit file with a 3-in-1 credit score service.
Poor credit scores can prevent you from getting a new job, credit line increase or even your next apartment. More and more employers and rental agencies are using your credit scores to determine if you are worth the risk and if you will be able to repay your debts in a timely fashion.
How Much Of An Impact Can A Poor Credit Score Have On Your Financial Well-Being?
You can save thousands on life’s major financial purchases with a good credit score. Just how much a poor score is costing you depends on a variety of factors. Let’s consider the most common situation were a poor credit score hurts consumers- on their home mortgage.
Your credit information includes everything from your purchasing, borrowing and payment history to where you live, work and what you earn.
It also has other details such as phone numbers and can sometimes even include license, registration and work history. In other words, your credit info is a pretty good snap shot of you.
Should someone get a hold of this information, they can do one of two things – legally, they can determine if they would like to extend you more credit, and illegally they can commit identity theft and become you in enough ways to falsely purchase goods or borrow monies in your name.
While banks, legal and lending institutions struggle with how to prevent and prosecute identity theft, the fact is that you, the victim, are still left financially destroyed by it.
There are steps you can take to secure your credit inform and prevent the likelihood of identity theft.
Your Rights Under The Fair Credit Reporting Act
The Fair Credit Reporting Act came into being in 1970 to protect consumer information and privacy. It was the first act to regulate exactly what businesses could do with your private information and how credit companies could assemble your scores. It also began the process of standardizing the credit-reporting process.
By requiring that it be automated and by limiting the information that could be included in a credit report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act ended the practice of collecting unrelated personal information about a person such as marital status, sexual orientation and behavioral habits as part of a credit file.
Now, with all credit actions being reported in the same way and with the same information to agencies, there was less a chance of abuse by institutions.
However, this very process of automation opened the door to a whole new kind of abuse that has become prevalent today – identity theft.
How Accessible Is Your Credit Information?
Over 7% of all Americans will have their identity stolen this year. That is about 15 million people each year who wind up with surprise charges of an average of $3,500. Could you afford that? Identity theft is one of the fastest growing forms of crime, the identity theft statistics reported each year just paint an uglier and uglier picture.
Identity theft can be done by means as simple as someone peeking over your shoulder or fishing through your garbage can to get a receipt with your credit card number or, it can be as complex as a network of hackers breaking into government or institutional databases to steal your information. The important thing to remember is that you are rarely directly targeted; however, you are directly responsible for the charges. While banks and credit cards promise to do everything to prevent and fight identity theft and its charges, the reality is that until their very long charge challenge and investigation is complete, you are out the money.
What can you do?
The first thing you can do to protect your credit information is to become more mindful of your surroundings.
Don’t enter pins or passwords if there are people close enough to see what you are doing. Use a shredder to destroy all receipts.
Keep your social security card and driver’s license separate from each other and never give out any information on accounts, passwords or your social security number if someone calls you.
This last one is tricky, if you are calling a bank or service, then you can be reasonably sure of who you are dealing with. If they call you, however, there is no way of knowing who is on the other line.
Use A Complete Credit Monitoring Service
The Fair Credit Reporting Act provides for the right for you to receive one free credit report per year. You can contact any of the major credit agencies to request your report. However, a report is not giving you the complete picture of your credit health.
This creates a gap in awareness and coverage for consumers trying to get a better understanding of their credit situation. With a professional credit monitoring service, you can review and monitor your credit reports and scores each month.
It doesn’t cost much but the moment there is any kind of suspicious behavior on the account – you will be notified.
You can also use a credit service to help you work on your credit history. Not everything shows up on all the reports and if you gather reports from several agencies you will be able to address any issues that appear.
It is rare that there is something on your credit report that cannot be worked on in some way, having a service help you figure out how is a great idea.
Being aware of your credit scores and your credit reports is very important these days.
Identity theft can occur in a flash, they can harm your credit without you even being aware of it. Take control of your financial future and secure your credit today with our 3-in-1 credit score report service.