Data breaches have occurred with many large retailers over the last year making it even more important to use cash for purchases (c’mon, you knew I’d say that!). You also want to be monitoring your credit for discrepancies caused by data breaches and other identity theft. If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a breach or theft, you can begin monitoring your credit in the following ways:

Monitoring your credit

5 Ways to Monitor Your Credit

  1. Fraud Alert: Call one of the credit reporting agencies and request a 90-day fraud alert be placed on your credit. The agency you select is required to notify the other credit reporting agencies. Anyone, including you, who tries to obtain credit will have to prove their identity before credit can be approved making it a challenge and deterrent to identity thieves.
  2. Monthly Monitoring: Whether or not you suspect identity theft, it is a good idea to monitor your credit on a regular basis. I recommend the free website Credit Karma where you can see monthly changes to your credit as well as a credit score. If it changes significantly from one month to the next, it’s likely something occurred to cause that change and you should know about it.
  3. Annual Monitoring: By law you can receive one FREE credit report from each credit reporting agency each year. The agencies may not have the same information on your credit report. I recommend pulling reports from annualcreditreport.com each quarter. (TransUnion in the first quarter, Equifax in the second quarter, etc.)
  4. Identity Theft Protection: Many banks offer this protection and it can be added to your LegalShield (formerly PrePaid Legal) account. LegalShield sends a monthly Identity Theft report of activity; the service is a nominal fee. It’s worth it especially if you suspect or know your identity has been stolen.
  5. Stay Current: If you know you’ve shopped at a retailer that has had a data breach, you will want to monitor your credit closely. The store notify you that you’re part of the breach but it’s always a good idea to be proactive rather than reactive.
  6. Credit Freeze: This article from Clark Howard does an excellent job of explaining what a credit freeze is but also outlining its pros & cons, when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.

If you have questions about identity theft, monitoring your credit, or other personal finance issues, please contact me today!