With the recent Equifax data breach settlement, as well as the large Capital One breach, many people are asking questions about credit monitoring services. Should I use them? What are its benefits?

The conversation really gained steam when Equifax began offering free credit monitoring services to people impacted by their breach. Credit monitoring services are simply a mechanism for the Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) to track a consumer’s credit file in order to detect any suspicious activity or changes. In regards to whether or not you should take advantage –that really depends on your specific situation.

Should I enroll in credit monitoring services?

If you are already receiving credit monitoring services, maybe as a benefit through your employer, financial institution or insurance carrier for example, then passing on the monitoring aspect might make more sense. However, if you do not have access to robust credit monitoring services and have the ability to enroll in free credit monitoring services offered as part of a breach – such as Equifax, it may be a good option.

Should I place a credit freeze as well?

Ultimately, the Identity Theft Resource Center recommends consumers take advance of both credit monitoring services and credit freezes if they fall victim to a data breach. Along with your credit history being tracked, a credit freeze can stop any new accounts from being activated. Credit freezes do not impact existing credit accounts which report your payment history and account health to the CRAs. It only limits access to your credit reports to create new lines of credit.

It is important to remember that should you need to lift a credit freeze for any reason, like in order to apply for a new account like a home mortgage for example, the credit monitoring will catch any other accounts that someone with malicious intent might try to open. However, it is ultimately up to the consumer to decide what is best based in their set of circumstances.

What are the benefits of both?

Credit monitoring services and credit freezes provide their own benefits to keep consumers as safe as possible. The ultimate goal of credit monitoring services is to keep your accounts protected in a possible time of vulnerability. Monitoring can also catch suspicious activity on your existing accounts that may have been compromised due to a breach.

What if I need more help?

At the end of the day, do what is best for you. You can contact the ITRC for free assistance at 888.400.5530 with any questions you might have about your particular situation.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.


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