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combatting identity theft through credit monitoring

AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Identity theft causes loads of stress for Americans every year. Naturally, some people do not check their credit history all that often, if at all. Regular credit monitoring can help consumers stay on top of their financial profile.

What is credit?

The primary definition of credit as it pertains to finances is the accessible data of any person’s financial reputation. This information is quantitative and establishes a three-digit score based on your trustworthiness in the eyes of money lenders.

Why should you monitor credit?

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 2.8 million fraud reports were filed in 2021. The FTC says this is a 70 percent increase from 2020, totaling more than $5.8 million. If these numbers don’t impress, consider any future goals you may have. Most people don’t want to stress about inaccurate debt ratios when buying a home, vehicle or other large investments.

Yes, someone may regularly be financially responsible. However, if monitoring the history of your credit is not routine, even the keenest can fall behind because of identity theft.

Alabama Cooperative Extension System Financial Resource Management and Workforce Development Regional Agent Emily Hines claims that the key to people protecting themselves from being a victim of fraud is regular credit monitoring.

“People should monitor their credit report to see if there are signs that their identity has been stolen and to keep an eye on their credit health,” Hines said.

Credit Monitoring Options

Luckily, there are a couple of different methods of monitoring your credit. Each technique offers a different way to obtain your credit status and history.

Credit Reports

Each year, citizens are entitled to one credit report each year. These summaries come from three prominent credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. After recognizing the challenge of today’s COVID-19 economy, these organizations are investing more of these resources to consumers. Weekly online credit reports are now available to the public through the end of 2022. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to request more frequent monitoring results.

“Note that a credit report does not come with a score, but it does allow people to see all the accounts that are open in their name,” Hines said. “People should evaluate the report closely to ensure that there are not any inaccuracies.”

It is also important to understand that all lending companies do not report to all three major credit agencies. Therefore, each bureau may not have the same information. Recording results from all three sources provides for continuity purposes.

Credit Monitoring Services

There are a few companies that offer on-demand credit monitoring. Sometimes, these services allow someone to catch any fraudulent or suspicious accounts on a credit report as they occur.

By utilizing mobile apps, real-time alerts and even identity protection services, credit monitoring services can make it easier to avoid theft. Some services come with a monthly fee, but there are free options as well.

When choosing a credit monitoring service, be sure to use one that checks all three major credit bureaus. This technique should rule out any discrepancies in your financial history.

More Information

Regularly monitoring credit has proven to be one of the most effective practices for ensuring financial stability. For more information on credit and how it works, visit the Alabama Extension website at www.aces.edu.

 

Trade names are used only to give specific information. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System does not endorse or guarantee any product and does not recommend one product instead of another that might be similar.

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