Following Equifax’s colossal data breach two years ago, the credit bureau offered the 140 million affected consumers a free credit monitoring service called TrustedID Premier. But the free service is now terminating, leaving many consumers wondering how to choose a credit monitoring service.
TrustedID Premier allowed consumers to access and lock their Equifax credit report. It scanned their Social Security numbers across the internet, provided identity theft insurance, and monitored activity on Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, the three major credit data collectors in the US.
Should you pay for credit monitoring?
While TrustedID Premier worked great, all good things must come to an end. The gratis service expired earlier this year, leaving many consumers unsure about what to do next.
The answer is simple. There are worthwhile TrustedID alternatives, including paid and free credit monitoring options. But doing nothing is the worst choice of all.
Data breaches are common
That’s because threats to your identity and personal information haven’t disappeared. Consider that, in 2018 alone, more than 1,027 data breaches were reported, compromising over 57,667,911 records, says the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Meanwhile, CreditCards.com reports that 92 percent of Americans are careless with their private info. What’s more, attackers are getting more clever in how they infiltrate your personals — using credit card skimmers and bio-metric hacking, posing as trusted gamers online, and attempting to steal info from smartphones.
Fortunately, you aren’t helpless against these threats. Even if you weren’t enrolled in TrustedID, you should take smart precautions as soon as possible.
Credit monitoring service vs identity theft protection
Here are several recommended ways to safeguard your private information and credit. Some are credit monitoring services, while others involve identity theft protection strategies.
Credit monitoring services
Credit monitoring services watch your credit profile, credit history and credit score closely, and can send you alerts when they suspect fraud or flag anything out of the ordinary. Those who value their privacy most highly may prefer a paid service.
Or you can take advantage of free credit monitoring. Some major banks and other companies offer free credit monitoring services. Just remember the adage about online freebies: “If the product is free, YOU are the product.” You’re giving these companies information that they may be able to sell to marketers.
Self-monitor your credit reports annually at a minimum. The big three are each required to provide no-cost access to your credit report with that agency at least once every 12 months. Take advantage of this perk and check all three reports carefully, looking closely for errors (which you should dispute immediately), fraud or anything fishy.
Identity theft protection strategies
Monitoring your credit is a good start. But you should actively protect your identity with comment sense, and perhaps professional help.
Perform a credit lock. Worried about a bad guy opening an account in your name? Contact the big three (you have to do it for all three) and request a credit lock. This prevents creditors and others from accessing your credit file.
Freeze your credit. Want to thwart identity theft and enjoy stronger legal protection than that provided by a credit lock? Phone or visit the big three online to request a credit freeze. Freezing your file keeps creditors from checking or accessing your credit data for new applications.
Be private in public
Rely on strong unique passwords that you don’t recycle. Use special characters and non-obvious words or phrases if you can to curb clever thieves.
Be careful when using your credit cards. On ATM and swipe devices, look for credit card readers that are loose or protrude well beyond the panel, as well as fake keypads placed atop legit ones.
Be cautious when logged into public WiFi networks. If you’re going to use a public WiFi network, avoid logging into financial accounts or other sites that may reveal your personal information.