Once Bitten Twice Shy: What is Credit Security Worth to You?
Anybody who has had their identity stolen is usually willing to pay good money to ensure it never happens again. Weeks upon weeks upon months of tiresome paperwork, changing bank accounts, switching automatic payments, and in some cases pleading a case for wrongly damaged credit is among the giant task list of nightmarish to-dos when you’re picking up the pieces after the fact.
So what is it worth to you to try and avoid this problem altogether? Obviously, exercising due caution is easy enough to do and prudent to say the least. Don’t use a credit card or do banking over an unsecured wireless network. Be careful with your bank card and entering in PIN numbers in public places. Avoid using the same password for everything that also happens to be the name of your pet.
In this day and age, most of these techniques are relatively commonplace. But what else can you do?
Credit Reporting and Monitoring Services
Most credit agencies like Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion have a credit reporting service you can subscribe to. For between $10 and $15 per month for example, the Equifax Credit Watch program will alert you to any changes in your credit such as:
- Somebody trying to open an account in your name
- Credit inquiries made on your accounts
- Changes in your account balance beyond user-set parameters
- Even $20,000 in Identity Theft Insurance
Experian and TransUnion have similar programs here and here. Most programs encompass monitoring of all three credit bureau activities, but before you race out and sign up it would be prudent to double check. Paying a monthly fee for a service that monitors only one third of your credit history is, well, only one third as good.
Initially, it seems like a good deal, worth considering – especially for those who were once bitten and now twice shy.
But upon further consideration, I begin to question the value in the name of frugality.
- Can I not hop online and check my credit balances daily (or every other day), scanning for erroneous charges?
- If somebody does a credit check on me I’d like to know, but what if instead of subscribing, I periodically order a free credit report? Each of the three credit agencies usually allow one free report per year: if I timed it right I could check my credit activity every four months.
- And although the Identity Theft insurance sounds handy, with a little bit of elbow grease, I shouldn’t have to pay any erroneous charges to my credit cards or account change fees once we’ve established the identity theft as the cause.
There’s no denying the fact that simply paying the monthly fee could be easier, and may give you some more free time and well-deserved peace of mind.
$10 here and $10 there, and you’ve blown your Latte Budget before even getting one drop of caffeine into your system.
So what is your credit security worth to you in this world of ever-increasing identity theft and credit crime? And what are you prepared to do about it?