Monitoring your credit report: How to protect against identity theft

By Aaron Gilchrist - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A crook with access to your credit can run and even ruin your life. Credit fraud is the most prolific type of identity theft and scammers are coming up with new ways to tap into your life.

Hundreds of thousands of lives are wrecked by credit fraud every year but you can improve your odds of not becoming a victim for little to no money.

Buying house, buying a car, getting a charge account at your favorite department store, or even getting a job; it all ties back to what your credit looks like. And in 2008, more than 30,000 Virginians complained theirs had been put at risk by identity thieves.

"You just have to be vigilant and keep an eye on things," said Credit Counselor Bruce McClary of Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions.

McClary says monitoring your credit report is your best bet for protecting your credit. And there several ways to do that:

First, you can pay a credit monitoring service to let you know if someone else tries to access your credit. One company, LifeLock, will check for unusual activity for you and send you warning for $10 a month.

"We're scouring the websites of over 10,000 chat rooms and others looking for your information being misused- bought or sold. We're gonna call you every time someone puts in a change of address form to authenticate that it was you making that request," said Todd Davis, CEO LifeLock, Inc.

If you go the "paid monitoring" route, check out the provider first.

"You're dealing with a business where they're getting information about your identity; they have access to your credit file, etc. You want to make sure they're on the level because it would be very easy to be scammed by somebody offering those services," said McClary.

Option two is a credit or security freeze through the credit reporting agencies. In Virginia its ten bucks and it prevents anybody from accessing your credit report without your consent.

"If you freeze your credit, any time you apply for new credit, you would have to go and request it to be unfrozen," McClary said.

The free option is a fraud alert. Contact one of the credit bureaus via the web or phone and register for an alert to be placed on your account.

"They usually get it in place in 24 hours. They send you notice 2 weeks after you put the alert on the report and then it stays in place for 90 days," he said.

The alert is a message attached to your credit report asking potential lenders to verify your identity before issuing a loan or credit. Just a few steps and in some cases a few dollars, for a little extra piece of mind.

Victims of ID theft definitely need one of these monitoring devices on your credit reports. You can find more information by clicking here.

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