Identity theft is one of the biggest fears plaguing consumers these days. It was interesting to catch a scene on a crime show recently where a waitress is caught hiding a portable credit card swiper under her apron, then using it to steal her customer’s credit card information. YES, this does happen in real life.
Identity theft isn’t the only thing that can hurt your credit. Banks make mistakes, family members make late-payments on jointly shared accounts, you might have a payment dispute with a fraudulent company. I could go on, but you get the idea. Life happens.
The only way to protect yourself is to consistently monitor your credit. Most people believe that you have to pay an outside company to have your credit monitored. I disagree! I do it myself.
Once you get in the habit of monitoring your credit, it gets easier and becomes an almost compulsive habit. You’ll feel that you have much more control over your life and finances.
How to Monitor Your Own Credit
1. Look over your credit report three times per year minimum. You can do this by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com and ordering one report every four months. It’s completely free. If you subscribe to Quick Tips, you’ll get a reminder email with instructions in January, May and September.
2. Check your credit score at www.CreditKarma.com every month to see if there are any changes. This is also free. Monitoring changes in your score can alert you to hidden issues.
3. Monitor your bank accounts (checking, savings, etc.) to see if there are any unusual transactions. Most banks have online access, so you can easily check any time you get online. My virtual bank accounts actually email me with every transaction, so that’s an added plus.
4. Monitor your credit card accounts. I get online and check each and every account to see what’s happening. I do this every week or so, just to be on the safe side. These days, people can even scan credit card information through your wallet or purse from a distance. It doesn’t hurt to be careful.
Yes, taking these steps can take up some time, but it’s well worth it. Even with my busy schedule, I am able to find the time to monitor my credit. I am comfortable checking my accounts and credit, and I don’t feel it’s necessary to pay for a monitoring service. You may not find that it’s worth your time, but remember, it’s absolutely free to give it a try.