Should You Pay for Credit Monitoring?
On the social-networing site Twitter someone asked for Kiplinger's recommendation for the best credit-monitoring service. Our response: None of them.
We don't have a problem with the credit-monitoring services offered by the three credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. What we don't like is the price you have to pay.
Instead of forking over nearly $15 a month (or more) to see your credit report and get e-mail updates of changes in your report, you can get free annual credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. Just stagger the reports so that you get one every four months.
If you're worried that you're a victim of identity theft, call TransUnion or Equifax to put a fraud alert on your account. That bureau will notify the other two, and all three will send you free credit reports. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse recommends that you DON'T contact Experian because it will pitch you its "free" credit management tools that you'll be charged for if you don't cancel the service in 30 days.
The fraud alert will last only 90 days. But you can extend it up to seven years if you have an identity theft report filed with the police and evidence that someone tried to open fraudulent accounts. If you're an identity-theft victim, you can ask the credit bureaus to freeze your credit report for free. The freeze prevents lenders from seeing your credit report unless you specifically grant them access. This can stop identity thieves from taking out new credit in your name, even if they have your Social Security number and other personal information.