credit & debt

4 Low-Cost, DIY Solutions to Monitoring Your Credit, Preventing ID Theft

Here's how to keep your credit intact without breaking the bank.

With some legwork, you can piece together many of the same features yourself, either free or at low cost.

Freeze your credit reports. This step prevents new lenders from viewing your reports, and it should block thieves from opening new credit accounts in your name. Until recently, placing or lifting a freeze generally cost $5 to $10, depending on your state. But a bill making its way through Congress requires credit-reporting agencies to let consumers do it free. Equifax and TransUnion both also allow free "locks," which is a simpler way to block access to your report, but freezes have stronger legal protections.

Monitor your reports. Credit Karma will show you your Equifax and TransUnion reports on a weekly basis and alert you to changes in those reports. Discover and Mastercard cardholders can sign up for free monitoring of their Social Security numbers on the dark web.

Set up alerts. A credit freeze or lock won't stop a crook from fiddling with your existing credit card or financial accounts. But you can often easily set up alerts to spot unusual activity in your accounts, such as large withdrawals or payments.

Get free help. If you become a victim of identity fraud, you can browse recovery steps at the Federal Trade Commission's IdentityTheft.gov site, generate a tailored remediation plan and print sample dispute letters. The Identity Theft Resource Center (www.idtheftcenter.org) posts guides to recovering from identity theft (including fixing problems that result from lost wallets and correcting misinformation on medical records), as well as links to state resources; you can also ask questions by phone, e-mail or online chat. Credit Sesame offers its members (signing up is free) access to restoration specialists. Also check with your employer, bank or credit card issuers to see if they offer resolution assistance.

TAKE OUR QUIZ: Is Your Identity at Risk?

Most Popular

Senate Passes $3,000 Child Tax Credit for 2021
Coronavirus and Your Money

Senate Passes $3,000 Child Tax Credit for 2021

The provision would temporarily increase the child tax credit to $3,000 or $3,600 per child for most families and have 50% of it paid in advance by th…
March 6, 2021
Senate Passes Bill with More "Targeted" Stimulus Payments
Coronavirus and Your Money

Senate Passes Bill with More "Targeted" Stimulus Payments

The Senate finally passes the $1.9 trillion COVID-relief bill. But fewer people will get a third stimulus check under the Senate version than under th…
March 6, 2021
Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021

Recommended

How to Keep Tabs on Your Credit Report
Coronavirus and Your Money

How to Keep Tabs on Your Credit Report

Free weekly access is ending, but several services let you view your credit files more than once a year.
March 5, 2021
The IRS Can Take Your Recovery Rebate Credit for Child Support or Other Debts Owed
Coronavirus and Your Money

The IRS Can Take Your Recovery Rebate Credit for Child Support or Other Debts Owed

Restrictions put in place to protect your stimulus check from garnishment don't apply to "recovery rebate" tax credits.
January 30, 2021
Refer a Friend to Your Bank or Credit Card—and Reap Rewards
Making Your Money Last

Refer a Friend to Your Bank or Credit Card—and Reap Rewards

Some major card issuers are giving referral bonuses to eligible cardholders.
January 27, 2021
Kids and Money: Boost Your Child's Future Credit Score
Raising Money-Smart Kids

Kids and Money: Boost Your Child's Future Credit Score

Naming your child as an authorized user on your credit card can be a great way to set them up with a healthy credit report.
December 26, 2020