What is Credit Monitoring and How Does it Work?
Written by Kelley Keehn

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

Millions of Canadians have been affected by data breaches. You may know of someone who's been a victim.

As a result, you might be wondering what information fraudsters can use to commit identity theft in your name and how to proactively protect yourself.

Credit monitoring services can help, and there's more choice in services than ever before. If you're wondering whether a credit monitoring service is right for you, here's an explainer on how they work.

What's Credit Monitoring and How Does It Work?

These services offer to keep track of your credit score (increases and decreases), changes to your credit report (new inquiries for credit, loans, mortgages, credit cards, etc.), changes of address, dark web activity and more.

You'll likely be notified by the service if anything suspicious comes up.

Is Credit Monitoring Necessary?

According to Dominic Vogel, Founder & Chief Strategist at CyberSC, given the prevalence of data breaches and “how quickly and easily identity fraud is occurring, leveraging a free or paid credit monitoring service is definitely worth it.

"The quicker you are able to identify identity theft, the less time, energy, and pain you will need to endure," Vogel said.

But not every expert agrees.

“While credit monitoring services do provide some protection, they generally give people a false sense of security, because they're only alerted after the fact – when their identity has been compromised," says Daniel Tobok, internationally recognized cyber security and digital forensics expert and CEO of AON.

What Do Canada's Two Credit Reporting Agencies Offer?

Equifax and TransUnion are the two credit reporting agencies in Canada, and both offer paid credit monitoring services for $19.95 a month per individual. Keep in mind, monitoring both of your credit reports offers maximum protection.

There are also other options.

Beware of Free Options

There are a number of “free" credit monitoring services on the market, but they often sell credit products first and foremost, with monitoring as a way to attract new clients.

Think of it as a door crasher sale at a supermarket: they're trying to get you into the store to buy more.

Also, read the terms and conditions to ensure you're comfortable with how they'll store and possibly share your data.

What is DIY Credit Monitoring?

You can request a free credit report by mail as often as you'd like from both Equifax and TransUnion. You'll see if new accounts have been opened that you didn't initiate, or if someone tried to apply for credit in your name by the reporting of a “hard hit or inquiry" on your report.

Since the start of COVID-19, Equifax and TransUnion now offer the ability to check your report online for free. Before the pandemic, this was only available by mail or in person. As of recently, Equifax also allows you to check your credit score for free online.

If Fraud Has Been Committed

If fraud has been committed: alert all your financial institutions, get new credit and debit cards, change all passwords (financial and otherwise), alert the credit reporting agencies (Equifax and TransUnion) to put a fraud alert on your file(s) and, report the fraud to the police and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

Check Your Credit Report Regularly

Just like with formal credit monitoring services, there's no sure-fire protection plan when it comes to your identity. By checking your credit report often, safeguarding who you share your information with, as well as adding extra layers of protection like setting up a password for your smart phone and computer and using the latest anti-virus programs, you can be confident you're doing your part to protect your identity.

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