Institute of Consumer
Financial Education
Institute of Consumer
Financial Education

Credit Monitoring - A Feel Good Answer, But A False Sense of Security

San Diego, CA - Veterans and active duty servicemembers whose personal information may have been stolen are being offered a salve - credit monitoring - which is a feel good response, but provides a false sense of security. When it comes to identity theft prevention measures, relying on credit monitoring is similar to placing only one smoke detector in a three story home.

The San Diego based Institute of Consumer Financial Education (ICFE), which certifies credit report reviewers and identity theft risk management specialists, cautions potential victims to carefully review and understand the limitations of credit monitoring. Credit monitoring will not alert the consumer if someone has obtained a driver's license, birth certificate, Social Security card, or used their name during interactions with law enforcement, resulting in arrest warrants or erroneous criminal records.

Most credit monitoring services only monitor one bureau. Some provide an initial three-bureau report on the first order, and then revert to monitoring only one. Many creditors report to the bureaus only once a-month or quarterly. In cases involving utility accounts, it may never be reported until after it has been sent to collections. With very rare exceptions, credit monitoring does not monitor specialty-reporting companies or check verification companies.

Credit monitoring will not report to the victim in a timely fashion, if at all, when an identity thief has taken a job using the victim's name and Social Security number -- in some States, this type of employment fraud approaches one-third of all identity theft cases -- and causes significant financial cost, unexpected tax consequences, and embarrassment to the victim.

ICFE urges "opting-out" of pre-screened credit offers, placing "Fraud Alerts" on credit files, and instituting a credit "Freeze" where available. Fraud alerts are temporary (90-day) intended to alert potential credit issuers the consumer is or may be a victim of fraud. Credit freezes prevents most third parties from accessing the consumer's credit file.

States permitting all consumers to request a credit file freeze are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

States permitting only identity theft victims with a police report to freeze credit files are: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, South Dakota and Washington.

For more information about states with credit freezes and also how to get a freeze initiated in your state, please visit FinancialPrivacyNow.org.