Jul
22
2009

Monitoring services still work when you freeze your credit file

Dear Experian,

If I have my file frozen with all three national credit reporting companies can I still have credit monitored? I do have a couple of monitoring services, but I’m not so sure they are working. I want both if possible, frozen and monitored. Is this possible?

- DYN

 

Dear DYN,

You can monitor your own credit report even if it is frozen, either directly by requesting it from the annual credit report Web site or by signing up for a service.

When you “freeze” your credit report you prevent access to it by lenders and others unless you first “thaw” it, or ask that the freeze be lifted. There are exceptions to that rule. For example, your existing creditors can monitor your report, and monitoring services to which you apply can access your report.

Monitoring provides alerts when there are inquiries, new accounts added or late payments posted. Experian’s monitoring service sends a monthly email even when there has been no activity. This is to reassure you that your service is watching your credit reports for you.

So, I assume that rather than being unsure if you have the service, you are asking if monitoring protects you or if you should freeze your files. The answer is that file freezing and file monitoring both protect you, but in different ways.

If someone steals your identity and tries to open new accounts, the file freeze would help prevent your credit reporting from being used. If someone takes over one of your existing accounts by changing the address, you will be alerted by your monitoring service when they miss a payment.

However, neither monitoring nor file freezing would alert you to the most common form of theft. When someone steals your account number and makes unauthorized charges, no credit report is involved. It is up to you to check your billing statement carefully each month.

Much identity theft and fraud is identified and prevented by your lenders using fraud prevention tools, some of which are developed and provided to them by Experian. Many consumers choose not to purchase additional protection.

If you are comfortable with the responsibility of managing your credit reports and thawing them in advance of wanting service, then freezing may be right for you. If you want unlimited access to your report and score and the peace of mind of knowing about any unusual activity, then monitoring may be right for you.

I can’t tell you what is right for you, but I hope I have helped you better understand your options.

Thanks for asking.

- The “Ask Experian” team

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