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Identity theft knows no season: Why credit monitoring should be a year-round effort

Value of Credit Monitoring

When do your customers think about credit monitoring? When do you, as a business, think about offering it to them? Many consumers don’t independently monitor their credit on a regular basis – multiple surveys tell us that, including those by Javelin Strategy & Research. Most of those who don’t monitor their credit probably won’t think about a protection product unless – or more likely, until – they are either involved in a data breach, or become a victim of identity theft.

Breach victims may belatedly begin monitoring their credit – especially if the breached company offers them complimentary credit monitoring or membership in an identity theft protection product. Too often, however, consumers mentally disengage and allow their monitoring enrollment to lapse after the free introductory period expires. Crucially, identity theft doesn’t always occur immediately after a data breach, or even within 12 months of the event. Consumers’ personal information can be exposed – and used by identity thieves – for years after a data breach.

Keep in mind, too, that identity theft does not always occur in direct connection to a data breach. Identity thieves have many ways to get the information they need, and violating a company’s data systems is just one. For some scammers, the old ways are the most successful. Crooks still pick through trash, send fake credit card solicitations, steal mail from mailboxes, set up dummy websites and perpetrate email scams. What’s more, a study by the Rand Corp. found that information stolen from one website can give cybercriminals access to 10 other sites. And cybercriminals can use multiple breaches to compile all the information they need to commit fraud or identity theft in a crime now known as synthetic identity theft.

If consumers wait until they’re caught up in a data breach to begin monitoring their credit, they leave themselves exposed to harm from the many other ways in which their identities can be stolen. Credit monitoring can help them more quickly and effectively detect the signs of identity theft and fraud that most often first appear in their credit reports.

Consumers aren’t the only ones who benefit when they enroll in on-going credit monitoring. Companies that offer credit monitoring and identity protection products to customers as a value enhancement also realize multiple rewards. When consumers receive credit monitoring through a trusted company with whom they already do business, it enriches their perception of value and feelings of satisfaction. For companies offering it, credit monitoring is a competitive differentiator that enhances customer retention and acquisition.

The bottom line is simple: credit monitoring is most beneficial to consumers and companies when it occurs year-round, and not just in response to a breach event.