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Unless you have experienced a data breach firsthand, you may not realize there is a difference between credit monitoring and identity theft protection.
These catch phrases are often used interchangeably and there seems to be much confusion over what is actually provided by these products.
To set the record straight: Identity theft protection is not the same as credit monitoring.
But they do work well together and credit monitoring does help to protect identities.
Credit monitoring typically does what it says. It monitors your credit report and scores so you generally know where you stand when you apply for a loan or a mortgage. It is also helpful for folks who want to watch their credit so perhaps they can look forward to possibly seeing their scores rise.
Credit monitoring does overlap identity protection when something suspicious arises on your credit report, such as a loan that you didn’t apply for or a medical collection notice that does not belong to you.
But the similarities usually stop there. Despite offering fraud resolution assistance, many credit monitoring products have to contact the three credit bureaus to get data, adding another layer of inefficiency and taking additional time to resolve the fraud. Conversely, Experian is the world’s largest credit bureau and therefore, maintains millions of consumers’ credit reports. In addition, Experian assigns a personal fraud resolution agent to every victim, greatly reducing the time it takes to resolve a case. Experian’s agents usually resolve a case in less than an hour, compared to the typical 30+ hours it takes to do it alone.1
Other differences may include change of address monitoring, lost wallet protection and other features that are not typically included with credit monitoring.
Identity theft protection, one might argue, is a product that no one should be without. Last year, more than 12.6 million U.S. adults were victims of identity theft2 and they lost a collective total of $21 billion3 to the thieves. These are scary statistics prompting many consumers to purchase identity theft protection.
Many others receive identity theft protection for free because their personal information was exposed in a data breach. If your organization gets struck by a breach, then your customers, patients and/or employees will expect to receive free identity theft protection – or at the very least ̶ credit monitoring. In fact, research shows that individuals affected by a breach who receive free credit monitoring or identity theft protection are six times less likely to file a lawsuit against the breached company.4
So what exactly is included in identity theft protection? Well, it usually includes credit monitoring because the activities of identity thieves often show up on credit reports. It also typically includes a lost wallet feature in which the company helps you replace the contents of your wallet – such as your credit cards and health insurance card.
If you are shopping for identity theft protection, here are some of the features to look for:
Be sure to shop around carefully so you’re not disappointed if your identity is stolen and the protection product
For more information about identity theft protection and credit monitoring, download this enlightening fact sheet. Learn more here.
1-3 2013 Identity Fraud Report, Javelin Strategy & Research
4 Empirical Analysis of Data Breach Litigation, Carnegie Mellon & Temple Universities, 2012