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Monitoring Your Credit

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

With identity theft remaining a consistent problem for consumers, being aware of what's going on with your finances is a must. Most problems stem from credit card fraud, where your card or your number has been stolen and used by a thief. In other instances, it may be someone gaining unauthorized access to your bank account. Some may fall victim to new-accounts fraud where someone manages to obtain and use credit card and bank accounts in your name.

Whether you are a potential home buyer or a real estate investor, identity theft could seriously jeopardize your ability to obtain a bank loan. While there are limits in the amounts you actually pay because of these thefts, the damage to your credit may be the most costly. Avoid this problem by monitoring your credit.

Obtain a free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian, TransUnion -- once a year. A credit report can be viewed once every four months if you stagger your requests and order one report from each agency.

Monitor your own credit to save money instead of paying a monthly fee to a credit-monitoring service to alert you of suspicious activity on your credit report. Some of the companies that have bungled your data security are now marketing identity theft insurance and credit monitoring services. Can you really trust these companies to monitor your credit after practically giving away your personal information in a security breach? Choose your credit-monitoring service wisely if you need help avoiding credit fraud.

Access your banking data online or on your phone and check it often. Review your credit card statement each month. This will allow you to catch unauthorized activity quickly before it gets out of hand. Of course, guard your social security number. Its theft can be particularly devastating and is the most difficult fraud type to recover from.

Notice some unauthorized spending? Take action immediately and report the problem to the bank or credit-card company, as well as the police. Caught quickly, the problem may be cleared up within a few hours to a few days, depending on the type and extent of identity theft. Also, place a free ninety-day fraud alert with one credit-reporting agency that will then notify the other agencies. This fraud alert warns any lender to contact you if credit is requested in your name.

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About The Author

Elizabeth R. Elstien has worked in real estate for over 15 years as a real estate...

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