The danger of credit fraud is not nearly as great as once thought, according to the latest statistics — and you can probably easily protect your credit information without paying credit-monitoring and other fees.
Reality: The out-of-pocket cost of identity theft is usually quite small — only $50 on credit cards for unauthorized charges, and that is often waived by the card company. A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) study found that in 50% of cases, the victim of identity theft incurs no out-of-pocket costs.
A bigger burden is likely to be time spent correcting your record, which the same FTC study found averaged four hours (with 10% of victims having to spend 55 hours or more).
Homeowner’s insurance sometimes protects against more costly identity theft — check your policy and ask your insurance agent about this.
You can monitor your credit reports yourself for free by obtaining copies of them through the AnnualCreditReport.com Web site. You are entitled to one free report every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. So you can choose to receive one every four months if you wish.
For maximum safety, you can place a “freeze” on your own credit report (by notifying one of the credit reporting agencies) to prevent it from being issued to others. There’s no need to pay a company to do this for you.