Credit monitoring services provide consumers with access to their credit reports on a regular basis. Most top credit monitoring services alert consumers when changes, particularly those that may be suspect, are made to their credit reports. However, the services provided by credit monitoring companies vary. Each company offers different levels of service, and companies vary in terms of the quality of service they provide to consumers.
Over the past few years, the popularity of credit monitoring has dramatically risen. In part, the rise in popularity is due to the potential for identity theft. However, many consumers subscribe to credit monitoring services to work toward repairing their credit ratings. The credit ratings of some individuals may change on a monthly, or even weekly, basis. The value provided lies in the fact that these services provide consumers a way to stay informed with regards to any changes in their credit standing. Should irregularities occur, such as an identity thief opening or attempting to open credit accounts, the credit monitoring service provides the consumer with the knowledge and tools to combat the crime.
How Do Credit Monitoring Services Work?
Essentially, the way these services work is that they “pull” the consumer’s credit report from one or all three credit bureaus. The frequency of the report pulls is based on the level of service. Most credit monitoring companies offer subscription levels that vary from daily pulls, monthly pulls or quarterly pulls.
Additionally, alerts are set up on the consumer’s credit report that provide the consumer with instant notification when a new account is added to their credit record or an inquiry on their credit report is made.
Generally, consumers subscribe to credit & identity monitoring services on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis. The cost of the subscription is determined by the level of service. However, the consumer must read the “fine print” of the subscription. For example, many services offer “unlimited access to the credit report.” The consumer must understand exactly how this statement is defined by the service. Does this statement mean the consumer has access to unlimited daily pulls of their credit report, or does this mean that the consumer has unlimited access to one credit report pull? Understanding the details of the service subscription is important in order for consumers to get the most out of their credit monitoring service.
Credit Monitoring Service Providers
One of the most well-known credit monitoring services is Lifelock. This company was one of the first to provide consumers with a service that monitored their credit records on a daily basis. One of the factors that sets Lifelock apart from other monitoring services is that this company offers clients a $1 million guarantee. If an identity theft occurs, Lifelock provides the client with “insurance” that covers loss up to $1 million. Additionally, the company works with the client to resolve any issues that result from the intrusion.
Over the past few years, many companies have emerged to provide credit monitoring. In fact, all three credit bureaus have now begun to offer monitoring services. Experian, Equifax and TransUnion all give consumers several levels of monitoring. In addition to the credit reporting agencies, several other companies now offer monitoring services. A few companies even offer credit monitoring free of charge. CreditKarma offers a free monitoring service that provides clients with a summary of information from TransUnion. Though the reports are not detailed, CreditKarma will keep the client informed and give them a general understanding of their TransUnion credit report at a given point in time.
FICO versus FAKO
Note that most monitoring services do not provide the FICO score. Many will, however, provide clients with a “FAKO” score. The FAKO score is a score may be an estimate of the FICO score based on the company’s understanding and interpretation of the FICO formula.The FAKO score may also be one of the other less frequently used credit scores, such as the Vantage score or PLUS score. The FICO formula is a proprietary formula and, though some credit monitoring services provide the true FICO score, most use an approximation of the FICO score. The FAKO score gives the client a basis for comparison at a glance. However, when preparing to apply for a mortgage or other major credit account, the client should obtain their true FICO score from each credit reporting agency.
The credit monitoring services offered by the credit reporting agencies include:
– Score Watch
Score Watch monitors the client’s Equifax credit report for changes. When the client subscribes or renews, they receive two Equifax credit report pulls, along with the true FICO score.
– ID Patrol
This level of service offers no credit score, provides the client with unlimited pulls of their Equifax credit report. When the subscription is initiated, the client receives pulls from all three credit bureaus without scores. Monitoring and alerts are also provided.
– Debt Wise
Debt Wise organizes the Equifax credit report to assist clients to achieve the goal of getting out of debt. The client receives a FAKO score. Reports from all three agencies is provided when the client enrolls or renews the subscription. This subscription is available for
– Credit Watch
Credit Watch is monitored for credit report changes. No score is available, but the client can pull their report an unlimited number of times during the subscription.
– Equifax Complete
This level of service offers monitoring of all three credit reports and pulls from all three agencies upon subscription initiation. FAKO scores and 3-in-1 reports from all credit bureaus is provided once per year. Subscribers are provided with unlimited Equifax pulls with FAKO score.
– Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring with 4 FICO Scores
This subscription level is self-explanatory. The price is $14.95 per month and includes notification of changes on any of the three credit reports, along with four FICO scores over the year.
Owned by Experian, CreditCheckTotal.com allows clients to pull all three credit reports three times per month. The service also includes monitoring of records with all three credit bureaus for a fee of $29.95 per month. The FAKO score (PLUS) is also provided.
– Experian Credit Tracker
This service monitors all three credit bureau reports for changes and allows clients unlimited Experian pulls.
This service allows clients to pull their Experian reports, with FAKO scores, daily for $19.95 per month. A FAKO score is also provided.
This service is well-known and also owned by Experian. This service provides bi-weekly FAKO score updates, along with monthly pulls from Experian.
– Triple Alert
This service provides daily monitoring only of all three credit reports for $8.85 per month.
For $16.95 per month, this level of service provides monthly reports from all three credit bureaus. Daily pulls from TransUnion, along with FAKO (Vantage) scores, is included.
Zendough includes reporting in a specialized format, providing information at a glance for $29.95 per month. Monthly TransUnion reports, along with the TransUnion FAKO (Vantage) score are provided.
Other Credit Monitoring Companies
MyFico.com is not directly affiliated with any of the credit bureaus. MyFico.com offers quarterly FICO score monitoring services, along with a service named Score Watch. The MyFico.com Score Watch service is comparable to the Equifax Score Watch subscription for $14.95 per month. The quarterly FICO monitoring service monitors only the TransUnion FICO score and is available for $4.95 per month.
CreditKarma offers free TransUnion pulls and give clients a summary of their report. A FAKO score is also provided. Though the information provided by CreditKarma is not detailed, the free service monitors clients’ TransUnion reports and they may obtain daily summaries from TransUnion.
Additional companies providing credit monitoring services include:
– Eliminate ID Theft
– Privacy Matters 123
Additionally, several credit card companies and insurance companies offer credit monitoring, such as Chase Bank and USAA.