I wasn't impressed with credit card reform. I felt it didn't go far enough to protect consumers. But I do applaud a new law that goes into effect today. Companies that market "free credit reports" as a teaser for credit monitoring services will now have to clearly disclose that there is a cost for their products. The only way to truly get a credit report at no cost is to log onto Annualcreditreport.com.
To be fair, I'm not against credit monitoring. I just don't like that so many folks are tricked into paying a subscription fee for a service that they don't really want. And after speaking with Adam Levin, co-founder and chairman of Credit.com, I now realize that there's another problem with this product. They can be pretty pricey -- as much as $180 a year -- considering they don't offer comprehensive protection against identity theft.
If you really want to protect yourself against hackers and other con artists, you also need to monitor public, medical, and criminal records, says Levin. While this may sound quite overwhelming to achieve, there are products, including Intersections' Identity Guard, which will do all this and even encrypt your computer passwords so you can safely bank online. The one draw back is the price. Expect to pay $215 a year for this service.
If you'd rather not spend the money, you can still take some steps to protect your identity. First, make sure to log onto annualcreditreport.com every year to see if there are any open accounts that aren't yours. On a more regular basis -- perhaps even daily -- monitor your bank and credit card accounts for any suspicious activity. And if your wallet gets swiped or you have some other reason to worry about a breach in security, consider adding a fraud alert onto your credit report.
Credit Card Theft imagine by Don Hankins, CC 2.0.