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Credit & ID Theft Monitoring

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Credit & ID Theft MonitoringYour credit score is one of your most valuable assets.  Before lending you money, lenders want to know how big of a credit risk you are.  They use a credit score to determine this.

A credit score is a single number used by lenders, insurance companies, landlords, employers and others to determine a borrower’s credit worthiness.  Having a great credit score can help you obtain all of the following on highly favourable terms, since you will be considered a low risk:

You can obtain a credit score from a number of different sources.  However, FICO scores are the credit scores used most often by lenders, so those are the scores I prefer to look at.  You generally need a FICO score  above 760 to qualify for the best rates.  People with good credit can easily save tens of thousands of dollars on these items over their lifetimes.

Since your credit is so valuable, identity thieves would love nothing more than to get their hands on it by pretending to be you.  Identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone illegally uses another person’s personally identifying information, such as a credit card number or social security number, without permission, to commit a crime or fraud.

Sadly, identity theft can destroy your credit score and your reputation.  In extreme cases, victims of identity theft have even been arrested for crimes they did not commit.

With a little bit of diligence, most people can monitor their credit on their own without any problems.  If you would like help with this though, there are many companies out there that in exchange for a small monthly fee will monitor your credit and look out for signs of identity theft for you.  Some even provide identity theft insurance and access to all of your credit reports and scores.  Here are a few of the most common providers:

Some of them, such as TransUnion, will even give you a free 7-day trial of its credit monitoring service, during which you will have unlimited access to your credit score.  If you’re interested, you can try it out free of cost.  If you find it’s not for you, you can cancel free of charge during the free trial period.

For additional credit and identity theft information, see our Managing Credit and Identity Theft articles in the Personal Finance section of the site.

Image: Cmcderm1/Bigstock

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