Offering free credit monitoring seems to be the go-to canned response to every breach, data hack, and the like – as if it is the solution to right the wrong.
But credit monitoring does little to help anyone who has had his or her information compromised. You are not providing any ounce of protection at this point. No, at this point you have provided a disservice by not initially protecting the personal information that you hold in the first place.
All credit monitoring does is keep tabs on the status of an individual’s credit and is intended to send alerts when there is activity – which is all well and good, but knowing that the information has already been compromised what if a victim’s credit is used by a criminal, for instance an account is established at a store where it wasn’t authorized – now what will the victim do?
While credit monitoring can alert you to the first instance of fraud in order to try to stop the activity in its tracks and give good reason to freeze credit if not done so already, keep in mind not all instances where a social security number could be fraudulently used will necessarily show-up on the traditional credit reports (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). These can include tax returns, health care services (which only show-up if there is a payment due that goes into default after 180 days)(Karp, 2015) and bank accounts (ONeil, 2015). Furthermore, if it is a child’s social security number that is compromised, chances are they do not have a credit report to monitor – unless the criminal creates one for them by utilizing the child’s information as their own.
Once information is stolen there is not a 100% foolproof protection option to put in place. And, if the credit monitoring service includes someone “helping” if credit is fraudulently accessed, the last thing a victim may want is yet someone else with his or her hands in their personal matters; they may be inclined to fix the mess themselves.
Credit can be monitored all day long, but how are entities who do not have the proper safeguards implemented and allow the information to be accessed going to help once the bad guys get the data? They aren’t going to – instead pointing to the free credit monitoring – which virtually means nothing to the victim. In this day and age, consumers should be monitoring their credit regardless of whether they are a victim of identity theft.
Offering free credit monitoring as a consolation for ineptness isn’t doing anyone any favors and instead signals a weak public relations move. Alternatively, assume some accountability and do a better job of preemptively monitoring and securing the data that you have been entrusted to protect.
Karp, G. (2015). Protect your medical records from identity theft. Chicago Tribune. Retrived from http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/sc-cons-0416-karpspend-20150413-column.html
ONeil, E. (2015). Do Checking Accounts Affect Your Credit? About Money. Retrieved from http://banking.about.com/od/creditscoresandreporting/a/checking-accounts-affect-credit.htm