Keeping your financial life in shape involves a number of checks and balances and paying attention to what’s going on with your credit profile.
With the recent increases in fraudulent financial activities and data breaches, it is important to consider a credit monitoring service that alerts you to potential problems with your credit report.
You also get to know when your credit score is updated and can quickly take action if needed.
While credit monitoring won’t stop identity theft from happening, it can limit the damage caused.
Read on to learn about the credit monitoring tools available in Canada, and how to protect yourself from fraud.
What is Credit Monitoring?
A credit monitoring service “monitors” your credit report for significant changes and sends you a notification when changes occur.
This is especially useful as it means you can quickly take action if there has been unauthorized access to your records.
For example, if a bank or lender makes a ‘hard’ inquiry for your credit file and you did not authorize the credit check, it could mean that your identity has been stolen by a fraudster.
Considering the damage that could be done if you remained unaware for weeks, months, or years, a credit monitoring service can be a life saver.
Types of changes to your credit report that a credit monitoring tool can detect include:
- Change of address, employment information, or name
- New credit inquiry
- New credit account opened in your name
- Late payment reports by creditors
- Negative information including collections, bankruptcy, court judgements, liens, etc.
The service may alert you if your confidential financial information is found online on fraudulent websites or the Dark Web.
It also alerts you when your credit score is updated.
Paid Credit Monitoring Services in Canada
The two most popular credit monitoring services in Canada are offered by the two credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion. These services are available at a monthly fee.
Equifax Credit Monitoring
Equifax is a consumer credit reporting agency operating in 24 countries including Canada.
It offers four types of credit monitoring products including:
- Equifax Identity Pro: $11.95/month
- Equifax Complete Advantage: $16.95/month
- Equifax Complete Premier: $19.95/month
- Equifax Complete Friends and Family: $29.95/month
Using the Premier product as an example, subscribers can monitor their credit and also enjoy identity theft assistance and insurance up to $50,000.
TransUnion Credit Score and Credit Report Monitoring
TransUnion is a credit reporting agency with operations in 32 countries.
It was established in 1968. Its credit monitoring service costs $19.95 per month and includes:
- Unlimited access to your credit score and report
- Alerts when there are key changes to your credit report
- Personalized credit and debit analysis
- Up to $50,000 of identity theft insurance
Another paid credit monitoring service is ID Assist. This service is provided by Sigma Loyalty Group Inc. and includes a Gold and Platinum product.
ID Assist-Platinum costs $19.99 per month and monitors both your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports and credit scores.
Many banks and credit card issuers also offer some type of paid credit monitoring via a third-party platform like Credit Alert, OnGuard, and FirstReport.
Free Credit Monitoring Services in Canada
You can monitor your credit report and credit score using a free credit monitoring service or tool.
The difference between free and paid plans is that the free plans highlighted below only show your updated records on a weekly or monthly basis.
Borrowell Credit Monitoring
Borrowell was one of the first financial technology companies in Canada to offer free credit scores.
Since it was established in 2014, more than 1 million Canadians have used Borrowell to check their free credit score and report.
After opening an account (free), Borrowell sends you an updated Equifax credit score and report every week. You can view your credit report to see a listing of your accounts, payment history, and any derogatory marks.
One thing to note is that checking your own credit report does not impact your score negatively as it qualifies as a “soft” inquiry.
Mogo Credit Monitoring
Similar to Borrowell, Mogo provides free access to your Equifax credit score.
This credit score is updated on a monthly basis and you get an alert when your new score is available.
Mogo also offers identity fraud protection and you get an email notification when a hard inquiry is registered in your Equifax credit report.
This service is free and works hand-in-hand with their credit score product.
Mogo Inc. is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol MOGO.
Credit Karma Credit Monitoring
Credit Karma is a financial technology company operating in Canada and the United States.
It offers free access to TransUnion credit scores and reports.
After opening an account, you get weekly updates and alerts when there are significant changes.
This company was acquired by Intuit in 2020.
Downsides of Credit Monitoring
A credit monitoring service does not prevent identity theft or fraud. While it may alert you to suspicious activities indicating your identity has been compromised, it doesn’t necessarily stop it from happening in the first place.
What this means is that you need to take appropriate actions to keep your information protected and you should remain vigilant at all times.
Credit monitoring will not protect you from a data breach, phishing scams, or credit report errors.
Also, this service can be expensive if you are on a paid plan. Annual costs of credit monitoring can exceed $240 plus taxes.
Lastly, you may not receive notification of fraudulent activity for a while due to how long it takes for creditors to send information to the credit bureaus.
How To Protect Yourself From Fraud
In addition to signing up for a credit monitoring service, you can also take the following actions to protect yourself from identity theft and identity fraud:
- Check your credit report for errors on a regular basis and file a dispute with the credit agency if you detect discrepancies.
- Protect your passwords and install a good antivirus on your computer. Password-protect your mobile devices.
- Don’t click on links from untrusted sources. Phishing attempts often use text messages or emails to try and get you to click on harmful links.
- Do not give out your private information over the phone (e.g., Social Insurance Number) unless you are certain the request is legitimate.
- Shred financial statements and documents containing your private information before discarding them.
- Review your bank account statements regularly for unauthorized transactions.
- Protect your PINs at bank ATMs and don’t leave receipts there.
- If you have been the victim of identity theft, you can place a fraud alert on your credit profile in some provinces.
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