Security breaches on government websites are just the latest reason to keep a close eye your credit report.
If you aren’t checking your credit on a regular basis, count yourself vulnerable, says Jeff Debrosse, director of security research with San Diego-based IT security company Websense.
“The very best services are the ones that will actively tell you that something has changed on your credit,” say Mr. Debrosse, adding losing your social security card could open you up to major fraud. “Victims’ identities have been used to buy a whole house.”
He says it’s hard to put a price on how much you want to pay to protect your credit score but it can save you money in the end, not to mention a lot of time trying to unravel a breach.
“It can take years to fix the damage,” said Mr. Debrosse.
The cheapest way is to get your credit score is through the mail or in person, in which case it’s free. If you want immediate access, charges range from $19.95 a month at Equifax Canada Inc. for unlimited access with alerts for activity on your account, to a one-time check for $9.95.
Mr. Debrosse says there are other things you can do to keep on top of credit like checking your accounts online on a regular basis and keeping small amounts in bank accounts in case your debit card is hacked. On the extreme end, he suggests you can even replace all your cards once a year.
There’s another good reason to stay on top of your credit — namely that you are in good standing when you really need it for things like a loan or mortgage.
An unpaid bill or a compromised account can scuttle a home purchase. If that bill goes to collection, unbeknownst to you, your credit rating will have taken a hit.
“All of the sudden it hits you hard,” says Vince Gaetano, a principal with monstermortgage.ca, who says it can also lead to a higher interest rate once you do get approved for a loan.
“You have this $75 dispute [that was sent to collection]. But you’ve bought a $500,000 home with $300,000 down. Your probability of getting an A rate on $200,000 mortgage, just 40% loan to value, is now at risk,” said Mr. Gaetano.
And he says one of the biggest source of conflict isn’t fraud, it’s cell phone providers who send overdue accounts to collection.
“That one derogatory record has a substantial impact on credit score and it stands out on the credit report,” Tim Ashby, a vice-president of personal solutions for Equifax