Credit Monitoring VS Identity Monitoring: What Do You Need?

Joel Timothy

May 08 2023

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As data breaches and identity fraud become more common, identity theft protection has become a crucial part of today’s security. To stay safe, the FTC and other government agencies highly advise that you consider credit monitoring and identity monitoring. These are among the most effective identity theft protection measures.

The two can, however, be confusing, especially for users who are just getting started on identity theft protection. This article will explain the difference between credit monitoring & identity monitoring (identity theft protection services) to help you decide what you need to protect your banking services.

What is credit & identity monitoring?

Credit monitoring is a free or paid service that keeps an eye on your credit report and score, then alerts you whenever a critical change is made. When you receive an alert (via SMS or email), you can then act if the activity is not yours. Credit monitoring companies can track either one or all three credit bureaus. You can also decide to do it yourself by requesting free credit reports from the various bureaus.

Identity monitoring is a service offered by identity protection services, like IdentityGuard. The service includes credit monitoring as a subset. It goes even further and monitors all personal information and how it has been affected by various activities such as theft and data breaches. In case of any sensitive activity concerning personal information, a user is always notified.

Credit monitoring vs identity protection services

How Credit Monitoring works

There are several companies that offer both free and paid credit monitoring services. These services usually involve keeping an eye on changes that affect your credit report, as well as helping boost your credit score. They mostly offer the following:

1. Monitoring

They track reports on one, two, or three credit bureaus.

2. Alerts

They send alerts whenever there’s an important change in your reports. These include new inquiries and accounts, changes in personal information, and any suspicious activity that has been detected.

3. Credit score tracking

They allow you to check your progress over time and get alerts when your credit score or rating changes.

4. Insights

They help you improve your credit score by providing tips and suggestions.

Among the companies that offer credit monitoring services are the three major CRAs, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Once you get an alert, you can set up an initial fraud alert and then a credit freeze.

identity theft woman verifying notifications

DIY Credit Monitoring

You can always monitor your own credit. By law, you are entitled to a free annual credit report from all three credit bureaus. To review your report, you can order all credit reports at once and compare them. You can also decide to order one agency’s report every four months. The spacing out will allow you to keep an eye on all transactions throughout the year.

DIY credit monitoring is, however, flawed. You won’t get alerts in case of any suspicious actions. Thus you can only take action after a crime has been committed. Furthermore, checking your credit report can easily slip to the bottom of your to-do list. This decreases the likelihood of you knowing if any fraudulent activities have occurred.

How identity theft protection works

Identity protection services do much more than credit monitoring companies. While credit monitoring mostly notifies you after an activity has already taken place, identity protection services offer proactive monitoring services as well as restoration services.

Below are some of the features offered by top identity protection services.

1. ID theft coverage

They provide restoration services in the event of any type of identity theft. This includes financial fraud, tax fraud, social security fraud, medical ID theft, child identity theft, employment fraud, benefits fraud, criminal activity, and title fraud.

2. Personal information monitoring

Your personal information is scanned in all online avenues such as blogs, websites, and social media networks to see if any has been compromised.

3. Social Security Number monitoring

All names and aliases associated with your SSN are tracked. You’ll be notified about all new activity.

4. Change of address monitoring

This notifies you if your mail has been redirected through the postal service.

5. Court records monitoring

All court records are tracked. You’ll be notified in case a crime has been committed in your name.

6. Non-credit loan monitoring

In case your identity is used in a payday loan application, you will be notified.

7. Data breach updates

You get notified if your identity may have been involved in a data breach.

8. New credit card/ bank account notifications

In case your identity has been used to apply for a bank account or a credit card, you will get an alert.

9. Recovery services

In case you become a victim, the company will work on your behalf to recover your identity.

On top of the above common features, many top rated brands also offer an insurance cover for both identity theft losses and identity theft expenses. Some also allow you to cover your family through family plans that have a low fee for children below 18 years.

identity theft via online data

Who needs these services?

Identity theft can be very emotional, costly, and time-consuming. In the digital age, everybody’s personal information now resides in thousands of servers all over the world. Because of this, taking care of this data is often beyond our control. There’s very little you can do about breach protection in the various companies that have your data.

Further, according to the Center for Victim Research, 7-10% of the U.S. population are victims of identity fraud each year, and 21% of those experience multiple incidents of identity fraud. This means that everybody who accesses the internet needs to take measures to protect their data from identity thieves.

The problem is that as we continually share more data, identity thieves are finding new ways to steal personally identifiable information (PII). After all, doing so can make them money. For example, a study by Javelin Strategy revealed that identity fraud has drastically changed from counterfeiting credit cards to the harder-to-identify high-impact identity fraud of checking and savings account takeover.

This means that DIY credit monitoring alone is no longer sufficient, and so you need to enlist the services of an identity theft protection company. And while doing so, do not forget to protect your children as they are increasingly the victims of identity fraud.


Both credit monitoring services and identity monitoring help protect you from identity theft fraud. The two are however quite different. While credit monitoring only deals with your credit report, identity monitoring does more extensive and proactive monitoring to protect you from all types of identity fraud. If you want to keep your identity and that of your children protected, you may need to opt for the more comprehensive identity theft protection services.

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