Since it seems as though there's a new report of a data breach every other week, it's probably worth considering what you can do to protect yourself. Unfortunately, it's probably not realistic to avoid interacting with any business that might be a target since that includes basically every bank, retailer, credit bureau, social media network, and pretty much any other business online.
Still, you can do two things that will help protect you if your data is included in a breach. The first is to put a freeze on your credit file so that even if someone has your social security number or other personal information, they at least won't be able to use it to sign up for new accounts. All three major credit bureaus allow you to do it online.
The second is to sign up for a service that monitors your credit file and alerts you when changes are made or new accounts are opened. In fact, one of the most common responses by companies that suffer a breach is that they promise to offer affected customers free credit monitoring for a period of time.
To be honest, I'd rather a company just protect my information in the first place, instead of promising to do so after it already let it slip out of its hands. If you're like me, you'd probably feel a little better handling this yourself, so I've included a list of some of the best credit monitoring services out there.
1. Credit Karma
Credit Karma is probably the best free credit monitoring option available. In addition to alerting you to changes in your credit file, Credit Karma also looks for your information online and will let you know if you're information has been included in a breach. They'll tell you exactly what information was found, and where they found it.
Credit Karma will also provide you with your Vantage Score 3.0 for both TransUnion and Equifax, giving you both protection, and a way to monitor your credit score.
One of the advantages of WalletHub is that in addition to being free, is the only service on this list that updates your full credit report and score on a daily basis. It will alert you when an account is opened and will text you when changes are made so that you can easily take action.
3. Credit Sesame
One of the nicest factors of Credit Sesame is that in addition to a monthly score update, you can also purchase more frequent updates at a relatively low cost-- if that's important to you. It will also alert you if a new inquiry is made on your file, or if a new account is opened.
NerdWallet is a solid free service that will notify you when an inquiry or new account appears on your credit file. It'll also give you your Vantage Score 3.0 credit score based on your TransUnion credit report. NerdWallet provides you with a version of your TransUnion credit report, and will allow you to dispute errors or fraudulent accounts, but doesn't have the full monitoring services like Credit Karma or paid options.
Mint is a part of Intuit and offers a wide range of tools to help you keep track of accounts and manage your finances. The free level of the service provides credit monitoring that will alert you if you've had an inquiry on your file or a new account, but you have to sign up for the $16.99 per month Credit Monitor service to get the Identity Theft Resolution service that will help you clean up the pieces if someone uses your information.
One of the best advantages of a service like LifeLock is that in addition to monitoring whether a new account is opened on your credit file, it also monitors whether a new bank account is opened in your name. It's not cheap-- charging between $9.99 and $29.99 depending on the amount of coverage you choose for repairing your credit-- but it's one of the most comprehensive services available.