When someone else opened a credit card in my name, I might have panicked — but thanks to free credit monitoring it was no big deal

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesNo need to panic. The author is not pictured.
  • When someone else opened a credit card in my name, I found out immediately thanks to free credit monitoring from Credit Karma, which alerted me to the new account.
  • I was able to call the card issuer and close the card before any charges were made, and the experience reminded me how important it is to stay on top of my credit.
  • Credit monitoring is helpful, but it’s also good practice to check your credit report from the three credit bureaus, all of which also offer paid credit monitoring and repair services: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It seems like every week there’s a breaking news story about another data breach.

It’s scary to feel vulnerable, knowing that our information is out there. Fraudsters and thieves can take this information and use it to their advantage, sometimes without us even knowing.

One tool that can help you catch fraud and identity theft is credit monitoring.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring is a service that automatically monitors your credit for any changes and notifies you of changes to your account, such as new accounts that are opened, if accounts are closed, or if there are changes in your credit score. It’s a good way to keep tabs on what’s going on with your credit score and your credit report (although you’ll probably still want to check in regularly).

I signed up for free credit monitoring a few years ago using Credit Karma so I could stay on top of my financial health, my credit accounts, and my credit score. Over the years, I’ve received notifications about my credit score increasing or decreasing and got updates about my accounts. It’s been pretty useful but last year, it actually helped me stop an instance of identity theft with a simple alert.

When someone else opened a card in my name, I caught it immediately

One day I was scrolling through my email and got a notification from Credit Karma that a new account had been opened. “Hmmmm,” I thought. “I don’t remember opening anything.”

I opened the email and saw that a credit card from Old Navy was opened in my name. I hadn’t been to an Old Navy store in at least a decade, so I knew something wasn’t right. Because of that alert, I took action right away to combat identity theft.

I decided to call the credit card issuer and take action immediately. Once I was on the line with the credit card company, I explained that I received an alert about an account open in my name but that I hadn’t opened it.

The representative confirmed that someone had opened an Old Navy credit card in my name. Whoever did this had my full name and my phone number as part of the application, but the address was somewhere in New York. I live in Los Angeles.

Obviously not me and very suspicious. The good news is that because I took action immediately once I received the alert, I was able to cancel the card before any charges were made.

Additionally, the representative assured me they would work with the credit bureaus to get it deleted from my credit report. I was later able to check my credit on Credit Karma as well as my full report on AnnualCreditReport.com, to ensure it was no longer there.

It was annoying enough to have to call and cancel a card that was opened in my name. But imagine if I had no alerts? It could have taken me weeks or months to realise there was an account open in my name. Hundreds or thousands of dollars could’ve been charged without me knowing, with the expectation that I’d pay it back. That would add another layer of complexity to this situation, which surely would have added more steps to resolve it, as well.

I’m grateful that I was able to act fast and get notified right away. Thanks to credit monitoring, I was able to stop identity theft in its tracks before any charges were made.

Keeping a close eye on your credit can make all the difference

If you want to minimise fraud and identity theft, I suggest signing up for free credit monitoring through Credit Karma or a similar site. Additionally, you’ll want to check your credit report from the three credit bureaus, all of which also offer paid credit monitoring and repair services: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

There’s only one place to get these reports for free: AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re entitled to one free report per bureau, per year, meaning you can request all three at once, or request one of the three every four months to keep a continual eye on your credit.

Sign up for fraud alerts with your bank and credit card companies, too. Most offer the service for free, and taking advantage can help minimise instances of fraud and identity theft. If nothing else, you’ll be notified faster so you can take action before it becomes a much bigger issue.

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