Credit Monitoring and Identity Theft ProtectionIn today’s world, it’s important to safeguard your credit and your identity. Given the growing number of data breaches and many different types of identity theft out there, this can prove difficult, but luckily there are services like credit monitoring and identity theft protection which can help. Although there are some similarities, these are two different types of services, so how do you know which service you should use at any given time? Keep reading below as we detail, in-depth, the difference between credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

What is credit monitoring?

Credit monitoring, or credit report monitoring, is a service that allows you to keep an eye on your credit reports and scores on a regular basis. Rather than waiting 12 months to check your credit reports for free, credit monitoring services allow you to see regularly updated versions of both your credit reports and credit scores from at least one of the three major credit bureaus (note that it’s ideal to receive reports and scores from all three, since not every creditor reports to them all, meaning you could be missing pertinent information if you can’t see each of your credit reports at the same time).

In addition, credit monitoring services typically provide real-time monitoring of your credit reports and notify you if any changes are detected. For example, if someone tries to open a new credit card in your name, a credit monitoring service will send a notification via email or text message to alert you. This can be an incredibly helpful feature when it comes to catching credit report errors in action, and most will also help walk you through the process of disputing an error on your credit reports. Some services even offer assistance with placing fraud alerts or freezing your credit. They will also typically offer information about what actions you can take to improve your credit, as well as point out what is currently hurting it. A number of credit monitoring services go above and beyond with identity theft protection features, but that isn’t their primary focus.

What is identity theft protection?

Identity theft protection is a service that provides daily monitoring of the information that is most often compromised by identity thieves, ranging from personal identifying information like your name and social security number to your credit reports and public records. While some credit monitoring services also offer features that monitor information aside from what affects your credit accounts, their primary focus is on monitoring your credit reports and scores, whereas identity theft protection offers a more all-encompassing monitoring of data along with tips and features to help protect your identity. One of the best values identity theft protection services offer their customers is identity theft assistance, both in the form of an insurance policy to reimburse certain losses from identity theft as well as receive help from trained agents with navigating the process of restoring your identity, in the event it’s compromised. Since identity theft can affect minors as well as adults, some identity theft services even offer protection for your whole family.

How do the two types of services compare?

Credit monitoring and identity theft protection services certainly have a lot of overlap. They both protect your social security number in order to detect credit fraud. Where they differ is the scope of their focuses. Credit monitoring is, for the most part, only concerned with detecting credit fraud and helping people monitor (and improve) their credit for a better grasp on their financial health. If you are merely wanting to keep an eye on your credit health, this is the service you want. Identity theft protection, on the other hand, is concerned with multiple types of identity theft and fraud, not just credit fraud. It is also the service you want to opt for if you want to protect the personal information of your entire family, not just you and your significant other’s credit information. While both categories of services share some similar features, they differ quite a lot when it comes down to primary focus.

Which should I choose?

Both types of services are optimized for different purposes, but deciding which to use comes down to whether your main concern is monitoring your credit health while you’re trying to build and improve your credit, or if you are concerned about the potential misuse of your personal data and want protection and assistance in the event you become a victim of identity theft. Choosing a robust identity theft protection service, such as our top-rated Identity Guard, which offers a multitude of identity protection features along with strong three-bureau credit monitoring is a smart choice if you find yourself wanting the best of both worlds.

For more information about what different types of services offer and how much they cost, you can read our credit monitoring and identity theft protection reviews. Keep reading our personal finance blog to learn more about credit and other topics related to your financial health.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the companies referenced in this article. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the companies mentioned. NextAdvisor.com may be compensated through advertiser affiliate programs.