‘Personal Assistant and Watchdog’: How Credit Monitoring Works After a Data Breach

‘Personal Assistant and Watchdog’: How Credit Monitoring Works After a Data Breach

Credit monitoring isn’t just about your credit score: it can also alert you to potential identity theft and fraud if your data has been compromised in a breach, as many Ticketmaster customers were warned about earlier this week.

Credit monitoring isn’t just about your credit score: it can also alert you to potential identity theft and fraud if your data has been compromised in a breach, as many Ticketmaster customers were notified earlier this week.

If your data has been accessed in a breach, it could be exposed to fraudsters, said Jason Heath, an advisor-only certified financial planner at Objective Financial Partners.

“A credit monitoring service is just a way to ensure that if your data is exposed, you can keep control of any fraudulent use or anything out of the ordinary,” he said in an interview.

TransUnion says credit monitoring helps consumers act quickly if there is suspicious activity on their accounts.

The two main ones credit reporting agencies — Equifax and TransUnion — as well as many credit card issuers and financial institutions offer credit monitoring services, according to the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Consumers may want to consider using these services if they have been victims of fraud or involved in a data breach, the agency said on its website.

Credit monitoring services notify you of updates to your credit report and credit score, the agency said.

The service is like “a personal assistant and watchdog,” TransUnion explains on its website: It monitors your credit report and alerts you to changes such as a new account opened in your name or a late payment reported by a creditor.

Identity thieves can use names, Social Security numbers and sometimes credit card numbers to apply for new credit cards, rent apartments, take out car loans and open new bank accounts, TransUnion says. “Most victims don’t realize they’ve been compromised until they review their credit report or credit card statements, and by then it may be too late.”

This week, Ticketmaster offered Canadian customers affected by a recent security breach one year of free credit monitoring services.

The ticketing platform has sent an email to some customers to warn them that their data may have been compromised in a recent security breach, potentially including their names, contact details and payment card information.

Credit monitoring is more proactive than just checking your credit score, Heath explained.

“You will receive a notification if there is a change or if there is an inquiry or if something happens with your credit,” he said.

“I think the whole point of a business has been compromised by offering this credit monitoring service.”

He added, however, that one year may not be enough if your information has been exposed.

In a report released earlier this year, TransUnion said more Canadian consumers are signing up for credit monitoring amid a continued increase in fraudulent activity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A separate TransUnion report released this year found that by 2023, five per cent of all digital transactions originating in Canada were suspected of being fraudulent, while 60 per cent of Canadians reported having recently been the target of fraud.

The attempts included fraudulent emails, websites, text messages and phone calls, as well as identity theft and stolen credit cards.

Credit monitoring isn’t necessarily a must-have for all Canadians, Heath said.

“But someone could take a very proactive approach, whether or not they’ve been exposed to a breach of this type, and sign up for a credit monitoring service themselves if they really wanted to get a handle on the situation.”

There are other steps you can take to help protect your information, whether you’ve been compromised in a breach or not, he added.

“If someone really wants to be safe, they can, for example, change their credit card number and cancel their current number.”

These days, scams come in many forms, Heath said.

“People need to be aware of the types of scams that are out there,” he said.

“It pays to be skeptical.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024.

Rosa Saba, The Canadian Press