Google Alerts ID Monitoring
The only way I’d accept so-called credit monitoring service is if some company or agency that failed to protect my personal identity information from hackers offered the service to me for free. As soon as the free service period expired, I’d terminate the monitoring. Why? Credit monitoring can only alert you after a crook has used your information to, for example, take out a loan. I’m a lot more interested in preventing unauthorized use of my personal info than I am in being told about it after the fact.
And one of the reasons I recommend reviewing one of your three free credit reports every four months is to identify early any accounts on your report that have been opened by someone besides you. That’s what credit monitoring services do, except the review is done more often. Maybe that’s worth the service’s cost to you. For me, it isn’t.
Do-It Yourself Credit Monitoring
In a matter of minutes you can set up a few Google Alerts that will do a decent credit monitoring job for you, and the Alerts can be working for you constantly. A set of Alerts combined with reviewing your credit report every four months is a pretty good DIY credit monitoring service. And it’s free.
Google Alerts for Credit Monitoring
I’ll walk you through the steps to set up a Google Alert. First, of course, you need a Google account. Sign in, click on your image, then on “Account”.
(By the way, Google keeps a team of engineers busy constantly changing the way you do things like this on Google. About every fifth time you sign in, you have to re-learn how to navigate to your destination. So by the time you read these instructions, they may be obsolete. You can always resort to searching “Google Alerts” to discover how to access the service.)
On the next screen, scroll down to the Account tools” section and click on Dashboard.
Try not to get distracted by all those interesting services and click on “Manage alerts”.
In the box where it says, “Create an alert about…”, type your Social Security number (except you may want to leave out the dashes—or create two alerts, one dashed and one un-dashed—that I’ve included here for clarity). Whatever you enter in the “Create an alert about…” box effectively becomes a Google search on that term or phrase. Then click “Show options”.
Now you get to customize your Alert. For Google monitoring of my Social Security number, I chose “As-it-happens” for the option “How often” and “All results” for option “How many”. If you find you’re being overwhelmed by Google Alerts messages with these settings, then you could dial these back to “Once a day” and “Only the best results” if you prefer. For credit monitoring, the more frequent, the better. Experiment with these settings to find a good fit for you.
Once you’ve chosen your options, click the CREATE ALERT box, and you’re done. Google is now scouring the World Wide Web for occurrences of whatever you’ve created the alert about: your SSN in this case.
Additional Google Alerts to Consider for Security Monitoring
In addition to an Alert on my SSN, I have Google Alerts set up for:
- Our home address
- Our vehicle’s license plate number
- My driver’s license number
- My phone number
- Bank account numbers
- Credit card numbers
- My email addresses
These aren’t all about credit monitoring, but rather more generally about how others might be using my personal information. If your email address appears on a webpage somewhere, wouldn’t you like to know about it?
As you can see above, I have twenty-five Alerts set in all. A few of them are set to Alert me about news related to the pharmaceuticals I reluctantly take. I’m no longer on one medication I used to take because an Alert clued me in to recent studies that concluded the medications offered no benefit to people with my set of health circumstances. I took this information to my Internist (few doctors have time to keep up on all of the latest studies), and he agreed we should drop the prescription. Without the Google Alert, I’d still be on the medication.
Do you have other suggestions for the list to share with Money Counselor’s readers?
Give Google Alerts a Try
Google Alerts are easy to set up, and I think you’ll be impressed with the feedback you get. Again, experiment with the options so you’re not overwhelmed with Alert messages.
You’ll soon be thinking of all sorts of clever uses of Google Alerts. I mean, who wouldn’t want to get as-it-happens information on Justin Bieber?