My credit has always been rock solid. I pay my bills on time and try not to overextend myself (though we are currently carrying a balance so we’re not perfect either).
I’ve never defaulted on a loan, declared bankruptcy, or made any other catastrophic financial mistakes, so my credit score has always been strong.
Still, I know that maintaining control of my family’s finances requires constant vigilance.
That means tracking where our money is going, planning for the future, and yes monitoring our credit scores.
Every year I get a free copy of our credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com and make sure everything is in order.
I also use Credit Sesame’s free credit monitoring service as extra protection from fraud and identity theft.
I get regular emails from them to alert me when certain activity occurs on my accounts, such as a credit line increase, a paid off balance, or a fluctuation in my credit score.
That last one is particularly important and recently saved me a lot of trouble.
Let me explain in more detail.
One day a few months ago I received an email alert from Credit Sesame that my credit score had dropped.
I hadn’t opened up any new lines of credit or made any major purchases so this was completely unexpected.
Realizing that credit scores fluctuate a little all the time I didn’t panic. But when I logged into my Credit Sesame account and saw that my score had dropped by about 100 points I knew something was wrong!
Fortunately, Credit Sesame made it super-easy for me to figure out what happened.
There I found another message indicating an “Increase in Collection Balances”.
Apparently I had an account sent to a debt collector for lack of payment. It even showed me the amount of money that I hadn’t paid.
It was a lousy sixty bucks.
First of all, it’s pretty ridiculous to be sent to collections for such a small amount of money.
Second, I knew for a fact I had PAID that bill.
It was a bill for the uncovered portion of a doctor’s visit for my wife. I didn’t pay it immediately because we were going back and forth with the insurance company on the amount that was supposed to be covered.
If you have medical insurance you’re probably familiar with the aggravation of dealing with insurance companies.
As a rule I don’t pay a medical bill until we’ve double and triple checked that the amount covered was right. I’ve seen too many times where the initial bill was incorrect and the mistakes always seem to be in the insurance company’s favor.
Anyway, we finally paid the bill and then a week or so later I got another bill from the doctor’s office.
This time it said “Final Warning” and it threatened to send us to collections if we didn’t pay immediately.
And here’s the part where I messed up.
I knew I paid the bill and I assumed that it had just crossed with the final statement they had sent.
After a few phone calls we learned that the $60 payment I sent in was accidentally posted to another person’s account.
Luckily we had copy of the canceled check and could prove we had paid the bill, so we were able to get it sorted out quickly and my credit score was soon restored.
But if not for that email notification from Credit Sesame it could have taken a lot longer for me to realize something was wrong.
And when you think about all the things that are affected by your credit score, any kind of error or fraud that decreases it can have wide-ranging effects.
For that reason, I strongly suggest signing up for a free account at Credit Sesame and letting them monitor your credit for you.
Sure, you can purchase the same type of credit protection from each of the credit bureaus and that might even be more in depth protection. But why spend more than you need when you can get Credit Sesame credit monitoring for free?
I’m just glad Credit Sesame has my back.