Q: I am a regular listener to your radio show on WSB-AM in Atlanta. I really appreciate your hard work on financial matters. I am concerned about my credit history.

If anyone or any company inquires about my social security number, is there a place through the Internet that will send me an email immediately advising me of who is it?

Is there a place that would allow me to access my credit scores from each of the three credit reporting bureaus? And, what should the yearly fee be for my wife and me?

I am ready to pay yearly fee for this to any authentic agency.

A: Credit monitoring services are a hot commodity right now, but I would only go with one offered by the three major credit reporting bureaus. Equifax (myFICO.com), Experian (experian.com) and Trans-Union (transunion.com).

Of the three, I think the best right now is myFICO.com, which is a partnership run between Equifax (one of the three major credit reporting bureaus) and Fair Isaacs, the company that invented the credit score most often used by lenders and creditors.

myFICO.com has an annual credit history protection service that costs either $1.95/month or $4.95/month (for the deluxe service). Both services will notify you if someone accesses your credit history or social security number or if there are changes to your credit history.

If your social security number has been poached and used to set up fake credit, that’s called identity theft. If that’s happened to you, you can notify the three credit reporting bureaus and they will put a credit watch on your file.

If anyone tries to get new credit (including you), the creditor is not supposed to grant it without first calling you directly to get an approval. In other words, no one would be able to take your social security number, apply for a credit card online and charge a yacht. Someone from the creditor’s company would have to track you down to make sure you were really applying for that card.

Published: Oct 8, 2004