UPDATE 11/01/2013 – Many banks have discontinued their special ID Theft programs in favor of account alerts. Check with your bank for the monitoring programs they offer.
UPDATE 4/13/2010 – I referenced Lifelock in this post, and you should be aware that they have been part of class action lawsuits more than once since 2008. As I mentioned in my post, many of the services they offer you can do yourself. Bottom line, in this digital age you have to be ever vigilante with your personal information.
As a two-time victim of identity theft, I thought I would expand on the tips that he received via email:
1. Credit Reports – Get your credit report from ALL THREE of the major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. I was surprised to learn that the three agencies had different information regarding my credit at the time my identity was stolen.
2. Credit Monitoring – Your bank or credit card company may offer a service to monitor your credit reports. The monitors work by notifying you every time a credit request has been made in your name. Years after my identity theft, I still get notices about some yahoo trying to use my identity to buy cars, boats, etc. Most of these vendors will also give you copies of your credit reports as part of their service. American Express has Credit Secure,
Bank of America has Privacy Assist, and Chase has Identity Protection.
3. Credit Protection – Rampant ID theft has created a new industry, and
the front runner in protective services is LifeLock. The company offers a number of services, many of which you could do yourself, but <sarcasm>who has that kind of time?</sarcasm> They remove your name from many junk mail lists, put a “fraud alert” on your identity with all three credit reporting agencies (which only last 90 days), renew that alert for you, order your three credit reports each year, and help you contact all your banks, credit cards, etc., should your wallet ever be stolen. The advantage to using a service, “set it, and forget it.” You are paying for their service, everything offered you could do yourself for free if you choose.
4. Credit Insurance – Check with your insurance agent, or your bank. Many offer identity theft insurance. This is simply a service that helps you pay many of the legal fees associated with identity theft. It is not much in terms of money, but every bit helps.
But what happens if you still become victim of identity theft? Here are some things nobody told me:
1. File a Police Report – The moment you are aware of the ID theft, file a police report. This makes an official record of the event, which will only help you when talking to the bank or credit card agency to remove charges.
2. Put a Fraud Alert on Your Accounts – If you’re using a service such as LifeLock, this has already been done. If not, you can contact the three credit reporting agencies (see above) and enable the fraud alert. A fraud alert means any request for credit requires your written signature. This makes it harder (but not impossible) for someone to request credit via the Internet or over the phone. It also means more hoops for you to jump through when you are the one legitimately applying for the loan.
3. ICE Your Credit – CNN posted an article about Emergency Contacts back in February. The article had some information about the new ICE initiative. The basic idea is making emergency contact info readily available on your cell phone, and a free ICE website also provides laminated wallet emergency contact cards. I use a similar approach with my credit card info. I have a laminated wallet card with the phone numbers of all the accounts I would need to contact in case my identity is stolen. I do not keep this card in my wallet — it does me know good if I get robbed — instead I carry it separate in my pocket. I also have the numbers programed in my phone for access. The benefit of the laminated card? It’s water proof, doesn’t need batteries, and anyone can use it in the event I’m incapacitated. Oh, and I also carry an ICE card.
4. Don’t Blame The Internet – Despite what most people think, email & phishing scams are not the only sources of identity theft. I would say that they’re not even the largest sources. When I moved to Dallas, it was the number one city in the country for ID Theft. Some examples of how ID’s were stolen: mailbox theft, credit card skimming (using a device to record your credit card number), ATM decoys, and best of all companies that do not correctly secure or destroy personal records. In terms of ID Theft, Liz Pulliam Weston wrote an article suggesting we could learn something from Europeans.
If you’re not concerned about identity theft, you should be. Here’s a thought, it’s not the financial impact of identity theft that’s the potentially the most damaging, but the ability of someone to use your identity to commit a crime. Criminal Identity Theft does not go away overnight, and can follow you for years. Victims of Criminal ID Theft find themselves in constant struggle to prove their innocence. I could not find the original article, but I read years ago of a woman who had three official court documents for her state, and she still would occasionally end up in jail for warrants that were not her. (Apparently, Judges do not work on weekends.)
OK, if you’re a first time reader, then you can see I have a tendency to ramble on quite a bit. I hope the information proves useful to you, and you never find yourself in a position where $75k is spent on your company’s corporate account in your name.
I don’t normally ask, but please share this post if you found the information useful. Thank you.