All of us, no matter how careful, can become victims of identity theft. In fact, it was determined every three seconds another identity is stolen. In 2007 there were seventy nine million credit card and Social Security Number thefts according to major news media investigations. That was an increase of four million additional people over the previous years statistics, that had their identity or financial information compromised. This makes identity theft one of the fastest growing crimes in America.
Anyone with a Social Security number and assets to loose should be concerned with identity theft. Unfortunately, a common belief by many people is they assume they have nothing significant for thief’s to take advantage of. Bear in mind criminals are much better than you are at making use of your information. For example; there is credit card theft where someone steals your credit card and runs up charges. Identity theft is where someone steals your personal information (social security number, date of birth, name, etc.) and uses your identity to open a new line of credit, gain employment or even establish citizenship.
You must realize that your information is stored locally and nationally. Your dentist, doctor, banking facility(s), college transcript, club memberships are examples of data configurations where your personal information is stored. I don’t have to remind you there have been numerous sophisticated agencies and institutions hacked into and identities stolen. How easy it would be to have your identity stolen from neighborhood businesses, your mailbox or even your trash receptacles. Yes shredding papers listing your personal information is a great step to protect your identity but as indicated, your information is everywhere.
It’s no secret that many savvy consumers have learned to place fraud alerts on their accounts which prompt creditors to call them if someone is trying to establish credit in their names. But did you know these alerts are generally only valid for a period of ninety days? Are you really confident enough to believe your going to take the time or for that matter, even remember to renew fraud alerts every three months? Remember too, just because you have fraud alerts placed does not guarantee you from becoming a victim.
There is an option to implement a credit freeze which locks down all of your personal information making it impossible for anyone to open a line of credit in your name, including you. There are also fees involved with many credit freezes. When you place a freeze, you pay a fee. From there on, if you want to open any new line of credit (loan, credit card, cell phone) the freeze must be lifted; there will be a fee for that as well. Currently 33 states and the District of Columbia offer the credit freeze option, but if you are not living in one of them, you cannot do this.
Credit watch services have come into prominence thanks to the many breaches that have been publicized. What exactly is a credit watch, and what benefit does such a service offer the consumer? Credit Monitoring (or a watch) is the credit bureau selling the consumer their own information. After there has been a change on your credit report, the bureau notifies you in 24 to 72 hours that there has been a change. It is then the consumer’s responsibility to check the information for accuracy and by the way, if they find that it is a case of identity theft, the consumer is responsible for any losses, expenses and has to spend the time to clean up the mess. The Bureaus do nothing to actually prevent the crime of identity theft, nor do they help fix the problem. The FTC says it takes an average of 177 hours and over two years to clean up an identity or credit compromise, if you can clean it up at all.
I’m not trying to come off as a fatalist and give anyone the impression there is nothing that can be done about criminal activity. If you worry about identity theft, then it’s time you got to know about identity theft services. These agencies provide proactive identity theft protection.
On your behalf, ID theft companies request that fraud alerts be placed on your accounts. By placing these fraud alerts, you are asking that creditors take extra care to identify who you are and to investigate the validity of any pending transaction. These services also request that your name be removed from pre-approved credit card lists and junk mail lists. Additionally, services annually order your free credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus. In the event that your identity is compromised, qualified professionals are available to assist you in addressing whatever complications may arise.
In summary one might ask; if the consumer can do these things by themselves, what is the need for an identity theft service? The simple answer is nothing more than convenience and protection. The assurance that nothing is overlooked in the shuffle and required responsibilities in everyday living that would keep you from taking the measures necessary to protect your identity. These services have but one concern and mission, to safeguard your identity and assets.
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