Tips To Remember About ID Theft Protection.
Have you ever considered paying for identity theft protection? We all want to keep our IDs safe – the more technology advances, the more at risk we feel of fraud or lost funds. Protection is worth investing in, but should that investment be to pay someone else for help, or simply invest your own time to take a DIY approach?
The experts are somewhat split, but this is a great breakdown of some things to keep in mind, no matter which side of the ID protection line you’re currently on.
If you’re considering paying for a service that offers identity-theft protection — or even if you plan to take a free DIY approach — here are a few things it pays to know:
Nothing is foolproof.
No matter what option you choose, you still are vulnerable to identity theft, says Susan Grant, director of consumer protection and privacy for the Consumer Federation of America. “It’s really important for consumers to realize that no service can absolutely protect them from becoming an identity-theft victim,” she says.
However, even if crooks do steal your identity, protection services can alert you more quickly, and — depending on the service — provide some assistance in resolving problems once they occur, Grant says.
Cost-saving tip: You may have access to free identity-theft protection or credit monitoring through your employee benefits program, credit union or membership in organizations such as AAA.
Different tactics combat different kinds of ID theft.
Some companies offer services that address every kind of identity theft. Others may focus on a specific kind of crime, such as identity theft that arises as the result of a data breach. Toporoff urges you to make sure the service’s protection matches your situation. “Having a Social Security number compromised is very different from having a credit card compromised,” he says.
Most identity fraud involves criminals using existing cards, says Paul Stephens, director of privacy and advocacy for the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. But credit monitoring — a staple of services that offer identity-theft protection — isn’t an effective strategy for catching that type of abuse, he says.
Credit monitoring also is unlikely to detect someone using your identity for purposes that don’t show up on a credit history. Grant says such activities might include making claims on your health insurance or using your Social Security number to get a job, open a bank account or take out a payday loan. On the other hand, credit monitoring will detect when someone uses your credit history or score to open new credit accounts or take out new loans, she says.
DIY strategy: Take advantage of the layers of security and alerts that your bank, credit union and cards already offer, says Velasquez, whose center is a nonprofit educational organization that helps guide consumers dealing with identity theft.
Three steps to take:
- Arrange email alerts for online transactions, or purchases over a certain amount. While flagged transactions “won’t necessarily be denied,” alerts give you real-time feedback, Stephens says.
- When possible, set spending caps for transactions on credit and debit cards, says Toporoff.
- Add personal identification numbers to checking and savings accounts — no PIN, no access. Some institutions also let you limit the amount that can be wired from accounts without your being physically present, Velasquez says.
– via NASDAQ.com
What ID Protection Services Do (and Don’t Do)
Once you figure out what kind of protection you want, it’s time to explore what services offer to help you decide which option really is the right one for you.
Identity-theft protection services typically monitor your credit or public records for any suspicious charges, or offer other identity-theft safeguards, for a monthly fee. In some cases they provide services to help clean up the mess left behind in the wake of identity theft and assist in rebuilding your credit. Banks frequently offer several degrees of identity-theft protection to their customers, as well.
You won’t find any hard and fast guidelines about what to look for if you decide to buy into an identity-theft protection service. “Consumers need to do their homework,” says Jay Foley, executive director with the Identity Theft Resource Center. Before signing up, you should ask what these companies offer, and evaluate whether their services fit your needs.
According to Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, identity-theft protection services don’t monitor certain types of identity theft, such as prior instances of identity theft, Social Security number fraud (a point of contention with the LifeLock advertising), debit/check card fraud, criminal identity fraud (that is, a criminal assumes your identity when arrested), and medical fraud (a criminal assumes your identity when seeking medical attention). Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with Privacy Rights Clearninghouse, notes that these sorts of crimes “are more difficult to recover from than financial identity theft.”
You should also look for whether a company performs additional identity monitoring. For example, does it track whether someone is using your address, or is receiving medical care under your name? “Do [ID-theft protection services] do more than monitor your credit? If they can say ‘yes,’ then maybe they’re worth some value,” says Foley.
Should You Use Them?
In general, identity-theft protection companies provide little that you couldn’t do yourself for free, says Foley. Instead, for a monthly fee, these companies provide the convenience of doing the legwork for you. Keeping tabs on your identity yourself can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive process.
You should keep in mind that these companies aren’t end-all, be-all protection services. Stephens says that not all identity-theft protection services offer credit monitoring, for example–and when they do, they may pull credit reports from only one of the three major credit bureaus.
– via PCWorld
Are you currently using identity theft protection? Or do you take a more DIY approach?