Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number,
without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.
Millions worldwide have their identities stolen each year. The crime takes many forms. Identity thieves may obtain a credit card, purchase a car or buy goods and services in your name. You may not find out about the theft until you are contacted by a debt collector.
Identity theft is a serious crime. It can easily cost hundreds of dollars and many days repairing damage to your good name and credit record. Some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities, or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.
How do thieves steal an identity?
Identity theft starts with the misuse of your personally identifying information such as your name and Social Security number, credit card numbers, or other financial account information. For identity thieves, this information is as good as gold. Skilled identity thieves may use a variety of methods to get hold of your information, including:
What can I do to help prevent becoming a victim of Identity Theft?
1. Educate Yourself
If you live in the US, the FTC has a website with valuable free materials that can help educate you to lessen the chances of becoming a victim. It is important to educate yourself and your family of the simple measures you can take to prevent ID theft. This can be as simple as using a shredder on all your bank statements, utility bills and credit card offers.
Identity Theft Protection Services
Identity Theft Protection Services are now available on the web. They offer similar services, and vary mainly with the amount of money they will guarantee to spend to recover your (money, credit rating, identity) if you are unfortunate to become a victim. They generally cost around ten bucks a month - so what do you get for your money?
What they do is the stuff that we should do ourselves: monitoring our credit, setting alerts on the credit reporting companies, removing your name from the financial junk mail lists (the cause of a lot of identity theft - please shred the credit card offers, before trashing them!) and identifying the places to call should fraud occur.
Now most of this could be done by yourself, with little or no cost, but the difference is these organizations know what to look for, they know all the places to notify and generally help you avoid the hassle.
But In Addition (and here's the clincher), they also provide a security blanket/insuarnce policy that pays out if, after all these good steps, something goes wrong. They'll cover the stolen money, pay for new identity documents, pay for lawyers .... do whatever it takes (up to their service guarantee limit) to restore your status quo. Worth $10/month? We think so!
The two biggest players, who are in direct competition are IdentityTruth and LifeLock). Lifelock have been around a little longer but IdentityTruth is aggressively taking market share by matching and adding services and making a $2 million service guarantee. Scamdex has championed these services in the past but it's nice to see a little competition and on a side-by-side comparison, IdentityTruth seems to provide the best value for money.
How trustworthy are they (Will they pay up)?
There is a little controversy about the owner of Lifelock which ScamBusters documented extremely well but Scamdex is still happy to recommend them, based on their financial backers and reputation to date. As can be seen from the table below, all are US-based and privately funded. You do have to exercize a certain amount of trust when you signup with them, to give them power of attorney to access financial records on your behalf - if that makes you uneasy then do some more research.
Signing up for some of these services from the Scamdex website even gets you a discount and helps Scamdex keep running :')
A comparison of a few of the organizations providing Identity Theft Protection services.
|Name||Details/Location/Backers||Service Guarantee||Monthly Cost|
|IdentityTruth||Privately held, VC- funded company headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts. Investors include Argonaut Ventures and Stata Venture Partners.||
|LifeLock||Industry Leader in ID Theft Protection. Based in Tempe, Arizona. Backed by Bessemer Venture Partners.||
|TrustedID||TrustedID's management team have experience in the consumer credit, Internet, and online security industries and consumer security. Privately owned, TrustedID is VC-funded by Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Opus Capital Ventures. Based in Northern California.||
|ElminiateIDTheft||EliminateIDTheft is owned and operated by Murdoch Capital, LLC. based in Chicago/Atlanta||