Identity Theft Monitoring Services in USA - What You Need To Know
This Information Week article provides an excellent overview of Identity Theft monitoring services. As more than 225 million records have been breached since 2005, this article describes what these firms can and cannot do for their customers. A list of low-cost and free methods of protection are also provided:
ID Theft Monitoring Services: What You Need To Know
QUOTE: Take identity theft monitoring service providers. The pitch? Give us your Social Security number and notification of suspicious identity activity is only an e-mail alert or phone call away. These services, which typically cost $10 to $20 per month, offer to guard your identity by monitoring the three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), cell phone applications, government databases, and public information. Some also provide insurance (subject to underwriting, and not valid in every state) to help defray costs associated with recovering from identity theft cases.
Monitoring helps with identity theft by actively watching for fraud in your name. "The credit monitoring service notifies you at an earlier stage than you might otherwise know about the fraud, because otherwise it could be months before someone potentially finds out about it," says Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at PRC.
Monitoring, however, won't stop identity theft outright. "With credit monitoring, your report is still potentially seen by people who want to commit fraudulent acts against you," he says. "You'll get an early warning, but you haven't actually prevented them from using the report." At this point, it's also too late to freeze your credit, which prohibits anyone but current creditors from seeing a credit report. This means your personal data is already at large, and may have been used to gain a credit card, cell phone, or even mortgage in your name.
Below are some low-cost and free ways to better protection the use of your identity:
Five Mostly Free Alternatives to ID Theft Monitoring Services
SUMMARY OF FREE OR LOW-COST RECOMMENDATIONS
1. Watch your credit reports. Everyone is entitled to see a free credit report annually from each of the three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). To obtain yours, see:
2. Use credit freezes. A credit freeze (aka "security freeze") locks credit reports so only you or current creditors can see it. It can also be unlocked on a per-creditor basis, for example if you're going to buy a house, car, or get a new credit card. The cost is $10 per bureau to place a freeze and $10 to lift a freeze
3. Place fraud alerts. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers may place a fraud alert on their credit report for 90 days -- renewable indefinitely
4. Avoid debit cards. Attacks which steal card numbers via ID-swiping devices -- often installed at gas stations and grocery stores -- are on the rise.
5. Look to resolution services. Public agencies and non-profit organizations can help you clean up identity theft for free.