Identity theft is a crime that can affect people of all types, no matter your social standing. You can easily fall victim to the horrors of having your identity stole and as a result your credit ruined. Daily, laptop computers filled with confidential employee information are stolen. Data breaches and criminal access occur at government agencies, hospitals, retailers, payment processors, and other types of companies. Ironically, it has happened to an Equifax credit bureau employee; their laptop filled with employee records was stolen from their home. Therefore, many enterprises such as credit-card companies that are compromised by data break-ins, will generally offer free credit-monitoring. Are there limitations to the protection you receive from these free offers? Unfortunately, there truly is no ‘free lunch’ because any credit-monitoring will only send their report days after the criminal activity has transpired. There are other major deficiencies in relying on any one credit monitoring service for battling identity theft. Suspect patterns of behavior that show up across different organizations would not necessarily appear if the activity “within only one organization was being monitored.”
If you are an ID theft victim with a stolen Social Security number that was used in concert with other data that does not belong to you, such as a different address or date of birth, you will not be alerted. Gartner Research’s July 2006 report titled “Limit ID Fraud: Use Identity Scoring, Not Credit Monitoring” indicates that both identity-scoring and monitoring was explicitly designed to look for identity-theft-related fraud. The study also revealed that a combination of prevention, identity scoring, and monitoring is required and is more effective than credit-report or credit-card monitoring services to watch for potentially fraudulent activity. According to the U.S. PIRG, the federation of state public-interest research groups, 79% of credit reports contain some type of error. Therefore, with so many errors, any credit-report monitoring service will not be able to identify criminal activity or individual records linked by stolen data from common honest errors. The good news for consumers is that Identity-scoring services take into account far more attributes that clearly define the individual and their behavior over a significant period of time that tap into a broad set of consumer data that judge a person’s authenticity including government and public records, corporate data, credit records, and predicted behavior patterns based on empirical data. Subsequently, consumers can get a more accurate and comprehensive picture of credit-related activity from Identity-scoring systems. Conclusion: Prevention is the most important tactic.
When you are proactive about protecting yourself, your chances of being the next identity-theft victim are reduced dramatically. Learn tips from the FTC’s website. They offer information on how to “Defend, Deter, Detect” and how to report fraud: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also offers an ID Theft Affidavit form that should be filled out if companies don’t have their own dispute forms. Also, you can file a complaint using their online complaint form; or call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. End Note: It is important to treat one’s financial and personal information with care and to be vigilant about checking statements and accounts. In brief: If you are denied credit for no valid reason or receive new credit cards in the mail that you did not request, you may be an identity-theft victim. – First, go to MyIDScore.com – a free identity-scoring service provided for consumers to investigate. – Then, if you suspect ID theft, call each of the credit-card-reporting agencies and have them place a fraud alert on your file.
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/defend.html#Whatisafraudalert – Next, call each company directly to dispute fraudulent charge(s). Make a note of the name of the contact person you speak with and the date. Then send a signed affidavit relating the telephone report – listing who you reported it to and the date along with details of the disputed charge(s). ALWAYS send your affidavit by signed-certified-receipt mail. – Keep copies for your records of all communications and returned-receipts of certified mail. Once ID theft occurs, the problems to restore your accounts can seem insurmountable and the time involved can take months. So, nip this potential issue in the bud by learning all you can about how to protect yourself. Atti Thiry is a credit repair expert, consumer advocate, and national speaker. He is the CEO of Elite Credit Care, Attila also teaches other professionals; for example, attorneys, mortgage brokers, realtors and financial planners on how to boost their clients credit scores and credit worth.