Product Review: Are identity theft monitoring services worth it?
Yes, identity theft services can be well worth the investment, especially if you ever become a victim. Imagine that your Social Security number is part of a national breach like Anthem or the Office of Personnel Management. Or it’s stolen out of your tax preparer’s office, scavenged from your trash or skimmed from your iPad as you surf on a free Wi-Fi connection. In most cases, you have no idea that your digital identity has fallen into unethical hands, usually those of organized crime, who replicate and resell it in seconds.
Identity theft prevention is not a one-time solution. You must accumulate layers of privacy and security over time. The following identity theft prevention tips are among those I cover in one of my keynote speeches.
Every dollar counts, now more than ever, as the government searches for ways to wisely spend our money. It’s dismaying to learn that an audit report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found that the impact of identity theft on tax administration is significantly greater than the amount the IRS detects and prevents. Even worse, the “IRS uses little of the data from identity theft cases…to detect and prevent future tax refund fraud” according to Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.
The IRS is detecting far fewer fake tax returns than are actually falsely filed. 938,700 were detected in 2011. On the other hand, TIGTA identified 1.5M additional undetected tax returns in 2011 with potentially fraudulent tax refunds totaling in excess of $5.2B.
The study predicted that the IRS stands to lose $21B in revenue over the next 5 years with new fraud controls, or $26B without the new controls.
Have you experienced that clutch of fear that makes your heart skip a beat when you all of a sudden discover your wallet is missing? Your first reaction might be a cuss word for carrying all that critical information in the first place. Your second is to try to slow your mind as it frantically scans for solutions. Knowing what to do if you lose vital information and knowing your rights if you become a victim of identity theft will save you time, money and a ton of stress.
A consumer survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission reveals, in a new report, that many identity theft victims do not understand their rights. Following is a summary of what you should know if you become the unfortunate victim of identity theft.
Freezing your credit is the number one way to protect against financial identity theft. If everyone in the country applied for a Credit Freeze, identity thieves would quickly be out of business. At least, a major part of their business. Take 30 minutes and lower your chances of identity theft drastically (see the online Freeze links at the bottom of this post).
To go directly to placing a security freeze on your 3 bureau accounts, page down to the bottom section.
Every time you establish new credit (e.g., open up a new credit card, store account or bank account, finance a car or home loan, etc.), an entry is created in your credit file which is maintained by companies like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (listed below). The trouble is, with your name, address and social security number, an identity thief can pretend to be you and can establish credit (i.e., spend your net worth) in your name.
Identity thieves are increasingly targeting children, in some cases stealing their identities even before they are born.
A TODAY Show/NBC investigation into child identity theft revealed that criminals routinely use a child’s untouched credit record to their advantage and get away with it for years or decades. This story shows how in more and more cases Social Security numbers are being stolen even before the child has been born.
Why is it so easy? Because Social Security numbers are not assigned randomly, meaning that they can predicted with a certain amount of accuracy. A SSN is simply a code that includes the location and date of where and when a baby was born. Thieves have figured out a system to predict these numbers and used them before they have been issued. The federal government maintains that in the next month or so, these numbers will be randomized and harder to predict and therefore, steal.
Whether you like it or not, your information is available publicly to everyone through online directories. Businesses and advertisers have the ability to easily find this information and then market their products to you. This means that you have never actually “opted-in” to receive these ads. Fortunately, there are ways for you to “opt-out” of widespread information sharing (see the list of more than 120 ways below).
The Top 4 Opt-Out Opportunities:
www.OptOutPreScreen.com. Remove yourself from the marketing lists sold by the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. There is not cost for this list.
www.DMAchoice.org. This puts you on a Do Not Mail list for the Direct Marketing Association. The cost is $1, but it is well worth the instant trip down in your mail.
Identity theft prevention has become more important than ever before. All over the country, budget cuts have forced many law enforcement agencies to lay-off a large number of employees. The Oakland Police Station cut 80 officers from their force of 687 last month alone. Such severe cuts leave the department ill-equipped to respond to calls involving burglary, vandalism and especially identity theft.
Non-violent crimes have sunk to the bottom of police stations agenda. With no funds to investigate these crimes and catch the criminals, identity theft rates will continue to rise. Criminals will see this as an opportunity to prey on victims and steal identity for financial gain without any consequences.