Recently, I became the face of my own advertisements! Interestingly enough; the same week 3 of my clients came forth as victims of credit card or debit card fraud as well. So, if your identity, bank or credit information has been compromised; what are your options?
Obviously, you want to notify the institutions you bank with and have credit extended through. You also want to pull and monitor your credit often to ensure that no further attempts have been made to steal your identity – or merge some of your personal information with theirs. But what next?
There are several options ranging from free to $50+ a month; the most popular are credit monitoring services, identity theft protection services, credit fraud alerts and credit freezes.
Credit Monitoring services alerts you when someone attempts to open – or actually opens – a new line of credit in your name. However, it won't stop the potentially fraudulent account from being opened. The purpose is to notify you so that you can catch it early enough to avoid extensive damage. So to sum it up; credit monitoring does just want the name suggests – monitors, notifies; but does not prevent. From a credit repair perspective I love credit monitoring services because it monitors credit scores as well. Providing a client with the means to see their scores rising during the process is an awesome testament to what I do. Other than that; if you're looking to protect your identity you're going to need another form of protection. The most a credit monitoring service can do is offer to assist you to resolve any fraud by working with the 3 credit bureaus; which has been known to be inefficient for those having an identity theft crisis.
Identity Theft Protection – There are so many companies that provide this service and just as there are many companies – there are varying services offered as well. For the most part most identity theft protection companies include credit monitoring because that's where fraudulent usage information pops up first. In addition; most offer a ‘lost wallet' feature that will replace the contents of your wallet – credit cards, insurance cards, etc. Some other features you must have are Internet scans, change of address monitoring, surveillance alerts by email and/or text messaging, fraud resolution and at least a $1 Million dollars worth of identity theft insurances. There are some additional features available – for a fee – that can really be beneficial; credit inquiry alerts, data breach alerts, checking/savings/investment account alerts, child identity alerts, court records scanning – to name a few. Most identity theft packages start as low as $10 a month and can go as high as $50 depending on the additional protection features you as on. Some flaws that I've noticed is in the areas of utilities and tax fraud. If someone opens up an account with a cable, gas, or some other utility company you usually won't find out until you attempt to open up your own or payments have been missed and it pops up on your credit. Tax fraud is huge now; I haven't seen any that protect against that or medicare/medicaid, social security, and welfare fraud either.
Credit Fraud (Security) Alerts – This is a must if you feel your identity has been compromised. You simply call in to the credit bureaus and ask for a fraud alert to be placed on your account. It lasts for 90 days but can be placed back on by simply calling and asking. If you have documented proof of identity theft (i.e. police report) it can stay on for up to 7 years. This feature is offered for free through all 3 credit bureaus and requires the creditor to contact you for permission prior to opening up any new line of credit. If you place a security alert with 1 bureau they're supposed to notify the other 2; but I would just notify all 3. You might want to contact Innovis as well – the 4th lesser known credit bureau – just to be on the safe side.
Credit Freeze – A credit freeze gives you the option of locking “freezing” your access to anyone attempting to get credit in your name – even you. This means an identity thief can't open a new account in your name because the creditor/lender won't be able to check your credit file. When you're applying for credit; you'd need to call in to temporarily lift the freeze in order for the credit application to be processed. Most states allow this for free; others charge roughly $10 or so. You can check your state's guidelines here.
Opt-Out – Another option is topre-screening offers. Doing so removes your name, address and personal identity information from lists supplied by all 4 credit bureaus to credit card and insurance companies. You can do this by visiting www.optoutprescreen.com. You can opt out for up to 5 years online; or print out a mail in form to opt out indefinitely.
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I hope this helps! I personally use and am an affiliate of LifeLock Identity Theft Protection; I always suggest some form of Identity Theft Protection Services, along with a credit fraud alert/freeze and opting out of pre-screened offers for the best protection.