» Is ID Theft Monitoring Worth the Costs?
Advertising campaigns warn your life will be ruined if you don’t sign up for a service to protect you from identity theft. Do these services really work? Are they worth the money? This article will go over the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
How big is the problem?
The Gartner Group reports that approximately 15 million Americans become victims of identity theft. Are you at risk? Basically anyone with a social security card can suffer from identity theft. Identity theft happens when someone gets a hold of your personal information such as your social security number, credit card information, or birth date and uses this information to open credit card accounts, bank accounts, or obtain loans with your name. If this happens you can be left holding the bag for huge credit card debts, and bank charges. Your good credit could also be history. So if everyone is at risk how do you protect yourself?
Proactive measures to do yourself
The number one plan is to protect yourself by keeping close guard over your personal information. This includes shredding documents, making sure you change passwords on your computer and with your bank card. Use passwords that are secure with both numbers and upper and lower case letters. Don’t use the the same password for all your accounts. Shred all information on receipts etc. that contain personal data before throwing anything out. Carefully look at credit card and bank statements for irregularities. Make sure your bank and credit card companies offer reimbursements for stolen credit or bank cards. Take the time to monitor your credit history yourself.
All the credit card bureaus offer one free report a year – take advantage of this service. A good site to order your free credit report is at http://www.annualcreditreport.com. If you think that your credit may have been compromised then you can set up a fraud alert with the consumer credit reporting agencies. A credit fraud alert lets you know when a credit card company is issuing a credit card in your name. An even more stringent option is to freeze your credit which makes it impossible for credit card companies to issue you or anyone else using your name credit cards or loans. It also prevents access to your credit report by anyone. There is a fee for instituting a credit freeze unless you can prove you are a victim of identity theft.
Sign up for an identity theft program
If you decide you want to invest in a identity theft system there are a variety of options. Before signing up for a program be sure you read the fine print. Many programs only monitor for identity theft then let you know if there is a problem. If it turns out your identity has been compromised then it is up to you to figure out how to clear your name and get your identity back. These kinds of programs are commonly referred to as credit monitoring services. Credit monitoring is available from companies such as major credit bureaus. While credit monitoring can be helpful, look for companies that also offer identity theft insurance or reimbursement for identity theft fraud expenses. Check out what the reimbursement or theft insurance really covers. Does it only cover nominal fees incurred in attempting to get your identity back such as certified mail or telephone calls? Good theft insurance should cover lost wages, and legal fees. Remember that there is not a identity theft program out there that can give you a 100% guarantee that you will not have your identity stolen. See also ID Theft & Credit Monitoring.