Identity Theft

Identity Theft2018-11-03T15:17:12-06:00

Do You Need Identity Theft Protection Services?

Pay for a service only if you’re at high risk,

don’t want to freeze your credit and won’t do monitoring chores yourself.

Identity theft protection companies pledge to act as guardians of your personal information, for a monthly or annual fee. Generally, they start with credit monitoring and layer on additional services so they can alert you to potential problems.

But alerts just flag you after the fact; they don’t prevent someone from stealing and misusing your financial data. That’s why NerdWallet advises proactively freezing your credit — it can prevent the opening of fraudulent accounts.

Consider paying for an identity theft protection service only if:

  • You’re already the victim of identity theft or at high risk of it; for instance, if your Social Security number has already been disclosed in a data breach or you’ve lost your Social Security card
  • You don’t want to freeze your credit reports
  • You know that you won’t go through the effort of actively monitoring your own credit

What identity theft protection companies do

In general, identity theft protection companies offer three main services: monitoring of your personal information, alerts of its use and resources for theft recovery. Many also offer tangential services, such as alerts about identity theft news and local sex offender registries.

Here’s an overview of the three primary services:

  • Monitoring: Identity theft protection firms monitor your credit files and alert you about activity, such as new accounts opened in your name and credit inquiries received, so you can react quickly.
  • Alerts: Notify you of instances where your personal information has been used, like if someone tries to open a bank account in your name. This can be helpful because many people don’t realize identity theft has happened until their credit is wrecked, their bank accounts depleted or they suddenly have a lot of new debt in their name.
  • Recovery: If someone hacks your information and uses it maliciously, these companies can help you recover lost money and help undo the damage to your credit. Most offer insurance policies of up to $1 million.

You may decide you want a full suite of safeguards and don’t mind paying for peace of mind. Or you may know you won’t do it yourself.

If so, compare prices and coverage details to find a plan that fits. Make sure the product you choose monitors credit data at all three credit bureaus; otherwise, you would be paying for incomplete protection.

Avoid credit monitoring products from the credit bureaus, which tend to have less robust coverage and may limit your right to sue them, even if they are the ones that exposed your financial data.


What is medical identity theft?2018-07-16T21:28:53-06:00

Medical identity theft is typically described as the fraudulent use of an individual’s personal information, Social Security number, or health insurance information to obtain medical services and treatment. The stolen information can be used to obtain medical goods and services or for health insurance coverage. It can also be used to commit fraud in the form of insurance reimbursement for treatments that are not provided.

What is the Dark Web?2018-07-16T21:27:19-06:00

Often confused with the “deep web” which is simply those parts of the internet not indexed by any search engine, the “dark web” includes those sites that take measures to hide their IP address to remain anonymous. The most notorious sites on the dark web are those with illegal activities such as the sale of stolen information (think credit/debit card data and personal identifiers that can be used to commit identity theft), drug sales, weapon sales and pornography.

Is identity theft the same thing as credit card fraud?2018-07-16T21:26:30-06:00

Identity theft is much more than credit card fraud. It’s the fraudulent use of personally identifiable information (PII) by a thief for the purpose of obtaining goods, services, and/or employment, committing a crime, gaining a benefit or hiding a real identity. It can include a consumer’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, driver’s license number, telephone number, passport information, birth certificate information, student transcript data and medical record information.

Who is affected by identity theft?2018-07-16T21:25:39-06:00

Identity theft is a crime that does not discriminate. If you have personally identifiable information—and everyone does—it can be stolen and misused regardless of age, credit usage, technology usage, or any other factor.

Is checking my credit report enough?2018-07-16T21:24:47-06:00

No. There are a lot of things that an identity thief can do that will not impact your credit report. If an identity thief has done something else with your identity such as opened a utility account or committed a crime, those types of activity would not be discoverable on a credit report or through free credit monitoring.

How do thieves get my information?2018-07-16T21:23:53-06:00

There are numerous ways that thieves can obtain personal identifiers. Some are by:

  • Stealing physical items such as mail, wallet/purse, smart phone, trash, etc.
  • Stealing digital data as when a business computer system is breached, your computer is tainted with malware or a skimmer is placed on a payment card reader.
  • Gathering personal information from social networks and data aggregator websites.
  • Phishing schemes – tricks to get you to reveal information.
What is Identity Theft?2018-07-16T21:22:45-06:00

Identity theft is the fraudulent use of personally identifiable information (PII) by a thief to obtain goods, services, and/or employment; commit a crime; gain a benefit, or prevent revealing the thief’s real identity.

PII includes but may not be limited to a consumer’s name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, driver’s license number, telephone number, passport information, birth certificate, student transcript, or medical record.

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