October 16, 2017

Why You Should Have Identity Theft Protection Long After the Equifax Breach

Recently, the national media alerted Americans that a breach at Equifax exposed millions of consumers to the risk of identity theft. As a result, most Americans signed up for…

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Identity theft is a constant threat in the modern world. Almost everyone makes at least some purchases online or with a card, in fact, only 10 percent of consumers report using cash for all purchases. Protecting yourself and your family will save you from the financial and emotional stress of identity theft.

Basic Identity Theft Questions

Since identity theft is a growing and changing crime, a lot of consumers have many questions about identity theft so they can be better prepared to protect themselves from having their identity stolen. Here are some frequently asked questions about identity theft with answers to help you stay informed.

Identity theft occurs whenever someone uses your personal information for themselves, usually for financial gain. Common ways that identity theft negatively affects the victim includes everything from unauthorized card usage and transfers to another person using their social security number to claim their identity for documentation purposes.

Unfortunately, there are numerous ways for identity stolen to be stolen. Stolen personal documents or mail, ill-managed digital devices, phishing scams, insecure online actions and even company-wide data breaches can leave you at risk. Once someone with malicious intentions has possession of your information, they can begin opening accounts in your name, making purchases with your cards or transferring funds out of your accounts.

Monitor your identity by frequently checking statements and your credit report. If you see any discrepancies, alert your financial institution immediately. Go the extra step by insuring yourself and family with an identity theft protection agency to keep your information safe, and monitor in real time for fraudulent activity.

Not nearly as much as you may think! According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average cost of identity theft insurance is anywhere from $25-$60 dollars per year. This is a small price to pay for peace of mind, especially considering the massive amount of money lost each year to identity theft. In 2014 alone, 12.7 million Americans fell victim to identity theft, costing them upwards of $16 billion in collective losses.

Insurance coverage for identity theft provides the victim with reimbursement of the burdens associated with the crime. Depending on the terms of the agreement, legal fees, stolen funds, lost wages and even notary costs could be covered. It is important to note that while some home owner’s insurance policies cover identity theft, it isn’t something that comes with all of them. If you are unsure if you have coverage or not, contact your insurance agency to find out.

It can be difficult to notice that your accounts are in jeopardy without constant monitoring. Thieves will oftentimes attempt to make small purchases that you may not notice before doing something on a larger scale. Other times, entire accounts could be emptied overnight. A few signs that your identity may have been stolen are:

  • Charges appearing on your bank and credit card statements that you did not make.
  • Collection notices for bills you do not owe.
  • Errors on your credit report (extra accounts, credit application attempts not made by you)
  • Missing mail or trash (sometimes, a thief will steal your garbage to look for intact documents with your information on them)

Watch for these signs and alert your bank or credit institution of any discrepancies right away.

In general, yes. Big name companies like LifeLock and Identity force are trusted and legitimate identity protection companies. They offer insurance, real-time monitoring and fraud alerts.

Yes, you can. Vigilance is key. Follow the tips listed below and always be on guard with your trusted information. Remember, identity theft is a crime. If you see any suspicious activities on your accounts, alert your financial institutions right away and report it to law enforcement.

Identity Protection Tips

Here are ways you can help recognize identity theft and protect yourself against having your identity stolen.

Ensure your identity is properly protected by following these tips:

  • Update passwords for online accounts frequently. Keep them different from each other and ensure they are not blatantly obvious (if your password is “Password1234!”, it is time for an update!)
  • Monitor bank and credit card statements for charges not made by you.
  • Shred mail with any personal information on it, and check your mailbox frequently so that new mail is not in a place where it can be easily taken.
  • Secure your digital devices with passwords and set them to lock out after several incorrect log-in attempts
  • Do not post personal information that can be used to hack financial sites (mother’s maiden name, first pet’s name and other common security questions.)
  • Consider adding identity theft insurance for a small monthly fee from a trusted organization to help monitor for fraudulent activity.

Adding your children to your identity theft insurance policy is a wise move. It may seem odd, as children do not have bills or credit history, but they need protection too. Children are often the victim of identity theft because no one is monitoring their Social Security number. While there normally isn’t a credit card or bank account to directly take money from, a child’s identity could be used to apply for loans, rent properties and even apply for government benefits. It takes someone a lot more time to notice suspicious activity under a child’s identity, and thieves will take advantage of that. So, get a jump start on protecting their identity. That way, there aren’t any discrepancies when they are ready to begin building their own financial futures.

Once you have decided to take the next step in protecting your identity, you will be faced with choosing a provider to do so. When deciding which company to trust, you should consider the following:

  • Customer Reviews: Research your top picks thoroughly. Read reviews left by current and past customers to get a clear view on other customer experiences.
  • Review the services offered. Some companies offer different services depending on the policy you choose. Make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck but also that you have the correct amount of coverage you will need.
  • Avoid companies that make promises that your identity will never be stolen. Even with all the precautions taken, there is still a risk. Instead, choose one who will be there for you in the event that theft takes place.
  • Review pricing. You should be able to obtain an accurate and detailed quote before signing any paperwork. That way, you know exactly what you are getting and exactly what you are paying for.

Identity Theft Protection Reviews

How can you tell if an identity theft protection service is legitimate? You must first understand how identity theft protection service are reviewed and how reviews them. Along with that, we've included some quick reviews of three different identity theft services below that we trust.

The Federal Trade Commission provides some guidelines as to how these types of businesses must function. However, they do not perform reviews on the companies themselves. Your best bet would be to check out consumer ratings, as well as reviews from Forbes and other trusted sources.

  • LifeLock: With competitive monitoring and comprehensive alert systems, LifeLock is also highly recommended. They also offer limited POA services to expedite recovery. You cannot go wrong with their high capped coverage and fantastic customer service. Here is our full Lifelock review.
  • IdentityForce: This company offers 24/7 support, as well as account and credit monitoring. They offer extensive monitoring for an incredible price. To top it off, they go the extra mile by assuming limited power of attorney to help recover your identity if it is ever stolen. Here is our comparison of IdentityForce against three other top identity theft protection service: Lifelock, Experian and TrustedID.
  • ID Watchdog: ID Watchdog is unique as it is the only provider that will help you recover your identity if it were stolen before you became a member. They offer triple bureau credit monitoring and insurance up to $1 million.