Breaches of information seem to be growing and becoming more sophisticated each year. From a recent suspected supermarket chain’s breach to the confirmed Target™ breach that affected 35% of the American population in late 2013, we don’t yet know what the ramifications of just these and the Heartbleed online security bug will be.
The fact is, ignoring the possibility of having one’s identity compromised is not an option. Moreover, implementing a plan to address identity-theft before, during, and after it occurs is a must.
Most identity-theft services focus solely on credit monitoring and promote self-help options, but it’s important to consider a comprehensive solution that shifts the responsibility of identity-theft investigation and resolution to experts.
And it’s not just about credit cards!
Government documents/benefits fraud (46%) was the most common form of reported identity-theft, followed by credit card fraud (13%), phone or utilities fraud (10%), and bank fraud (6%). Other significant categories of identity theft reported by victims were employment-related fraud (5%) and loan fraud (2%). *
So, please, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by just having protection on your bankcards or freezing your credit limits. That coverage won’t help when you are arrested for a crime you did not commit, and it won’t address your tax liability when someone uses your identity to gain employment, or when your insurance is cancelled, your driver’s license suspended, or strange bills arrive from a hospital from which you’ve never had services! You need legal and identity-theft experts at your fingertips.
Some reimbursement policies may be good to have in addition to, but not in place of, comprehensive restoration services. Though reimbursement policies may help with the some costs or losses associated with identity-theft, you should be sure to understand fully their limits. For example, they may require proof the crime was identity-theft by law, and usually some policies do not provide restoration of your identity. An add-on to a homeowner’s policy may be cancelable and could even cause a claim that increases the cost of your homeowner’s policy.
Don’t assume full coverage. Ask what a policy actually includes. If private investigators and legal help are out of pocket, or if there is a claim process for reimbursement on lost work hours to address identity-theft-related issues, ask yourself if the cost of a DIY program is viable? Will you be able to afford it?
A large number of companies present flashy marketing slogans and “guarantees” regarding their “identity-theft protection plans,” so be sure to get the facts. Some of these advertisements seem to claim to actually be able to prevent identity-theft. Don’t be quick to believe that it’s that easy. The unfortunate reality is that preventing identity-theft is very difficult, if not impossible!
What should you expect from a comprehensive identity-theft protection service? The policy should provide:
- Up-to-date information for safeguarding identities.
- Real, active support when a problem does occur.
- 24/7 credit monitoring as a standard part of the overall service.
- One-on-one access to qualified individuals through limited power of attorney that can help reduce the time the victim (you) spends on and the time to recover from identity theft.
- Legal access including emergency 24/7-access.
- Nationwide coverage, not just service limited to the victim’s (you, again!) home state or local geographic area.
The best identity-theft service providers will include and be experienced in:
- Confirming identity-theft and determining its nature and scope;
- Providing investigation of known, unknown, and potentially complicated fraudulent activity; and
- Contacting, following up, and addressing escalating issues with affected agencies and institutions, including creditors and credit repositories.
A comprehensive plan that offers both legal services and identity-theft investigation can cost from $ 30.00 to $ 60.00 per month and should include your spouse and any minor children in your household. Identity-theft-only services may range from $ 12.00 to $ 30.00 per month. But the bigger question is: How much will it cost to not have experts on your side and accessible before, during, and after an identity theft?
Do your homework before you choose an identity-theft service provider. Your future financial security and sanity depend on making the right choice!
* [Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, 2013]