Guest Post by CreditRepair.com
Recently, high profile hacks have left millions of people exposed to identity theft
. Companies entrusted with personal customer data such as financial information, home addresses, and even social security numbers have all failed to protect that data, and most of it has ended up in the hands of shady characters.
The list below gives you some insight on the magnitude of the problem in this current digital age:
- Target, 2013: 110 million customers had their personal and financial information exposed when Target was hacked in December 2013.
- Yahoo, 2013-14: 3 billion user accounts were compromised when this massive search engine was hacked in 2013-14. Names, email addresses, security questions, and birth dates were all compromised.
- Equifax, 2017: When this mammoth credit bureau was hacked in 2017, personal information including Social Security Numbers, addresses, birth dates, and even drivers' license numbers were compromised.
- Home Depot, 2014: About 50 million customers had their credit card data compromised when this breach occurred back in 2014.
The list goes on and on with some of the biggest brand names such as eBay, Facebook, and even Uber joining the ranks. Client information, both personal and financial, was left exposed and vulnerable to unscrupulous hackers, some of whom have no qualms using that data for identity theft.
There is no denying that identity theft is a clear and present danger. In fact, an Identity Fraud Study
conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research in 2017 found that 16.7 million people in the United States alone suffered from some form of identity theft
in that year. There is no question that our personal and financial information is vulnerable and anyone can fall victim to identity theft.
What are the consequences of identity theft?
Having your identity stolen is not only an inconvenience, but also potentially devastating to your credit rating and health. Identity thieves are primarily after your credit cards. That, however, is not the only thing they are after. Once they get their hands on your credit card information, they can use that data as they please.
Often, people go on a shopping spree at your expense, and you may not be aware until you get your next credit card statement showing that you apparently bought a speedboat in Hawaii.
Credit repair companies estimate that people who have fallen victim to identity theft spend up to 600 hours struggling to restore their stolen identities. Then comes the long and harrowing process of trying to repair their damaged credit.
Here is a small list of the things an identity thief can do in your name:
- Apply for other credit cards
- Apply for jobs
- Open bank accounts
- File bogus tax returns
- Lease apartments
- Get a passport and even a driver’s license
- Apply for a mortgage
- Buy or finance a car
They will effectively become a digital version of you but with little regard for what happens to your good name in the long run. That is why you need to protect yourself against identity theft at all costs.
What can you do to stop identity theft?
Everyday activities such as sharing your phone numbers with acquaintances, writing down your home or email address, and even turning on your cellphone "location" setting can open the door to identity thieves.
Sophisticated individuals can use this information to access sensitive data such as your credit card numbers, medical records, bank accounts, and tax returns, all because you innocently and unwittingly shared your personal information with someone online.
- Do not list your phone numbers on social media platforms
- Do not open links from unsolicited or unfamiliar emails
- Do not use your credit card on websites that seem unsafe
However, no matter how careful you are, certain things outside of your control, such as the high-profile hacks we mentioned earlier, could happen. Even a trusted company could get hacked and expose you to identity theft.
It is worth going the extra mile to protect our identities. This often calls for "Identity Theft Monitoring," a proactive method to stay aware of any changes in your identity profile or credit. You could either do this yourself, or you could pay a company that specializes in identity theft monitoring to do it for you.
Should you get identity theft protection and monitoring?
The simple answer to this question is YES! The only question here is whether you should pay for identity theft monitoring.
Free identity theft monitoring options such as the IdentityTheft.gov
exist; however, in most cases, paid options tend to offer you much more protection.
The free identity theft monitoring option offered by the government allows you to report an identity breach through the website. They provide detailed guidelines on how you can recover your stolen identity.
While that kind of information and help can come in great handy during your time of need, it is not exactly the kind of proactive protection that you need. Most paid options come with the following features:
- Free credit reports
- Monitoring for unauthorized use of your Social Security Number
- Limited identity theft insurance
- Monthly credit scores
Some of the best-paid services even go as far as monitoring the dark web where most of these stolen identities will be sold or traded.
Pros and cons of paid identity theft monitoring services
Many of the best and most proactive identity theft monitoring companies charge a monthly fee, but is this service worth paying for?
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of paying for identity theft monitoring services:
- You are offered constant monitoring of your personal and financial information.
- You have options (packages) to choose from. Some even cover the entire family.
- Some companies offer you reimbursement for whatever you lose if your identity is stolen while under their care.
- Many have identity theft insurance that is limited to $1 million. Strict terms and conditions always apply.
- You will be offered assistance navigating the complicated terrain that comes with trying to regain your stolen identity.
- Most, if not all, companies offer you a money-back guarantee in case you are not satisfied with the services offered.
- You will always have a professional on call when you need answers about your identity theft concerns.
The best advantage is peace of mind. You will sleep easy knowing that professionals are working to ensure your identity is protected. If it does happen, they will do everything in their power to minimize the damage caused as well as help you regain your identity.
- You will incur a recurring cost. Most companies charge anywhere from $10-$30 per month, or even more depending on the package you choose.
- There are many terms and conditions involved. Read the fine print very carefully to ensure that you are not being sold hot air
- You are not exactly protected from everything or every form of identity theft
What you need to know is that identity theft monitoring services on their own cannot shield you from everything. No matter how comprehensive the coverage you choose, some instances call for your own vigilance.
What they can do, however, is give you a head start when it comes to being aware of suspicious activity. These alerts go a long way in protecting your identity.
Although there are no guarantees, getting identity theft protection and monitoring is one way to be vigilant about your identity — a rather comprehensive and sophisticated way.