Identity theft is a staggering problem throughout the country, and thieves are becoming increasingly proficient at accessing personal information and data in order to steal from others. While the individual victims may not suffer direct financial losses, especially in the case of banks absorbing the fraudulent activity for their customers, individuals still may find difficulty obtaining credit and fixing credit reports that demonstrate a trail of fraudulent activity by those who stole the identity and opened accounts.
The Bureau of Justice Statistic's report released in December 2013 revealed that seven percent of the U.S. Population over 16 years old were victims of identity theft in 2012, or 16.6 million people. Losses totaled $24.7 billion dollars, almost $10 billion more than the combined losses of all other types of theft.
Steps to Prevent Identity Theft
1. Check your credit frequently
Everyone should regularly check there credit. While the big three credit bureaus provide one free report to consumers each year, if people believe they may have already been the victim of identity theft should check it more often. Seeing newly opened accounts that are not recognized should warrant immediate calls to the reporting companies, the credit bureaus and local law enforcement agencies.
2. Monitor credit scores
A sudden and unexpected drop in a credit score could indicate someone has been the victim of identity thieves. Credit scores are tied into multiple factors, including the number of new and open accounts, length of credit history and poor payment records, among other things. If thieves have opened a number of new accounts and racked up debt under someone else's name, the corresponding score will drop significantly.
3. Have name removed from mailing lists
Many identity thieves target people by getting their information from offers sent to them via mailing lists. It is a good idea to remove one's name from these lists in order to reduce the number of such offers sent. For offers received through the mail, people should shred unwanted ones before throwing them away.
4. Use a P.O. Box
As a related matter, purchasing a post office box can be a good idea, as they are locked, making mail and thus sensitive information less easily accessible to potential thieves. People should decide for themselves if they wish to have the hassle of driving to their local post office each day to collect their mail, as that is the main drawback.
5. Purchase a monthly plan for identity protection services
In addition to the other steps people can take, many people may consider purchasing an identity protection service plan. These are companies that provide credit monitoring and other services to their customers, and alert them when suspicious activity as occurred.Identity Theft Protection Services
Many people choose an additional layer of protection by purchasing a monthly plan through an Identity Protection service provider. There are multiple companies that have plans and services. Here is a review of three of the better-known ones.
Perhaps one of the best-known identity protection providers in the industry, Lifelock offers 24/7 availability so its customers can contact them as soon as their identity is stolen, rather than waiting for normal business hours. Additionally, LifeLock monitors file sharing sites to make certain their customers' data and information is not being shared in that manner in addition to monitoring credit card activity. The company provides current information on the most recent scams.
LifeLock has three plans, starting at $8.99 per month for their standard plan. Their premium service, the Ultimate plan, is a hefty $26.99 per month. It is more expensive than most services in the identity protection industry. LifeLock does not provide medical ID theft monitoring.
2. Identity Guard
Another big name, Identity Guard offers a broad range of plans from which customers can choose. There array includes ten choices ranging in price from $7.00 per month to over $30.00 per month. Identity Guard has a mobile app that sends alerts that have recently appeared on people's credit reports.
Additionally, Identity Guard provides anti-spyware software for home computers along with its plans. The software encrypts its customers' keystrokes so identity thieves are unable to use key-logging software to steal passwords. Like LifeLock, the company unfortunately does not monitor for medical ID theft.
3. Identity Force
Offering a 14-day free trial, potential customers are able to try this service before they commit. The plans range from $15.00 to $20.00, although they charge extra for credit monitoring. Identity Force monitors the internet for their customer's personal data, providing reports listing the information. If customers wish to remove it, Identity Force helps them to do that. Like Identity Guard, Identity Force provides anti-keylogging software to its customers. Additionally, the company includes anti-phishing software.
There are numerous other identity theft protection companies. They assist customers with identifying fraudulent activity when it occurs so immediate corrective actions can be taken. Protecting oneself from identity theft is becoming increasingly important today as more and more people fall victim.