It’s time again to deviate a bit from the de facto stock market speak du jour. I want to discuss Identity Theft. I know, it won’t happen to you. We all tend to think that way. BUT it can and COULD happen even to you. Identity theft is something I’ve been increasingly concerned about ever since I noticed multiple charges on my credit card from companies I have never done business with. This came just a few weeks after my brother had checks stolen from his mailbox. How the thieves were able to retrieve my credit card info I will probaby never know, but it’s unnerving to say the least. What other info do they have? I was forced to close the account which was a minor headache. Identity theft is no minor headache. It can ruin lives, but the good news is that the growing problem (now 10 million identity theft victims a year!) has created some solutions.
Government is starting to step in and force the credit bureaus to offer a credit freeze. According this article "Consumers can have a sigh of relief as of November 1st, 2007. All three credit bureaus gave into security freeze options for all states, including the 11 states without laws, before they all forced it by mandatory laws.
Now that the security freeze is available to everyone, here is how it works: Once a security freeze is desired a consumer needs to write a letter to each credit bureau and pay a fee of about $10 for each bureau. Once the freeze is in place, it prevents the big three credit bureaus from releasing information without the consent of the consumer.
A consumer can allow access to their credit report to either a specific business or organization, or they can choose a specific amount of time they want their credit report to be available without authorization. When a consumer freezes their credit report they are given a unique PIN that is used to lift the security freeze. Lifting a security freeze is also referred to as thawing your credit report."
Writing and paying each credit bureau for the freeze seems like a hassle to me.
Perhaps the better solution is going with a company like LifeLock which automates the process of protecting your identity, not to mention putting a halt to all that junk mail. WallStrip founder Howard Lindzon is an investor and I first read about this service at his blog. You can use the discount code "wallstrip" for a small discount. I personally have signed up and the $100 bucks a year is a small price to pay knowing I’ll never have to worry about identity theft again.
The LifeLock service does the following:
1. Insures you up to 1 million dollars in case of identity theft
2. Sets fraud alerts so that you are contacted when new lines of credit are requested
3. Provides credit reports
4. Removes your name from junk mail lists (worth the cost right there!) in addition to pre-approved credit card offers
5. 24 hour support
There are a couple other companies out there offering similar services but LifeLock appears to the best of the bunch. I highly recommend checking them out and protecting your identity.