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identity theft

It has been a crazy two days for me, I was an MC at a CyberSecurity conference and have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  One of the questions that came up for our panel of experts related to the validity of identity theft “protection” services. While the question wasn’t really on topic it certainly caught my attention as a personal finance blogger.

I really think someone should come around and slap these people for being so bold as to put the word protection anywhere near their logo. What they should really call themselves is personal assistants with an insurance policy rider.  They do not protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft, they really just monitor your credit to determine if you may be a victim.

At the point these services take any sort of action someone has already assumed your identity and is working to take out lines of credit in your name. They have just identified a theft that has already occurred and are working to mitigate that risk. Any credit monitoring service will notify you of inquiries or changes to your credit reports, their service(s) notify them so they can notify you.

Looking through the list of other services included with one of the majorly popular identity theft protection services I actually break out laughing.

  • Wallet Protection – The service I am not naming, actually lists as a feature that they will personally handle getting your contents of your wallet reissued if you lose your wallet. All this really means is someone else will call and ask your bank to issue you a new ATM card, or call your credit card company to get a new CC.
  • Junk Mail/Card Offer Reduction – It is crazy easy to stop getting credit card offers in the mail. You can do this for free, in less than ten minutes on your own. There is absolutely no reason you should consider this a feature of anything.
  • Free Annual Credit Reports – Again, you are paying someone for something that is easy to do, and free. All you have to do is go to one website to pull your three free annual credit reports. Calling this a service is just a giant crock of ….. turkey butts.

But Kyle they say they are going to pay me $1,000,000.00 if my identity gets compromised. RTFP, they say they will pay up to $1,000,000.00 to help FIX the identity theft if was the result of a failure in their service. I don’t know how anything could be a failure in their service since they don’t prevent the fraud, they just detect it early on.

What you really end up getting is a dedicated “assistant” who takes your money and monitors your credit. If something changes they give you a buzz. They also help you do things that are dead simple, and free, for a fee. The only real value is in the money and you only get what it costs to fix the problem, not a real value to you.

Now I know I will get a couple of comments from people telling me the $120 a year or whatever is worth not having the hassle of calling around or dealing with credit bureaus on your own.  I say it is a waste of money. What do you think?

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I got a notice yesterday that my identity maybe, could have, probably, possibly been compromised. The scariest part of it is the information that was compromised is essentially my entire life, it was a background investigation file. I am fortunate to be close enough to the issue that I know the risk associated with what happened is extremely low if not non existent. Just to be on the safe side I have been provided with 1 year of complimentary credit monitoring.

The product they signed me up for is the Triple Advantage product from Experian. You probably recognize it from the catchy commercials under the FreeCreditReport.com brand. In honor of my obtaining this service I otherwise wouldn’t pay for I thought I would give a run down of what I get:

  • Daily credit report monitoring,
  • Email alerts when key changes are detected so you can act quickly,
  • Assistance with fraud resolution,
  • Unlimited access to your Experian Credit Report and PLUS Score, and
  • $50,000 in Identity Theft coverage.

You even get a “super cool” graphic,

plusscore

The first time I went in I was able to pull my reports from all three agencies, oddly enough the differences were pretty scary. Some things were on one report and not the other and none of them list the correct employer. But I was able to validate all of the information on my credit was mine, kind of sad to see but I own it.

The main part of the service is the monitoring, they provide monitoring of all three bureaus for changes to your credit, they monitor for:

  • New public information,
  • Credit inquiries,
  • New Accounts,
  • Potentially negative information, and
  • Address changes.

Credit monitoring is supposed to allow you to identify fraudulent accounts opened in your name. I think the only benefit to this program is the fraud assistance in the event something does happen. I wouldn’t really know where to start if someone opened an account in my name, this service will help me figure it out.

One thing that I didn’t like was their password policy. Anytime I put a password in and the system comes back and tells me I used invalid characters I want to slap the developer for being stupid. There is no good reason to not allow me to use special characters, and the complexity makes me happy and makes it harder to crack.

Conclusion

I just don’t see the value, it is like the those identity theft “insurance” agencies. While you won’t get the constant monitoring of your credit you can still get three credit reports per year if you space out your free annual credit report and pull one bureau every 4 months.

Really it comes down to your comfort level, or paranoia level as it may be. If you are down with it check out FreeCreditReport.com, I will use up my free twelve months and then leave it at that.

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