Identity Theft Protection

April 28, 2008 7:35:22 PM PDT
The Central Valley ranks among the worst areas in the nation when it comes to identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission ranks Madera and Hanford among the top five cities with the worst ID theft rates. Visalia, Fresno, and Merced all rank in the top 50. More people are being proactive protecting themselves before they ever become a victim. But does it pay off to pay for a service to guard your identity?Experts on identity theft say every 4 seconds, somebody's identity gets stolen in the U.S. So it was just a matter of time before it was ABC30 intern Juanita Adame's turn. She told us, "I went to do my taxes and they told me that somebody had already used my social and they had filed a tax return under my name." That somebody wasn't even in California, but clear across the country in New York! Juanita: "You don't know how they obtained your information so it's really scary."

Clovis Police Sergeant Matt McFadden worked a recent case with over 100 victims, whose names, addresses, phone numbers, bank accounts, and social security numbers were all stolen. Many of the victims didn't even realize they were victims. McFadden said, "We see people that get so busy in their lives that they don't know. I had one victim who'd lost $3300 from their checking account and she had no clue."

Once victims do realize, they spend hours, even days, filing reports with the police and federal trade commission, and checking and re-checking credit reports and credit card statements. McFadden said, "The amount of time it takes people to clean this up will drive people crazy. I've seen people go through this and it's a lot for them to do." Now you can hire someone to do all that for you. Juanita thought it was a good idea, "I think something like that would help, at least help you sleep better at night." As identity theft crimes rise, new credit monitoring services are popping up -- with names like Identity Guard and True Credit. One company getting a lot of attention lately is Lifelock: CEO Todd Davis is so confident of his services he publishes his social security number. Davis explained, "This is my way of getting people to say, I gotta hear what this guy has to say, he's doing what everybody always tells us never to do."

For 10-dollars a month Lifelock promises to do these five things:

-Set fraud alerts with the credit bureaus on your behalf. And renew them every 90 days.

-Remove your name from pre-approved credit card and junk mail lists.

-Order your credit report from the major credit bureaus every year.

-If your wallet is lost or stolen, they'll help you cancel your affected accounts and replace your lost documents.

-And if your identity is stolen they'll do whatever it takes to repair the damage. Lifelocks says it will even spend up to a million dollars to do it.

But why pay for things you can do yourself for free? That's right. You can set fraud alerts and order your free credit report from your computer or phone without paying a penny. And getting your name off the junk mail lists costs only a dollar. Liflock's Davis said the biggest savings of their service is to your time, "It's gonna take on average between 177 and 300 hours to go clean up a problem after you've been the victim of true identity theft over a two year period. If you can fix it all, we don't want people to have to have that burden." Juanita signed up for a free trial, and said she finally feels some peace of mind.

Useful Links and Information

Federal Trade Commission ID Theft site:
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/

Stop junk mail:
https://www.dmachoice.org/MPS/proto1.php

Your free annual credit report:
www.annualcreditreport.com

Set a fraud alert:
How Do I Set Up a Fraud Alert?
Just contact each of the fraud departments of the credit bureaus and ask them to flag your credit file for fraud. You'll probably talk to an automated voice response system and it should only take a few minutes. You should consider using your cell phone as a contact number, so creditors can reach you more easily.
Credit Bureau Fraud Departments
TransUnion
Fraud Victim Assistance Department
Phone: 800-680-7289
Fax: 714-447-6034
P.O. Box 6790
Fullerton, CA 92634-6790

Equifax
Consumer Fraud Division
Phone: 800-525-6285 or: 404-885-8000
Fax: 770-375-2821
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian

Experian's National Consumer Assistance
Phone: 888-397-3742
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013

NOTE: The bureaus say they share fraud alert data once you contact one of them. However, this process doesn't always work so your best option is to contact each bureau individually to place an alert.
What Happens When I Activate a Fraud Alert?

  • Within 24 hours, an alert should be activated at the credit bureau. You should receive a confirmation in the mail a week or two after your call. If you don't receive this confirmation, call a place the alert again.
  • Your name will be removed from all pre-approved credit and insurance offers for two years. The fraud alert will remain in place for only 90 days. When the time runs out, you'll need to reactivate the alert.

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