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Identity Theft Services: Is ID Theft Monitoring Worth the $$$?

Product Review: Are identity theft monitoring services worth it?

Yes, identity theft services can be well worth the investment, especially if you ever become a victim. Imagine that your Social Security number is part of a national breach like Anthem or the Office of Personnel Management. Or it’s stolen out of your tax preparer’s office, scavenged from your trash or skimmed from your iPad as you surf on a free Wi-Fi connection. In most cases, you have no idea that your digital identity has fallen into unethical hands, usually those of organized crime, who replicate and resell it in seconds.

Next, your identity is used by an undocumented worker to get a job, and now you owe taxes on their earnings. A second user applies for credit in your name and skips town, leaving behind your decimated credit score. Another uses your SSN to drain your health insurance benefits and append the wrong blood type to your medical file. You have no idea that any of this is taking place behind the scenes until the day that the tax bill arrives in the mail, you are denied medical coverage and a collection agency shows up at your door. Because the discovery process doesn’t happen for an average of 18 months after the initial theft, your losses are substantial and your innocence difficult to prove. Obviously, I’ve combined many forms of ID theft here into a single scenario, but everyone of them is real and common.

If I told you that there are ways to automatically detect the exposure of  your SSN online (allowing you to request its removal), to prevent the trafficking of your ID on the dark side of the web and to be notified about even the smallest use of your credit profile by criminals, would you be interested?

Every one of these preventative measures is possible, and detecting the abuse of your identity is made much more convenient and less time consuming by identity theft services that monitor your ID online. Are they a perfect solution? There is no such thing as a perfect solution, and if someone says there is, they are working too hard to sell you something. The key to protecting your identity is to layer on many forms of prevention and detection, thus persuading the criminal to move on to another target. One key layer is provided by identity monitoring services.

Monitoring your identity is much like installing a burglar alarm to protect your home – it’s a no-brainer if you are willing to invest a little to attain much more peace of mind. The most common question I get asked after my speaking engagements is which service I use personally. I have to say, despite their clever marketing, I am not a huge fan of the most popular providers, because they promise too much and deliver fewer tools than some of the better options. The identity theft services provided by the credit card companies are even more limited and less effective. I recommend doing your homework and comparing the different features of the various services.

Here are some features you’ll want your identity theft service to include:

  1. Convenience: The identity theft monitoring service should email you any time a red flag appears (changes to your credit, mailing address, bank accounts, loans, etc.) , so that you don’t have to do any extra work to keep track of your identity.
  2. Depth of Monitoring: Utilize a company that monitors your credit report at all three credit reporting bureaus (a tri-bureau report), which is vital, because the bureaus often don’t share information as much as they claim to share.
  3. Cyber-Agent Scanning: If you are worried about your private information being circulated in criminal chat rooms, carding sites, newsgroups and other digital venues where cyber criminals buy, sell and trade your data, make sure your product scans known rogue sites and alerts you to problems.
  4. Breadth of Reporting: Your identity monitoring service should also scan non-credit loan applications in case someone is using your identity to run a pay-day loan scheme.
  5. Public Document Surveillance: Your service should monitor your public records on the internet (court documents, legal agency filings) in case your information is published for any reason by the government or your Social Security number is found in public records.
  6. Restoration Services: It is vital that the identity theft monitoring service you choose provides restoration and repair if your identity is stolen. In fact, this is probably the most useful and effective part of the monitoring services, as it makes it much easier to recover from ID theft if you are a victim.
  7. Dashboard Access: I like the services that provide one easy to monitor dashboard across all aspects of your identity – that way, if something is a threat, you see it with a big red warning sign.

If a company promises you identity theft services or credit monitoring for free, run the other direction. Like anything else, identity theft services are an investment, and paying nothing means you are getting nothing other than having your name and valuable information sold to other marketers. Remember, you are protecting a digital asset (your identity) that is worth more than all of your bank accounts, mortgages, investments and net worth combined. Spending a little to save a lot is like immunizing yourself against the disease of identity theft before it strikes.

John Sileo is an an award-winning author and keynote speaker on identity theft, internet privacy, fraud training & technology defense. John specializes in making security entertaining, so that it works. John is CEO of The Sileo Group, whose clients include the Pentagon, Visa, Homeland Security & Pfizer. John’s body of work includes appearances on 60 Minutes, Rachael Ray, Anderson Cooper & Fox Business. Contact him directly on 800.258.8076.

Sileo Identity Theft Prevention & Online Privacy Checklist

CheckmarkIdentity theft prevention is not a one-time solution. You must accumulate layers of privacy and security over time. The following identity theft prevention tips are among those I cover in one of my keynote speeches.

  1. Review your Free Credit Report 3X per year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  2. Opt-Out of financial junk mail.
  3. Stop Marketing Phone Calls at www.DoNotCall.gov.
  4. Freeze Your Credit. State-by-state instructions at www.Sileo.com/2.
  5. If you don’t want to use a credit freeze, place Fraud Alerts on your 3 credit files.
  6. Use sophisticated Identity Monitoring software to detect theft before it’s disastrous.
  7. Stop Sharing Identity (SSN, address, phone, credit card #s) unless necessary.
  8. Protect Your Wallet or Purse. Watch this video.
  9. Protect Your Computer and Online Identity. Privacy Means Profit
  10. Protect your Laptop. Visit www.Sileo.com/laptop-anti-theft for details.
  11. Bank Online: online bank statements, account alerts and bill-pay.
  12. Buy a Shredder (or 2) & shred everything with identity you don’t need.
  13. Minimize Social Networking Exposure. Privacy Means Profit
  14. Lock down your Social Networking Profiles www.Sileo.com/facebook-safety.
  15. Realize that approximately 50% of the worst ID theft crimes are committed by Acquaintances & Friends.
  16. Set up two-factor authentication with your bank.
  17. Stop Clicking on Links in emails and social networking posts that you don’t recognize as legitimate.
  18. Avoid emails/faxes/letters/calls/people promising Something for Nothing.
  19. Know that protecting Other People’s Privacy is part of your responsibility.
  20. For more tools, purchase a copy of John’s Latest Book on Information Survival, Privacy Means Profit.
  21. Subscribe to The Sileo Report eNewsletter and follow John’s Blog.
  22. Consider bringing John Sileo to speak to your organization on identity theft, cyber crime, social engineering, social media exposure and other topics of information exposure.

Identity Thieves Score Billions from the IRS and Taxpayers

Every dollar counts, now more than ever, as the government searches for ways to wisely spend our money. It’s dismaying to learn that an audit report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found that the impact of identity theft on tax administration is significantly greater than the amount the IRS detects and prevents. Even worse, the “IRS uses little of the data from identity theft cases…to detect and prevent future tax refund fraud” according to Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.

  • The IRS is detecting far fewer fake tax returns than are actually falsely filed. 938,700 were detected in 2011. On the other hand, TIGTA identified 1.5M additional undetected tax returns in 2011 with potentially fraudulent tax refunds totaling in excess of $5.2B.
  • The study predicted that the IRS stands to lose $21B in revenue over the next 5 years with new fraud controls, or $26B without the new controls.
  • Key victims include the deceased, children, or someone who would not normally file a return such as lower income individuals that are not legally required to file.
  • A Postal Inspector in Florida uncovered a tax refund scheme whereby refunds were going into debit-card accounts via thieves using the social security numbers (SSN) of dead people. Direct deposit is preferred as it doesn’t require a mailing address, photo ID, name or a trip to the bank.
  • The IRS allows multiple direct deposits to the same bank account. A key finding in the report showed hundreds of tax returns were filed from a single address. In one case, 2,137 returns resulted in $3.3M in refunds to a home in Lansing, Michigan, and 518 returns resulted in $1.8M in refunds to a home in Tampa, Florida.
  • The IRS lacks access to 3rd party information to verify returns and root out fraud. It is issuing refunds in January before it can verify data from employers and financial institutions in March. This gap provides a huge window of opportunity for thieves.
  • The IRS is not gathering enough information to prevent fraud; i.e., how the return is filed, income information on the W-2, the amount of the refund and where the refund is sent.
  • New screening filters that can identify false tax returns before they are processed have the potential to diminish the number of fraud cases as well as other ongoing anti-fraud procedures employed by the IRS. It is placing a unique identity theft indicator on the accounts of the deceased. As of March, 2012, 164,000 accounts were locked, possibly preventing $1.8M in fraud.

Charles Boustany, the US House of Representatives Oversight Subcommitte Chairman, who sent a letter to the IRS demanding a full accounting for the agency’s continued inability to stop tax fraud related to identity theft, declared that “this report raises serious questions regarding the IRS’s ability to detect tax fraud…”. The lost federal money is extremely troubling but there’s another loss to consider – the potential to erode taxpayer confidence in our system of tax administration.


John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.

Identity Theft – Know Your Rights

Have you experienced that clutch of fear that makes your heart skip a beat when you all of a sudden discover your wallet is missing? Your first reaction might be a cuss word for carrying all that critical information in the first place. Your second is to try to slow your mind as it frantically scans for solutions. Knowing what to do if you lose vital information and knowing your rights if you become a victim of identity theft will save you time, money and a ton of stress.

A consumer survey conducted by the Federal Trade Commission reveals, in a new report, that many identity theft victims do not understand their rights. Following is a summary of what you should know if you become the unfortunate victim of identity theft.

  • Fraud Alert. Placing a fraud alert on your credit file with the three credit bureaus (CRA’s) is the first step and may prevent identity theft if done timely. It’s important to file with each of the bureaus, TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Although each of the bureaus claims it will notify the other two, it may take weeks or longer and you have no time to lose.Once a fraud alert is placed on your account, you should be contacted by phone by any lenders to confirm that you truly do want to open a new account. Any consumer who has a good faith suspicion that they have been, or are about to become, a victim of identity theft may place a fraud alert on their credit files. Such alerts notify potential creditors that consumers may have been a victim of fraud and that special care should be taken to verify the consumers’ identity before extending new or additional credit. It’s important to follow up after your request and verify with each CRA that it has, in fact, placed a fraud alert on your file. See the final bullet point about freezing your credit for additional protection.
  • Free Credit Report. When a consumer places a fraud alert, she has a right to request a free credit report from each of the CRA’s. These credit reports are separate from, and in addition to, the annual free credit report that all consumers are entitled to receive from the three nationwide CRA’s via annualcreditreport.com. According to the FTC survey, only half of consumers know they are entitled to this additional, free report. Again, follow up with the CRA’s if the credit reports do not arrive timely.
  • Disputing the Accuracy of Information on Credit Reports. Consumers have the right to dispute the accuracy of information on their credit report either with the creditor that provided the information to the CRAs or with the CRAs themselves. The creditor or CRA is then required to perform a reasonable investigation to determine whether the contested information is accurate. If the information is inaccurate, the report must be corrected.As Martha White reported in Time Moneyland, credit bureaus don’t always make it easy to dispute incorrect information. While almost three-quarters of respondents were able to get disputes resolved in either one or two contacts, 24% had to contact the bureau three to five times and another 4% had to initiate six or more contacts to get their dispute resolved.
  • Blocking the Release of Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports
    Generally, if a consumer identifies information on his or her credit report as being the result of identity theft and provides a copy of the police report to the CRAs, the FTC requires the CRA to block the reporting of that information.
  • Credit Freeze. A fraud alert is different than a credit freeze, which completely freezes your credit to all activity for a period of time.  To learn more about freezing your credit and how to reach the three credit bureaus, go to  https://192.241.219.145/2/.

FTC data shows that, for more than a decade, the top category of complaints it handles is identity theft. It’s essential that you know your rights and, without fail, follow up and, perhaps most importantly, be persistent.

John Sileo is an award-winning author and international speaker on the dark art of deception (identity theft, data privacy, social media manipulation) and its polar opposite, the powerful use of trust, to achieve success. He is CEO of The Sileo Group, which advises teams on how to multiply performance by building a culture of deep trust. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer, the FDIC, and Homeland Security. Sample his Keynote Presentation (he shares how he lost $300,000, 2 years and his business to data breach) or watch him on Anderson Cooper, 60 Minutes or Fox Business. 1.800.258.8076.

Credit Freeze Stops Financial Identity Theft

credit-freezeFreezing your credit is the number one way to protect against financial identity theft. If everyone in the country applied for a Credit Freeze, identity thieves would quickly be out of business. At least, a major part of their business. Take 30 minutes and lower your chances of identity theft drastically (see the online Freeze links at the bottom of this post).

To go directly to placing a security freeze on your 3 bureau accounts, page down to the bottom section.

Every time you establish new credit (e.g., open up a new credit card, store account or bank account, finance a car or home loan, etc.), an entry is created in your credit file which is maintained by companies like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (listed below). The trouble is, with your name, address and social security number, an identity thief can pretend to be you and can establish credit (i.e., spend your net worth) in your name.

A credit freeze is simply an agreement you make with the three main credit reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion – listed below) that they won’t allow new accounts (credit card, banking, brokerage, loans, rental agreements, etc.) to be attached to your name/social security number unless you contact the credit bureau, give them a password and allow them to unfreeze or thaw your account for a short period of time. Yes, freezing your credit takes a bit of time (maybe an hour of work), can be a little inconvenient when you want to set up a new account (that said, let’s face it, businesses want to make it as easy as possible to unfreeze your credit because they benefit when you set up new accounts and spend more money) and it can cost a few dollars (generally about $10 to unfreeze, a small price compared to the recovery costs of identity theft). And it is worth it! It’s like putting locks on your doors.

A credit freeze doesn’t affect your existing credit – it doesn’t freeze credit cards, bank accounts or loans you already have. It only freezes access to your account unless someone has a password to get in. It’s like having a PIN number on your ATM card. It also doesn’t lower (or raise) your credit score.

Since all states don’t allow you, by law, to freeze your credit, the three credit reporting bureaus have begun to offer credit freezes on a national basis. This is a major step forward in the prevention of identity theft, even if they are offering it for profit reasons (they make money every time you freeze/unfreeze your credit). If your state does not currently offer credit freezes by law, you can now apply with each credit reporting bureau individually. Regardless of where you live, freeze your credit today.

Equifax Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, Georgia 30348
Toll-Free: 1–800–685–1111

TransUnion Credit Freeze
Fraud Victim Assistance Department P.O. Box 6790 Fullerton, CA 92834
Toll-Free: 1–888–909–8872

Experian Credit Freeze
P.O. Box 9554 Allen, TX 75013
Toll-Free: 1–888–397–3742

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft and Social Media Privacy Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To bring John in to protect your next conference audience, contact his office directly on 800.258.8076.