Shop for identity theft protection that suits you

We’ve all heard the news reports of recent data breaches at big retailers, like Target, Nordstrom, TJ Maxx and Michaels. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there have been more than 400 data breaches in 2014, so far.

Clearly, we can no longer completely control who sees our personal information.

Given that fact, you might be asking yourself if it’s time to purchase identity theft protection. For every person, the answer to that question is different and will depend on how much effort you’re willing to spend to protect yourself, your tolerance for risk, and how much money you’re willing to pay. But, here are some things you should consider before you do.

What services will the protection provide?

Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you know what you’re purchasing. There are many different types of identity theft protection:

• Credit monitoring: This service informs you of changes on your credit reports and gives you a summary of your credit report, upon request. Here, you’d be able to see if someone has been given a line of credit, like a mortgage or credit card, in your name. Unfortunately, credit monitoring only helps with financial identity theft and doesn’t help you with other forms, such as medical, criminal, government services, etc. In addition, it won’t alert you if someone has taken over an existing account.

• Identity theft insurance: These are insurance programs that you can add on to an existing policy, like your homeowner’s insurance, that reimburse you for costs associated with recovering your identity, but not necessarily for your losses. You’ll need to read the fine print of your policy. Make sure you have a low deductible and that the policy covers any identity theft case that unknowingly existed before you purchased the insurance.

• Victim resolution or restitution services: If you’re ever a victim of identity theft, these services will help restore your identity and clear all fraudulent records created by an identity thief. Again, you’ll want to make sure that the product covers any identity theft case that unknowingly existed before you purchased the service. Ask about the fees and the services provided. Do they cover all types of identity theft (financial, criminal, governmental services, etc.)? Research the company by checking them out at bbb.org.

Can you get the same protection yourself for free?

There are some (but not all) credit monitoring services that you can do yourself for free. The real question is, will you? It’s easy to do.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. You could spread them out, and make those requests once every four months. However, the Identity Theft Resource Center doesn’t recommend it since each of the credit bureaus report different things.

To get started, go to annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228. Be prepared to provide personal information, such as your social security number, to verify that you’re really you. And beware of look-alike sites that either want to charge you for the information, or are a ploy to steal your personal information.

For more information, check out the Identity Theft Resource Center at idtheftcenter.org or call 888-400-5530.

— Susan Bach is regional director of the Better Business Bureau for northeastern Wisconsin. She can be reached at sbach@wisconsin.bbb.org or 920-734-4352.

Article source: http://www.postcrescent.com/story/money/2014/07/27/shop-identity-theft-protection-suits/13184435/

Technorati Tags: ,

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply