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Identity Theft Protection

Credit Monitoring and Identity Theft Protection Guide

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Theft Protection Guide

NEW! Updated after the Equifax data breach

Equifax recently announced that the Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and (in some instances) driver’s license numbers of 143 million people had been hacked. Here is a quick summary of the best steps to take to protect yourself – whether you were impacted by the hack or not. People should have a plan to:

  1. Prevent identity theft from happening with a credit freeze.
  2. Detect identity theft as soon as possible, with credit monitoring and account alerts. There are both free and subscription services available.
  3. Resolve identity theft if it does happen. You can either get help or do it yourself.

Our full identity theft guide is still below this summary. But, in light of the Equifax data breach, we wanted to provide you with some quick recommendations.

1. Prevention

If someone has stolen your personal information, you will want to prevent people from being able to open new credit accounts in your name. You can do that by freezing your credit. A credit freeze prevents any third party from obtaining a copy of your credit report. That means that new credit accounts cannot be opened. (You can read our full credit freeze guide here). Depending upon the state, there is typically a one-time fee to freeze your credit. And if you want to apply for credit, you would use a pin code (generated at the time of the freeze) to un-freeze your account. Here is where to go to freeze your credit:

In addition, you will want to set up 2-factor authentication on all open accounts (especially your bank accounts or email). That means any time you want to access your account or send money, you would need to receive a text message, email, phone call or confirm via an app.

2. Detection

Even if you freeze your credit, you should have credit monitoring in place. And if your credit isn’t frozen, you definitely need credit monitoring. With credit monitoring, you will be notified as soon as someone tries to open a new account. In addition, you will be notified if new negative information hits your credit report. (Even if you have a credit freeze, someone could use your Social Security number at a hospital. That medical debt could end up with a collection agency – and on your credit report. Only with monitoring would you know.)

You can get 1-bureau monitoring for free. You have to pay for 3-bureau monitoring. Here are our recommendations:

  • Best Free (1-bureau) monitoring: CreditKarma

With CreditKarma, you can monitor your TransUnion credit report daily. You will be notified of any change to your credit report – including newly opened accounts, inquiries or collection items.

  • Cheapest 3-bureau monitoring: CreditSesame ($15.95 per month)

With CreditSesame you can monitor all 3 credit bureaus daily. This will cost you $15.95 a month, and does not include resolution services. If you are very concerned about identity theft, 3-bureau monitoring could be worth the investment.

 

  • Set up alerts on all active accounts (free)

Most banks, credit card companies and credit unions have a feature that allows you to receive an alert (text message or email). Make sure you set these up for all accounts – especially accounts that you rarely or never use. (You can read our guide to setting up alerts here.)

3. Resolution

If you are the victim of identity theft, you will need a game plan for resolution. The best place to start is IdentityTheft.gov, where you can see a full checklist of the steps to take to ensure you minimize losses and regain control of your identity.

You might want to have help with the resolution process. That is where credit resolution services come in. In a best case scenario, you give power of attorney to the company, and you will have a dedicated case worker handling everything (which can take years).

  • Cheapest resolution service: Zander ($6.75 per month)

At Zander, you are paying for “white glove” on-shore service if your identity is stolen. You will also have a $1 million insurance policy to cover any expenses associated with recovering your identity.

 

Bottom Line

  • Freeze your credit with all 3 credit bureaus
  • Sign up for free 1-bureau credit monitoring at CreditKarma
  • Make sure all open (existing) accounts have both alerts and dual-factor authentication enabled
  • Check your report with the other 2 bureaus at least once a year for free at AnnualCreditReport.com
  • Sign up for credit resolution services ($6.75 a month) at Zander

If you do these things, you will have a cost-effective strategy to protect yourself. Below is the original guide that was published. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email us at info@magnifymoney.com.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is any attempt by another person to use your identity for their own personal or financial benefit. Identity theft victims are protected by law, and they have the right to a full restoration of their identity, but achieving restoration isn’t always easy. It is up to identity theft victims to find and follow the recommendations of the Federal Trade Commission to achieve full restoration of their accounts, identity and good legal standing.

Identity theft manifests itself in two forms:

Account Takeover

The most common form of identity theft is an account takeover which involves another person using either your credit or debit accounts to make transactions for their benefit.

Identity Takeover

A less common form of identity theft is called identity takeover. This involves thieves using the name, social security number, or other personally identifying information to fraudulently assume their victim’s identity for their own benefit.

When it comes to identity takeover, it’s not just your credit and money that is at risk, it’s your entire identity. In worst case scenarios, you may find that your ID is filled with false medical records, false work documents, criminal charges, unpaid taxes in addition to financial and credit issues to resolve.

How Does Identity Theft Happen?

Identity theft can take place through physical and cyber channels, and nearly everyone is at risk for identity theft. Knowing the most common identity theft scams can help you take common sense steps to mitigate risk.

Account Takeover:

  • Data Breaches- Your account number gets stolen from a large corporate database along with thousands or millions of other people’s accounts.
  • Account Skimming- A thief steals your card ID and pin from an ATM or during a transaction, and uses it for purchases or to steal cash later on.
  • Stolen Cards- A thief steals your card and uses it.
  • Phishing- A cyber criminal reaches out to unsuspecting people in the hopes of obtaining account information
  • Online Hacking- Cyber criminals steal your account information when you are logged into an account on an unsecure wireless connection.
  • Unauthorized use- A friend or family member uses your card (or your ATM Pin) to make purchases without your knowledge or consent.

Identity Takeover:

  • Stolen tax documents- Thieves steal tax documents that include SSN, employment information and more from your mail, trash or digital locations.
  • Documents in your trash- Thieves steal documents with personally identifiable information from your trash or recycling bin.
  • Data Breaches- Your personal information gets stolen from a large corporate database.
  • Phishing- A cyber criminal reaches out to unsuspecting people in the hopes of obtaining personal and financial information
  • Online Hacking- Cyber criminals steal your personal information when you are not on a secure wireless internet connection.
  • Unauthorized use- A friend or family member uses your personally identifying information (such as SSN, address, and more) for personal gain.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Although it is impossible to eradicate identity theft, but each person should take steps to mitigate their risk of identity theft and the reach of consequences in the event of such theft.

Mitigating the risks and costs associated with identity theft depends on a thoughtful approach in four categories:

  • Proactively preventing identity theft
  • Monitoring your identity for fraud
  • Limiting the cost of resolution
  • Restoring your identity

You can learn more about the free and paid options for each of these categories below:

Prevention

Although it’s impossible to completely prevent identity theft, everyone can take steps to decrease their risk of being a victim.

It is particularly important to note that friends and family members are often the perpetrators of identity theft. If you are unwilling to press charges against someone, then you need to do all you can to prevent them from stealing your identity.

How do I prevent identity theft?

Account Takeover:

Criminals can find ways around even the best security, but you can take steps to make yourself a less attractive target for thieves.
Top 10 ways to decrease your risk of Account Takeover

  • Don’t give out your ATM PIN to anyone (including family or friends).
  • Use your hands to cover the pin-pad when using an ATM
  • Avoid ATMs at convenience stores or other locations that don’t have security footage
  • Password protects your phone.
  • Don’t log into bank accounts or credit card statements on public Wi-Fi.
  • Do not give out account information (online, over the phone, or in person) unless you are about to make a transaction.
  • If anyone calls to ask for your account information, do not give it out. If you suspect the call may be legitimate, call your credit card company or bank back through their secured lines.
  • Use high quality passwords for online financial accounts.
  • Change passwords for online financial accounts frequently.
  • Shred documents (including old checks) that have account numbers in them before disposing.

Identity Takeover:

Protecting yourself from identity takeover requires protecting yourself from cyber-criminals, criminals who may have access to paper documents, and from thoughtless friends and family members. Even though identity takeover is less common, it’s even more important to take protective measures against it.
Top 7 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Identity Takeover

  • Do not give out your Social Security number to anyone unless there is a legitimate financial, tax or employment need.
  • Shred or burn documents that contain personal identifying information.
  • Do not access tax documents or tax software via public Wi-Fi.
  • Do not store your Social Security Number on your phone.
  • Freeze your credit if you suspect someone attempted to steal your identity.
  • Use anti-virus software or personal encryption software.
  • Use high quality passwords on all accounts that contain personal info.

What companies can help me prevent identity theft?

Most protective measures are free to consumers, and any company that promises full prevention of identity theft is lying. Because identity thieves constantly evolve, it is not possible to fully avoid identity theft risk.

Account takeover

Identity Guard
Unfortunately, no company can completely prevent others from taking over your accounts. As long as you have digital accounts you will retain some level of risk.

However, Identity Guard ($19.99 per month) mitigates risk by providing customers with password, keystroke and anti-virus protection on their personal computer. This will reduce your risk of being individually targeted for identity theft.Identity Takeover

If you are worried about identity takeover, one low cost option you may want to consider is a credit freeze. If you are either in the process of cleaning up identity theft, or you have reason to believe that you are at a high risk for identity theft then you should consider placing a credit freeze on your account. A credit freeze prevents other people from viewing your credit history, and it prevents you and others from initiating new lines of credit.

Credit freezes (which range from $4-$10 per credit bureau, and are free if you are a victim of identity theft) provide as much protection as any of the major identity theft insurance products that are available on the market.

Some companies can help you reduce your risk of identity takeover by adding additional security against hackers and cyber criminals.

LifeLock

The premier advertiser of identity theft protection services was LifeLock who has been sued repeatedly for falsely advertising their ability to completely prevent identity theft. Since then, LifeLock has turned more towards advertising protection through monitoring.

Identity Guard

Using the encryption methods explained above, Identity Guard ($19.99 per month) mitigates risk for account takeover from cyber criminals who may target personal information.

Monitoring

When it comes to identity theft, the best defense is the early detection of fraudulent activity. If you detect fraudulent activity early on, you can usually prevent full account takeovers, quickly get reimbursed for fraudulent activity, and deal with less paperwork as you unravel the effects of identity fraud. As a result, we recommend that everyone take monitoring their personal information seriously.

How do I monitor for identity theft?

Account Takeover

Since account takeover involves the fraudulent use of existing credit and debit accounts, it is fairly easy to monitor your accounts using just a few simple tricks.

  • Set up your own alerting system on all open accounts (even if you don’t use them regularly)
  • Review transactions before paying your credit card bill.
  • Pay attention to alerts from your bank or account issuer if they experience a data breach
  • Receive proactive data breach updates using identity theft protection services.

Identity Takeover

Identity takeover has both financial and non-financial components, but most monitoring efforts focus on the financial component of monitoring. This is because identity theft most commonly manifests itself through new credit accounts being opened or negative information (unpaid bills) being introduced to your credit report. The top ways to monitor for identity takeover include:

  • Annually check for fraudulent or incorrect information on savings accounts or checking accounts using the ChexSystems.
  • Pay for three credit bureau monitoring.
  • Pay for web or “dark web” surveillance that will identify if your social security number is being offered for sale.
  • Pay for change of address alerts from monitoring companies.

What companies can help me monitor for identity theft?

While no company can identify every instance of identity theft through monitoring, you may find that you are more comfortable maximizing the amount of monitoring available to you.

Identity Takeover

Identity Takeover typically manifests itself through negative credit information, so monitoring your credit report for fraudulent information, is the best way to monitor for identity theft.

In addition to the free annual credit reports, free two bureau monitoring, and free checking account monitoring, it is possible to pay to receive three bureau credit monitoring services along with the monitoring of other data that will help you identify and resolve identity theft early on.This can be a good choice if you are in the midst of dealing actively with credit card fraud, or you want some of the additional coverage from these insurance providers.

3-logos

TrueCredit ($19.95/month) and AARP ($12.95/month or $109.99/year) offered through TrustedID also provides cost effective monitoring of all three credit bureaus. AARP and TrustedID also provide up to $1 million in Identity Theft insurance which is a benefit explained below.

myFICO
myFICO ($29.95/month or $329/year) offers quarterly 3 bureau credit monitoring along with intelligent identity theft monitoring features including Black Market Website Surveillance of the sale of your identity information and Social Security number alias watch which monitors the names and addresses associated with your SSN.

Limiting the Cost of resolution:

Although laws exist to limit financial loss for consumers, identity theft resolution tends to have some out of pocket costs. These costs include liability losses (limited to $50 if fraudulent charges are reported within 2 days or $500 if reported within 60 days), legal costs (ranging from $20 for notarized forms to a few thousand if you undergo legal battles), and lost wages if you have to take time off to battle the legal system.

How do I limit the costs of resolution?

Account Takeover

  • Use debit and credit cards that advertise $0 Fraud Liability
  • Report any fraudulent transactions (especially cash withdrawals) immediately.
  • Follow your bank’s process for cancelling and reissuing accounts immediately.
  • Change login IDs, passwords, and PIN codes immediately.
  • Follow these steps to report identity theft.

Typically account takeover can be resolved at no out of pocket costs to you. By alerting your issuing bank, you can typically be made financially whole (unless the theft involved ATM withdrawals using your PIN number).

Identity Takeover

  • Report identity theft right away.
  • You will need to file an identity theft affidavit and a police report.
  • Change passwords and PINs as quickly as possible.
  • Follow these stepsas quickly as possible to minimize the likelihood of litigation.
  • Consider purchasing identity theft insurance which will cover the financial costs associated with identity theft resolution.

Identity takeover is much more cumbersome to resolve, but outside of litigation, the financial costs are limited. If you are worried about loss liability or potential courtroom expenses, you may want find that purchasing identity theft insurance protection will be valuable for your peace of mind.

What companies can help me limit the cost of resolution?

Account Takeover

If your account is taken over, by law your financial institution must hold you to a $0 Fraud Liability on fraudulent transactions if you still have possession of your card.

However, if your card was lost or stolen, then you have up to $50 in liability if you report the fraudulent transaction within two days, and up to $500 in liability if you report the fraudulent transaction within 60 days. After that point, your liability is limitless.

ZANDER
Zander ($6.75/month or $75/year) offers resolution services at no additional cost to their customers. Additionally, they offer up to $10,000 in recovery of fraudulent electronically transferred funds if legal recourse with a financial institution has failed, and the customer has sought funds from their financial institution first.Zander will not pay out any benefit if the unauthorized transfer was made by a person using your card and your PIN if you gave them access to that information in the past.

Identity Takeover

Among the most prominent identity theft products, identity theft insurance promises to cover the complete cost associated with identity theft. This can include the costs of notarization, legal costs, filing costs, and even lost wages. Identity theft insurance policies can cover anywhere from $25,000- $1 Million in coverage though $25,000 should be more than sufficient for most people.

ZANDER
Zander ($6.75 per month) offers resolution services at no additional cost to their customers, and up to $1 million in coverage for identity theft related losses. Additionally, they offer up to $10K in recovery of fraudulent electronically transferred funds if legal recourse with a financial institution has failed, and the customer has sought funds from their financial institution first.
EQUIFAX

Equifax ($17.95 per month) offers up to $25,000 in identity theft insurance along with 3 credit bureau monitoring services, resolution services. Although their limit is lower than the other companies, $25,000 is likely to be more than enough to pay for all the legal fees and lost wages that could occur in a worst case identity theft scenario. Their insurance does not cover recovery of unauthorized electronic funds.
Identity Guard

Identity Guard ($19.99 per month) offers 3 credit bureau monitoring and personal resolution services, and their insurance is up to $1Million. Their insurance does not cover recovery of unauthorized electronic funds.

Resolution

If you’ve been the victim of identity theft, then it is up to you to report the identity theft and restore your good name to all affected areas. This can be a time consuming task, and some companies are willing to take on the burden for you.

How do I restore my identity after I’ve been a victim of identity theft?

Account Takeover:

  • Call your credit or debit card company, cancel your existing account, and have them replace it with something new.
  • Make sure that fraudulent charges are removed and your money has been restored.
  • If instructed by your bank, file an identity theft affidavit and a police report.
  • If necessary, follow these steps to resolve identity theft according to the Federal Trade Commission.
  • If you have paid for identity theft resolution services, report identity theft to your company, so that they can complete resolution steps on your behalf.

Account takeover can usually be resolved between you and your financial institution without too much red tape or documentation required.

Identity Takeover:

  • Visit IdentityTheft.gov, a website that will walk you through all of the steps required to take back your identity. You will also be able to speak with real people. Steps include:
  • Place a Fraud Alert and Get Credit Reports
  • Report identity theft to FTC
  • File a police Report
  • Freeze your credit
  • Close fraudulent accounts
  • Repair your credit report
  • Unravel misuses of your ID for tax, work, social security, medical or other purposes.
  • Utilize resolution services from an existing identity theft resolution policy to assist or resolve issues for you.

What companies can help me restore my identity?

The average identity theft victim spends more than 30 hours unraveling the work of identity thieves in order to make themselves whole again. Several companies offer a range of identity theft resolution services that can help resolve both account takeover and identity takeover.

Resolution Assistance

These companies offer resolution help, but they do not restore your identity on your behalf.

EQUIFAX
Equifax ($17.95 per month) offers resolution assistance through a members only toll-free hotline; depending on your situation, they may assign a caseworker directly to you, but it is up to you to complete all filing. Equifax has an A+ rating with the BBB, but their identity theft product had few online reviews

Identity Guard
Identity Guard ($19.99 per month) provides a toll free hotline and promises one on one service, but you are expected to do the heavy lifting associated with filing paperwork and recovery. Identity Guard has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and all complaints filed against them have been resolved. Online customer reviews showed overwhelmingly positive support.

PrivacyGuard
PrivacyGuard ($19.99 per month) offers a team of fraud experts but not individualized caseworkers. The experts take on much of the burden of contacting creditors and filing paperwork. However, online reviews for PrivacyGuard showed overwhelmingly negative experiences including billing problems and poor customer service.

myFICO
myFICO ($29.95 per month) provides 24/7 restoration assistance with identity theft experts, and they promise to hire lawyers, investigators and legal case managers on your behalf if you need legal help. However, some of the resolution burden continues to rest with the consumer.

Guaranteed Full Resolution:

These companies promise to do all the work necessary to restore your identity on your behalf.

ZANDER
Zander Insurance ($6.75 monthly) is one of the top names in restoration services. They assign a US based case worker directly to your case and promise to do all the heavy lifting associated with restoring your identity. They boast a 100% success rate in identity recovery, have an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, and overwhelmingly positive online reviews.

IDShield
ID Shield ($19.95 per month) promises that a licensed private investigator will be assigned directly to your case, and provide you with complete resolution. They are not rated by the Better Business Bureau, but they have very positive online reviews.

Determining the Right Products for You

Best overall free strategy

  • Use AnnualCreditReport.comto review your 3 bureau credit report once per year.
  • Use ChexSystemsto check for accurate checking and savings information once per year.
  • Use CreditKarmato access two of three credit bureau reports on a weekly basis.
  • Set up transaction alert s for open credit accounts.
  • Review debit and credit transactions at least monthly.
  • Keep your information secure and private.
  • Freeze your credit if you fall victim to identity theft.
  • Follow the FTC stepsto resolve identity theft.

Cheapest Way to Maximize Resolution

For a little more money:

      Purchase ID Shieldand receive personalized resolution services from a Kroll Private Investigator (especially helpful in complex identity takeover situations) along with single bureau credit monitoring: Total Cost $9.99 per month

Cheapest Way to Limit the Cost of Resolution

  • Purchase Zander Identity Theft Insuranceand receive up to $1 million in identity theft insurance including recovery of up to $10,000 in unauthorized electronically transferred funds along with recovery services: Total Cost $6.75 per month

Best Coverage That Money Can Buy

You’ll get the most value by combining the free credit monitoring from CreditKarma and the resolution services from Zander Identity Theft Insurance — Credit Karma would alert you to a problem and Zander would help you resolve it, and Zander’s service costs $6.75 per month.However, for those who are willing to sacrifice a bit in the way of resolution services for additional monitoring, myFICO Ultimate 3B ($29.99/month) offers acceptable resolution services combined top insurance and the best monitoring services on the market.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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The Guide to Freezing and Thawing Your Credit Report

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The recent Equifax data breach that exposed the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers of about 44 percent of the current American population has many consumers now rushing to freeze their credit scores. However, many consumers may not grasp what that really entails.

In a recent survey by CompareCards.com, a subsidiary of MagnifyMoney’s parent company, LendingTree.com, 78 percent of respondents said they had never put a freeze on their credit reports.

When you freeze and thaw your report, you are preventing anyone else from opening a credit account under your name without your knowledge. It’s a smart way to defend yourself against some cases of identity theft. Massive data breaches like the one that hit Equifax are stark reminders of the importance of protecting sensitive information from potential fraudsters, but that doesn’t mean you should wait until your information is compromised in a data breach to act.

“We should all be vigilant,” says Eva Velasquez, president of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Being vigilant about your identity is just a part of the world that we live in. If being involved in a data breach is the catalyst that brings that to the top of your mind, then we can see that as a positive.”

What a credit freeze does — and doesn’t — accomplish

A credit freeze, or security freeze, is a tool consumers can use to restrict access to their credit reports. The freeze makes it harder for criminals to commit financial fraud using your information.

The freeze seals your credit reports so that new requests won’t be processed without your approval. You will need to use a personal identification number — only you will know it — to lift or thaw the freeze before creditors can again have access to your credit report. A freeze adds a layer of security, since most creditors won’t extend new credit without seeing your report.

You will need to request a credit freeze with each of the big three reporting bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion and Experian — for the freeze to have the biggest impact.

Freezing your credit report will NOT:

  • Impact your credit score
    • A credit freeze will have no impact whatsoever on your credit score. Freezing your credit will neither raise nor lower your score.
  • Restrict existing creditors’ access to your report
    • Your current creditors, government agencies or debt collectors acting on behalf of those parties will still have access to your credit report if you freeze it.
  • Keep you from opening new credit
    • You will still be able to use your credit report to do things like open a new credit account, apply for a mortgage, rent an apartment or take any other action that calls for a credit check. But you’ll need to lift the temporary freeze before lenders can gain access to the report. If you know you’ll be doing any of those activities, you can temporarily lift the freeze for a certain party or a length of time, but it may cost you money to do so.
  • Prevent a criminal from committing fraud involving your existing accounts.
    • Freezing your credit report won’t prevent you, or any would-be thieves, from using your existing credit accounts. You will still need to vigilantly monitor all of your personal bank, credit and insurance accounts for fraudulent transactions or other signs of fraudulent activity.
  • Stop you from receiving prescreened credit offers
    • Freezing your credit report won’t stop lenders from sending you prescreened credit offers, as they prequalify new customers using a “soft pull.” A soft pull doesn’t show up on your credit report or harm your credit score. Banks buy the names of people who meet their credit criteria from credit bureaus to create their prequalification lists. So when you are prequalified, it just means you’re on a list somewhere. If you want to stop receiving such credit offers, call 888-5OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or ask to be excluded here.
  • Protect you from all forms of ID theft
    • A credit freeze can help to prevent financial fraud, but it will still leave you vulnerable to many other kinds of fraud. When criminals obtain important and sensitive information like your Social Security number as they did in the Equifax breach, they can use this data to commit criminal, medical, tax and employment theft, too. For example, a thief could use your Social Security number to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund, or use your personal information to obtain medical care or employment without your knowledge. Remain vigilant to protect yourself from other forms of fraud. Pay careful attention to any mail or phone calls from a medical office, government agency or other entity. They may be reaching out to verify your identity or report that someone else is attempting to commit fraud in your name.

How to freeze your credit report

You must go through a separate process with each of the three major credit bureaus to freeze your credit report.

Equifax

Equifax Complete Advantage Plan You can freeze your Equifax credit report online, by phone or by mail.

  • Online: In a statement issued in The Wall Street Journal on Sept. 27, Equifax said it would offer a new service that permanently allows consumers to lock and unlock their credit reports for free. The service is set to debut by Jan. 31, 2018.

    In the meantime, you can still freeze your Equifax score the traditional way, by visiting the Equifax security freeze site. You will first need to fill out a form with your personal information, then make any payment required by your state. Equifax’s site may be experiencing high traffic as a result of the recent breach, so it may not be able to process your request right away. If that is the case, try one of the other methods or try again online in a day or two.

  • Phone: Call 1-800-685-1111 (New York residents call 1-800-349-9960), and you should be connected with an Equifax representative who will verify your personal information and assist you with your credit freeze request.
  • Mail: Request your credit freeze by certified mail. If you’re a victim of identity theft, this is the channel you will need to use; your request must be submitted in writing with relevant documents, like a police report or other documented proof of theft, to have your fee waived. Write a letter to the reporting agency requesting the credit request and send it to the following address: Equifax Security Freeze/P.O. Box 105788/Atlanta, GA 30348

TransUnion

TrueIdentity You can freeze your credit TransUnion report online, by phone or mail, or by using TrueIdentity,

  • Online: Go to the TransUnion security freeze site. You will need to log in or create a TransUnion account before you can submit your request online.
  • Phone: Call 1-888-909-8872 and a TransUnion representative should verify your personal information and assist you with your credit freeze request.
  • Mail: Request your credit freeze by certified mail. Write a letter to the reporting agency requesting the credit request and send it to the following address: TransUnion LLC/P.O. Box 2000/Chester, PA 19016
  • TrueIdentity: TransUnion offers a free credit report monitoring service called TrueIdentity. The service allows users to lock and unlock their credit report with a swipe on their mobile device or a click online. It gives access to unlimited TransUnion Credit report refreshes, and alerts you if an entity pulls your TransUnion credit report.

Experian

Experian You can freeze your Equifax credit report online, by phone or by mail.

  • Online: Go to the Experian security freeze site. Select “add a security freeze,” then “apply online” and you’ll be redirected to a form requesting your personal information. Submit the form and make any payment required by your state to freeze your report.
  • Phone: 1-888-EXPERIAN (1-888-397-3742). Press 2 to be guided through prompts to request a security freeze.
  • Mail: Request your credit freeze by certified mail. Write a letter to Experian requesting the credit request and send it to the following address: Experian Security Freeze/P.O. Box 9554/Allen, TX 75013

How to thaw your credit report with each agency

Equifax

You can temporarily thaw your Equifax credit report via mail, online Equifax's security freeze site, or by calling 1-800-685-1111. (New York residents dial 1-800-349-9960.) Send mailed requests to the following address:
Equifax Security Freeze/P.O. Box 105788/Atlanta, GA 30348

TransUnion

You can temporarily thaw your TransUnion credit freeze by mail, online or via TransUnion’s credit freeze site, or by calling 1-888-909-8872. Send mailed requests to the following address: TransUnion LLC/P.O. Box 2000/Chester, PA 19016

Experian

You can temporarily thaw your Experian credit report by mail, online via Experian’s security freeze site, or by calling 1-888-397-3742. Send mailed requests to the following address:
Experian/P.O. Box 9554/Allen, TX. 75013

How much a credit freeze will cost you — by state

The protection isn’t free. Each time you freeze your report, temporarily lift a freeze or permanently end one, you may have to pay a fee. In the wake of the Equifax hack, consumer advocacy groups and some lawmakers have renewed their efforts to allow data breach victims to sign up for free credit freezes in their states.

“It is outrageous that the credit bureaus charge us fees to prevent identity theft when we didn’t even give them permission to collect our information in the first place,” Mike Litt, a consumer program advocate with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said in a statement a little over a week after the Equifax data breach was made public.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced the Freedom from Equifax Exploitation (FREE) Act on the same day. The act is intended to make actions related to freezing credit reports free for all consumers nationwide.

Until the proposed act wends its way through both houses of Congress, the amount you may pay to freeze, thaw or permanently end a credit freeze will vary from state to state and may be up to $10.

The majority of states have laws in place that cap the amount a credit reporting agency is permitted to charge consumers to freeze, lift, or thaw their credit reports. A U.S. PIRG analysis released shortly after the breach found only four states — Indiana, Maine, North Carolina, and South Carolina— have laws in place that provide free credit freezes, thaws, or lifts for their citizens. The analysis found an additional four states provide free freezes, but charge for thaws.

There is a silver lining for some. If you can present documentation showing you are a victim of identity theft at the time you place a freeze on your credit, most states will waive fees.

You can check what your state will charge you for each action below. Multiply the amount by three because you will need to pay each credit bureau.

In a Sept. 15, 2017, statement addressing the recent breach, Equifax said it would waive security freeze fees for all consumers through Nov. 21 and refund those who have paid to place or remove a credit freeze since 5 p.m. on Sept. 7, just after the breach was announced.

Nearly every state has legally identified definitions of a “protected consumer,” which may be a minor, an elderly citizen, a service member, a spouse of a victim of ID theft, a medically incapacitated person or some other distinction. Depending on the state, a protected consumer may pay a different amount or have his or her fee waived. The National Conference of State Legislators has more information on whom each state counts as a protected consumer, here.

State

Consumer Category

Freeze

Thaw

End Freeze

Alabama

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

$10

$10

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Alaska

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$2

$2

Arizona

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

n/a

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Arkansas

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

$5

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

California

Protected Consumer

$10

n/a

$10

Minor <16

free

n/a

free

Senior (65+)

free

free

$5

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Colorado

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$12

$12

Connecticut

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Delaware

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

$5

free

free

All other consumers

$10

free

free

District of Columbia

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

free

free

Florida

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

n/a

free

Senior (65+)

free

n/a

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Georgia

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Minor < 16

free

n/a

free

Senior (65+)

free

$3

$3

All other consumers

$3

$3

$3

Hawaii

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Idaho

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$6

$6

$6

Illinois

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Minor < 18

n/a

n/a

n/a

Senior (65+)

free

$10

free

Active-duty military

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Indiana

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

free

free

All other consumers

free

free

free

Iowa

Victim of ID theft

free

n/a

n/a

All other consumers

$10

$12

$12

Kansas

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Kentucky**

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Louisiana

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

$10

n/a

n/a

Senior (62+)

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

n/a

n/a

Maine

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

free

free

All other consumers

free

free

free

Maryland

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Minor < 16

n/a

n/a

n/a

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Massachusetts

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

n/a

n/a

n/a

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Michigan

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

n/a

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Minnesota

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Mississippi

Victim of ID theft

n/a

n/a

n/a

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Missouri

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

free

Montana

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$3

$3

free

Nebraska

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Minor < 16

free

free

free

All other consumers

$3

$3

$3

Nevada

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

New Hampshire

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

n/a

$10

New Jersey

Victim of ID theft

free

$5

$5

All other consumers

free

$5

$5

New Mexico

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$5

$5

New York

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

free

free

All other consumers

free

n/a

$5

North Carolina

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Spouse of ID Theft Victim

free

free

free

Minor < 16 if file must be created

$5

n/a

$5

Senior (62+)

free

free

free

Other consumers

free

free

free

North Dakota

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

n/a

Ohio

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Oklahoma

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Oregon

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Minor < 16

free

n/a

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Pennsylvania**

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

$10

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

free

Rhode Island

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

South Carolina

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

free

free

All other consumers

free

free

free

South Dakota**

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Minor < 16 if file must be created, or Protected Consumers

$5

n/a

n/a

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Tennessee

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Minor < 16

$10

n/a

$10

All other consumers

$7.50

free

$5

Texas

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free (fee applicable if record must be created)

n/a

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Utah

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Vermont

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$5

$5

Virginia

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Protected Consumer

free

n/a

free

All other consumers

$10

free

free

Washington

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Senior (65+)

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

West Virginia

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$5

$5

$5

Wisconsin

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

Non-victims

$10

$10

free

Wyoming

Victim of ID theft

free

free

free

All other consumers

$10

$10

$10

Sources: Consumersunion.org Transunion.com NCSL.org
**In Kentucky, Pennsylvania and South Dakota,  security freezes expire after seven years.

When a credit freeze makes sense — and when it doesn’t

You should freeze your credit report when you are in danger of financial or identity fraud.

Eva Velasquez, of the Identity Theft Resource Center, says consumers should consider freezing their reports if they are victims of identity theft or at an increased risk of having their information misused for identity theft because of lost or stolen items.

Consumers might also consider a credit freeze “if their personal information, specifically their Social Security number, is compromised in some way, like in that of a data breach,” says Velasquez.

Freezing your report is an important consumer protection you can and sometimes should take advantage of as a general consumer. However, there are several occasions when you may not want to freeze your credit.

  • You are planning to open a new line of credit (credit card, mortgage, etc.) in the near future.
  • You work for a company that requires a regular background check or access to your credit report.
  • You regularly open new accounts with financial institutions.

Ultimately, if you are not in danger of ID theft, the decision to freeze or unfreeze your credit report depends on whether or not you’re willing to go through the inconvenience and cost of unfreezing and refreezing each time an entity you approve of wants access to your credit report. If you want a more convenient way to monitor use of your credit report, you may want to consider placement of a credit fraud alert instead of the freeze, as explained below.

Pros and cons of freezing your credit report

Pros:

  • Locks your credit report
    The most obvious benefit you’d get from freezing all of your credit reports is an additional layer of protection. Only you can permit a lender or other entity to receive your full, detailed credit report. You’ll have the opportunity to verify a request’s legitimacy before anyone can obtain your report.
  • No impact on your credit score
    Neither freezing nor thawing your credit report will affect your credit score. Your credit score is impacted by positive or negative activity on your end. Adding protection is considered a neutral action.
  • Generally free for ID theft victims
    If you’re a victim of ID theft, you won’t be required to pay any fees to freeze, thaw or lift a freeze on your credit report in most states. However, you may need to provide additional documentation proving the theft and submit your request in writing.

Cons:

  • Need to plan before opening a credit line
    The added protection comes with the added inconvenience of freezing, or thawing your credit report when you need to apply for credit. This will take just a bit of forethought and may cost you up to $10 each time you thaw your report. You may take several minutes to complete thaw requests for all three bureaus online, which will make it a little more difficult to apply for a credit card in the checkout line. You can manually refreeze your accounts or set your request to automatically do so on a certain date.
  • Fees, unless you’re a victim of ID theft
    Each action — freezing or lifting a freeze — may cost you $3 to $10 in many states. The cost is often tripled, as it’s necessary to freeze or thaw all three of your credit reports if you are unsure which bureau the entity requesting your report will use. The cost may be high for some consumers. Freeze and thaw your reports wisely, and ask the requesting entity which bureau it uses to avoid paying unnecessary fees whenever you can.

An alternative to freezing your credit report

If you don’t think you are in immediate danger of ID theft, you can opt for less-drastic protection and set up a credit fraud alert with all three bureaus instead. When you have the alert set, all lenders attempting to pull your credit history will see a flag on the reports, alerting them to verify your identity before extending credit.

The entity is not required to go through additional verification, but the warning puts it at that entity’s discretion. You will still be able to apply for credit whenever you’d like, and won’t need to remember a PIN to unlock your credit report.

Additionally, fraud alerts are temporary. In most cases, you will be required to renew the alert in 90 days.

Brittney Laryea
Brittney Laryea |

Brittney Laryea is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Brittney at brittney@magnifymoney.com

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No, Equifax Is Not Calling You. Watch Out for Scam Phone Calls After the Data Breach

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Source: iStock

Less than a week after the Equifax data breach was made public, it seems scammers are already looking for opportunities to prey on concerned consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission posted a scam alert Thursday warning consumers to not give their personal information to anyone who calls and claims to be an Equifax representative. Over the summer, hackers breached the Atlanta-based credit bureau’s database and accessed the personal information of about 143 million consumers, including sensitive information like Social Security numbers.

But Equifax is not calling those affected by the breach, so if you get a phone call from someone saying they represent Equifax and want to verify your account information, the FTC advises you hang up. It’s ironic, in a way, to target victims by posing as a concerned Equifax representative. The company has been criticized widely for its sluggish response to the breach, which occurred sometime between mid-May and July but wasn’t discovered until July 29 and wasn’t announced until more than a month later.

In response to the security failure, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has demanded Equifax answer several questions about the breach, including why the company put off announcing the breach for so long. Equifax has until Sept. 22 to respond to the committee’s questions, and the committee plans to hold hearings on the breach in September or October.

In a company statement, Equifax CEO Richard Smith said the breach was a “disappointing event.”

“Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight,” he added. “While we’ve made significant investments in data security, we recognize we must do more. And we will.”

In the breach, people’s Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and other personally identifiable information (PII) were compromised, so it’s understandable you’d be worried and are looking for help.

Here’s what you can do to take control of protecting your identity.

Assume you’re affected

While you can go to Equifax’s website and go through a multistep process to see if your information has been compromised, you can also just assume someone has their hands on your personal information. (It’s also worth noting the Equifax site reportedly isn’t reliable for telling you if you’re affected, and many consumers have reported the site is slow to load or doesn’t load at all.) Even if you weren’t among the 143 million whose personal information was compromised in this breach (and the odds aren’t in your favor), chances are it has been or will be in a breach at a different company or organization. With that in mind, you’ll want to focus on how to detect signs of identity theft and how to respond to them.

Monitor your credit

Equifax responded to the breach by offering free credit and identity monitoring to everyone — not just those affected — for a year through TrustedID Premier. You must go to equifaxsecurity2017.com to enroll, which requires entering your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. You’ll then be given an enrollment date, which may be several days after you start the enrollment process, at which point you can return to the site to continue enrollment. You’ll need to set a reminder to continue the process, as Equifax won’t send you a notification when it’s time.

You have many other ways to find out if someone has misused your personal information. Several companies offer free credit scores — Credit Karma, Discover, Capital One, Mint, LendingTree (our parent company), etc. — either to everyone or to their customers. To help you choose, we put together this guide to getting your free credit score. Credit Karma also offers a free credit monitoring service, and Discover cardmembers can sign up for alerts when their Social Security numbers are detected on suspicious websites. You can also pay for credit monitoring services from a number of providers, including the three major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, as well as credit scoring giant FICO.

Consider a credit freeze

You can also freeze your credit so no one, not even you, can apply for new credit using your information. If you do this, you have to initiate a freeze with each of three major credit bureaus, as well as “thaw” each report when you want to apply for a new credit account. Every time you freeze and thaw your credit you may be charged a fee, which varies by state. This only protects you from credit fraud and does not prevent things like taxpayer identity theft, criminal identity theft, medical identity theft, and insurance identity theft.

On Sept. 15, Equifax announced it is waiving the fee for removing and placing credit freezes on Equifax credit reports through Nov. 21, 2017. Anyone who paid for an Equifax freeze at or after 5 p.m. EDT on Sept. 7 will receive a refund, the company said.

Have a plan for responding to identity theft

One of the best ways you can prepare for identity theft is to detect it early. After that, you need to know how to resolve it. You can do this yourself by filing a police report, disputing fraudulent accounts on your credit reports, and making the phone calls necessary to correct any problems stemming from the fraud. Or you could pay someone to help you with this time-consuming task. Check with your employer to see if they offer identity theft insurance or identity theft resolution services as an employee benefit, and if not, consider paying for it.

We’ve rounded up the best identity theft resolution services here.

More than anything, remain calm as you sort through the fallout of this breach. Focus on making a plan for protecting yourself from and responding to identity theft and making sure you only deal with trustworthy service providers.

Christine DiGangi
Christine DiGangi |

Christine DiGangi is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Christine at christine@magnifymoney.com

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How to Run a Financial Background Check on Yourself

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

How to Run a Financial Background Check on Yourself

Imagine getting turned down for a job or an apartment rental and having no idea why. You call up the lender or landlord, and they tell you the worst: you failed their credit background check. You’re dumbfounded. You’ve never missed a bill payment and as far as you know, your credit report should be squeaky clean. You immediately request a free copy of your credit report, only to find out there are all sorts of errors — including missed payments on debts you never borrowed and the names of collection agencies you’ve never heard of.

Unfortunately, this scenario isn’t so far-fetched. In 2012, a study from the Federal Trade Commission found that about one in five people had an error on at least one of their consumer credit reports. Sometimes the errors are minor and can be disputed easily. Other cases are much more complicated. In criminal cases of identity theft — if a person has been using your identity to get medical treatment on your tab, for example — you could find yourself facing legal charges on their behalf.

It’s practically impossible to prevent these types of mistakes from happening. To try to stay ahead of errors and potential fraud, it’s good to know how to run your own financial background check. And we’re not just talking about checking your credit reports. There are several important consumer reports that many people may not realize exist — from your medical history report and insurance records to your bank history and tenant records.

Banks, employers, landlords, insurance companies, lenders, utility companies, and other businesses purchase consumer reports to screen applicants. The information in your reports could impact their decision to offer you a loan, employment, or other type of contract. It’s also used to determine the terms of the arrangement, such as the interest rate on a loan or security deposit on a rental.

If you’re worried something on your consumer reports might blow your chances of qualifying for a job, a loan, or even housing, it is possible to check your credit and consumer reports before sending in an application. Catch them early enough and you have you a chance to dispute any mistakes.

Who Can Check Your Consumer Reports?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau maintains a list of several dozen consumer reporting agencies along with their contact information. You may recognize the three largest consumer reporting companies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. But there are also specialty agencies that collect, organize, and sell specific types of information about you, such as your history of prescription drug purchases.

While you can always request a copy of your own reports, consumer reporting agencies can only send a copy to another individual or organization under certain circumstance. Your written permission or a court order, along with a valid reason for needing a copy of the report, could satisfy that requirement.

Generally, you’ll be able to request one free copy of each of your consumer reports at least once every 12 months. You also may be entitled to an additional free copy of a report if:

  •  The information within the report is used to make an adverse action against you, such as denying your application or raising your rate. To get a free report due to an adverse action, you must make the request within 60 days of receiving the notice.
  • You place a fraud alert on your credit file after someone stole your identity.
  • You’re unemployed and will look for work in the next 60 days.
  • You’re on public assistance.

When you don’t qualify for a free report, by law consumer reporting companies can only charge a maximum $12 per report that you request.

While you may be able to request a free or inexpensive copy of your consumer reports from a variety of agencies, the process could be time consuming. Although it’ll cost more, it could be worth your time to pay for a background check that includes information from multiple sources.

To conduct a DIY financial background check on yourself, we’ve listed several types of consumer reports you can check and how to go about checking.

Keep in mind, you might not always have a report to review. For example, if you’ve never had a credit line or loan, you might not have a consumer credit report. Or, if you’ve never filed an insurance claim, you might not have one of the specialty insurance reports.

You also might not have a report if there isn’t any recent activity, as information generally drops off reports after seven years.

Credit Reports

You can request a free copy of your credit report from a bureau once every 12 months on AnnualCreditReport.com. There are also companies that give you free access to your Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion reports throughout the year, as well as several paid options that give you access to your reports from all three bureaus.

Your credit reports contain several sections, including identifying information, a record of your payments on credit accounts, credit inquiries, and public records or collections information. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are the three largest nationwide credit bureaus, and your credit report from each bureau should be similar, but not necessarily the same.

Checking your credit reports is an important first step because the data on the reports could be used by lenders, landlords, utilities, insurance companies, and employers. Negative marks on your report could lead to you lose an apartment or job opportunity, or result in worse loan terms or higher insurance premiums. The information on your credit reports is also what determines your credit score, which is used for many similar purposes.

Credit reports contain positive information, such as on-time payments, as well as derogatory marks, including past bankruptcies, late payments, and liens. If you find incorrect information on one of your reports, you can file a dispute online or by mail.

Your credit report won’t necessarily come with a credit score, but there are free and paid ways to get a copy of one, or more, of your credit scores.

Check and Bank Account Reports

If you’re having trouble opening a bank account or getting a merchant to accept a check, look for errors or negative information in reports from the following companies.

ChexSystems keeps a database on consumers’ activity with checking and savings accounts. Many banks will pull your report and consider the information when reviewing your application for a new account. Unlike consumer credit reports, your ChexSystems report won’t have positive information. Instead, they only show negative marks, such bounced checks or unpaid fees.

You can request a free copy of your report online, by mail, or by fax, and file disputes online. ChexSystems also scores people based on a 100 to 899 scale based on the information within their report, and you can request a free copy of your score by mail or by fax.

There are also several companies that track consumers’ history with checks and help merchants and payment processors decide whether or not to accept someone’s check. You can request a free copy of your reports from Certegy Check Services, TeleCheck, and Early Warning Services.

Alternative Lending Reports

Some lenders don’t report your history of payments, or lack of payments, to the three nationwide credit bureaus. However, several smaller consumer credit reporting agencies, such as Clarity Services and FactorTrust, collect this “alternative” credit data. Often, the information comes from subprime or alternative lenders, such as payday lenders, rent-to-own retailers, subprime auto lenders, and check-cashing services.

MicroBilt, and its subsidiary PRBC, as well as CoreLogic Teletrack also compile credit reports using alternative lending data and use the information to create consumer credit scores. You can request a copy of your reports from CoreLogic and MicroBilt.

Insurance Reports

Insurance reports could show the types of insurance coverage you have, your claim history, and the resulting losses from a claim. Your report might have information on your driving record or your personal property insurance claims, and that data could impact your ability to get coverage and your premiums.

LexisNexis Risk Solutions offers two C.L.U.E. reports that you can order for free, one for personal property and a second for auto insurance. Insurance Information Exchange also collect information on people’s driving record. However, you can only request a free copy of your report after an adverse action has been taken against you due to information within the report.

Medical History Reports

Life, health, disability, long-term care, and other health-related insurance companies may use specialty medical reports to screen applicants.

MIB, Inc. collects information related to medical conditions and hazardous work environments, with your permission. Milliman IntelliScript creates reports on people’s prescription drug purchases.

Employment Screening Reports

Some companies pull job applicants’ credit reports, but others use more thorough background checks to screen applicants. The reports could have information about your criminal record, driving record, drug or alcohol test results, workers’ compensation claims, and volunteer activity. They could also be used to verify your education, professional accreditations, and previous salaries.

Employers aren’t allowed to pull your consumer credit report without your written permission. When a company requests a consumer report for employment-screening purposes, it won’t receive a credit score with the report.

The Work Number, Sterling Talent Solutions, Pre Employ, HireRight, GIS, and First Advantage all offer employment screening reports and services. You can request a free copy of your report, if it exists, from each company. Knowing what the hiring manager will or won’t see could give you extra time to prepare an explanation of the potentially negative information they find.

Tenant Screening Reports

With your permission, some landlords will look over a copy of your consumer credit report and check it for past late payments, bankruptcies, or other indications that you’ll have trouble paying rent.

Others use a more comprehensive tenant screening service and receive a report that could detail whether or not a person has a criminal record, is on a sex-offender or terrorist list, or has been evicted. Some tenant screening reports also have a record of the person’s rent payments and include a copy of one of their consumer credit reports.

You could request a copy of your reports, such as RealPage, Inc.’s LeasingDesk report or Experian’s RentBureau report, to check it for incorrect information before submitting rental applications.

Additional Reports

There are a variety of other consumer reports you can request and review for errors. For example, the CoreLogic Credco consumer report contains information related to properties you own and could be used by mortgage lenders or brokers. (The same company’s Teletrack report is mentioned above as an alternative lending report.) LexisNexis collects and compiles information on individuals from a variety of proprietary sources and public records.

There’s also SageStream, whose consumer reports are used by mobile phone providers, utilities, and other lenders. The National Consumer Telecom and Utilities Exchange collects information and sells reports about consumers’ telecom and utility accounts and payment history. If you’ve ever had to show a photo identification to make a return at a store, The Retail Equation could add that data point to your profile, and if they suspect fraudulent activity, you might be blacklisted from making returns to some retailers in the future.

Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at louis@magnifymoney.com

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Credit Cards That Offer Identity Theft Resolution — Too Good to Be True?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Credit Cards That Offer Identity Theft Resolution — Too Good to Be True?

Molly Johnson, 56, of Minneapolis, Minn., felt adrenaline pumping when she got a call from Wells Fargo in September 2016. The representative informed her that they suspected fraudulent activity on her credit card.

Johnson confirmed the fraudulent charges, and Wells Fargo shut down the credit card. She didn’t have to pay for any of the stolen funds, and she got a new credit card in the mail a few days later.

“When I realized that was it, I thought to myself, ‘that wasn’t so bad,’” she told MagnifyMoney.

Every major credit card in the United States offers their customers $0 fraud liability. That means if a thief steals your credit card number, you don’t have to pay for the item as long as you inform your bank. Much of the time, your bank informs you of fraudulent activity before you detect it.

Having a bank protect you from fraud offers a huge benefit for cardholders. But some banks, including Citigroup and MasterCard, are taking this responsibility a step further. They now offer identity theft resolution services. That means they will help their account holders restore their identity after instances of fraud — even if the fraud happened through an unrelated account.

What are identity theft resolution services? And how do they compare to identity theft products you can buy? We dug into the fine print to help you understand.

What are identity theft resolution services?

If someone steals your identity or financial information, it’s important to restore your identity as soon as possible. This process involves fixing your credit report, removing bogus charges from your accounts, and recovering stolen funds. Depending on the severity of the fraud, this could involve sending letters to collection agencies that believe you owe them money or disputing debts from other services. In a worst-case scenario, you may need to clear your name of criminal charges.

Read More: Credit Monitoring and Identity Theft Protection Guide

Doing this on your own can be a time-consuming task. Restoring your identity takes average of 4 hours, but up to 130 hours in 5% of identity theft cases, according to the Federal Trade Commission. But some credit cards will help you save time by working with you as you restore your identity. Citigroup and MasterCard give their customers free access to designated specialists who give guidance and insight into resolving identity theft problems. In some cases, MasterCard will do the work for identity theft victims.

What do credit card companies promise?

Two companies promise some level of identity theft resolution assistance. We read their service agreements to explain what they really offer.

Citigroup

It’s more accurate to call Citibank/Citi’s perks identity theft resolution assistance. They won’t restore your identity for you, but they simplify the process. Customers can call on Citi’s identity theft resolution services even if the fraud didn’t originate from their Citigroup accounts.

Citigroup customers who suspect that they’ve been the victim of identity theft can simply call the Citigroup Identity Theft Hotline (1-800-274-6660). The hotline is staffed by a team of identity theft resolution specialists. Identity theft resolution specialists help customers check their credit report for fraud. (That’s something you can do proactively, too.) They give customers advice on contacting creditors and the credit bureaus.

Specialists even help customers complete an identity theft affidavit. An identity theft affidavit is a notarized document that provides evidence that you were the victim of identity theft. Banks and creditors will use the information inside the affidavit to fix problems that arose as the result of identity theft.

Citigroup specialists also watch a customer’s credit report and keep in touch with them until their identity theft issue is fixed. This level of guidance can be a tremendous help.

MasterCard

MasterCard offers two levels of identity theft resolution: the MasterCard ID Theft Protection program and full identity theft resolution.

MasterCard ID Theft Protection program

The MasterCard ID Theft Protection program is part of MasterCard’s core credit benefits. Every MasterCard holder is eligible to participate in the program.

MasterCard customers who suspect they are the victim of identity theft can contact 1-800-MasterCard to report an identity theft incident. You can report incidents, even if they did not originate on your MasterCard. When you call, you will get into contact with an identity resolution specialist.

The specialist will help you by providing you with an identity theft affidavit and explaining all the steps that go into unraveling identity theft. They will help you contact all three credit bureaus, so you can get a copy of your credit report. This support matches the support that Citigroup offers.

Full identity theft resolution from MasterCard

MasterCard also offers more robust resolution assistance on a limited number of co-branded credit cards. These credit cards have a specific set of benefits called World Elite MasterCard Benefits. Many (but not all) travel rewards MasterCard credit cards have full resolution benefits.

Customers with this benefit can opt to let an identity theft resolution specialist restore their identity for them. When a customer reaches out to the identity theft hotline, they have the option to give MasterCard’s identity theft specialist a limited power of attorney (LPOA). The LPOA allows the specialist to resolve identity theft problems on behalf of the customer. Specialists file forms for the customer, clean up the customer’s credit report, and resolve fraud. Specialists keep customers updated on their progress, but customers don’t have to do work.

This program offers enormous protection and time savings to all eligible customers. It is almost identical to purchasing identity theft resolution services from Zander Insurance, Prosper Daily, IDShield, or ProtectMyID. The only difference? MasterCard doesn’t limit your financial losses associated with identity theft. Identity theft expenses can include notary signatures, credit-freezing and credit-thawing expenses, and legal expenses.

Are you eligible for this highest level of protection? Look for the phrase “Concierge Level Certified Restoration specialist who works on behalf of the cardholder” in your credit card’s guide to cardholder benefits.

These are the 10 credit cards that offer MasterCard’s concierge level services, including four with no annual fee.

How to restore your identity on your own

When you’re the victim of identity theft, the biggest cost to you is usually not money — it’s your time.

These are the steps that the Federal Trade Commission recommends when you’ve been the victim of identity theft.

  • Call companies where the fraud occurred and ask them to freeze or close your account.
  • Place a 90-day fraud alert at one of the three major credit bureaus.
  • Get a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus.
  • Report the identity theft to the FTC.
  • Close new accounts opened in your name.
  • Remove bogus charges from your existing accounts.
  • Clear your credit reports of fraudulent information.

Depending on your situation, you may also need to do the following:

  • Create a police report.
  • Create an identity theft affidavit.
  • Stop creditors from contacting you.
  • Look for fraudulent checking accounts through ChexSystems.
  • Contact the IRS or other government bureaus.
  • Get help from a lawyer.

Need in-depth guidance on each step? MagnifyMoney’s Identity Theft Protection Guide will help you through each step.

Even when you know the steps to take, the amount of work can be overwhelming.

Consider Molly Johnson’s situation mentioned earlier. Five minutes spent resolving fraud isn’t a big deal. However, on October 31, Molly fell for a phishing scheme while on vacation. A fraudster called her hotel room and claimed to be the front desk. The fraudster asked for her credit card information, and Molly gave it to them.

A few minutes later Wells Fargo called her cellphone. Again, they asked Molly about some fraudulent charges, which Molly confirmed. The fraudulent charges didn’t go through, but that wasn’t the end of the fraud. Over the next day, the thief tried to take out three cash advances totaling over $1,500. Wells Fargo never released the funds.

The thief also used Molly’s personal information to access her savings account and two of her children’s checking accounts, all housed at Wells Fargo. The fraudster moved funds between the accounts, but Wells Fargo prevented any theft.

That wasn’t the end of the fraud. The thief tried to order a new debit card from Molly’s unrelated checking account at Northeast Bank. Thankfully, Northeast Bank security measures prevented the fraudster from getting a debit card.

Wells Fargo worked with Molly to move money back to the correct accounts and remove fraudulent charges. With those removed, Molly spent 10-12 hours resolving the identity theft and protecting herself against future attacks. She’s still nervous about what will happen when the fraud alert comes off her credit report.

Are identity theft resolution services enough?

Choosing one of the credit cards above ensures you won’t spend much time restoring your identity if you fall victim to identity theft. However, the best battle is the one you don’t have to fight. That’s why we still recommend that you take care of your identity through common-sense protection and regular credit monitoring. Your credit card company might help you out if you fall victim to identity theft, but protecting your identity is your responsibility.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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Identity Theft Protection, News

Is Credit Sesame’s $50,000 Identity Theft Insurance Worth the Hype?

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Is Credit Sesame's $50,000 Identity Theft Insurance Worth the Hype?

If you register an account with Credit Sesame, the credit monitoring and financial recommendations company now provides an unconventional perk: a free identity theft insurance policy with $50,000 worth of coverage.

Identity theft insurance, like the insurance offered by Credit Sesame, helps victims of fraud to recoup money they may spend to resolve the issue. In minor cases of fraud, victims may have to pay for notary expenses, to freeze and thaw their credit, or to replace a visa, passport, or driver’s license. In serious cases, victims may lose wages when they take time off from work to deal with identity theft. Some victims may even have to pay for legal representation.

Without insurance, it is possible — but not always the case — that victims might have to pay out of pocket to resolve cases of identity theft.

Credit Sesame’s identity theft insurance policy might be “free,” but is it worth getting excited over? We took a closer look at the policy and compared it to similar offerings from competitors.

Here’s what we found.

Yes. It really is free.

Free sounds good, but it’s usually filled with gotchas. Is Credit Sesame’s identity theft insurance really free? Yes. It’s real insurance, and you really don’t have to pay. Despite the $0 price tag, the insurance policy isn’t half bad.

What Credit Sesame’s policy covers:

With a few exceptions, Credit Sesame’s policy covers:

  • Application re-filing fees
  • Courier costs
  • Notary costs
  • Court costs
  • Legal representation (up to $75 per hour)
  • Lost base wages if you need to take time off from work (self-employed people can’t receive any compensation)
  • Dependent care coverage
  • Travel costs
  • Postage or other communication costs

What Credit Sesame will not cover:

Credit Sesame’s insurance never replaces stolen money that has been taken from a bank, savings, or other financial account.

Like most other identity theft insurers, Credit Sesame also won’t reimburse identity theft costs if the theft occurred under suspect conditions.

  • Credit Sesame will not cover fraud perpetrated by the victim or a family member of the victim.
  • They will not reimburse customers who voluntarily gave up their account numbers.
  • They only cover cases of identity fraud. That means if the fraudulent activity occurred because the victim or a bank employee made an error, the victim can’t get reimbursed for those costs.

Is that enough insurance?

Most of Credit Sesame’s competitors (and Credit Sesame’s premium product) offer up to $1 million in identity theft recovery services, so a $50,000 policy may seem skimpy. But bigger policies don’t necessarily offer better benefits.

Many million-dollar ID theft policies aren’t a great deal. You’re unlikely to spend thousands resolving identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, most people spend just $40 for resolving identity theft. Five percent of identity theft victims spent more than $2,000 resolving identity theft.

The highest potential cost associated with identity theft is the cost of legal representation. Credit Sesame’s policy offers to cover $75 per hour for legal needs. But some attorneys can charge much more than that. According to Lawyers.com, a database that matches consumers with lawyers, most experienced lawyers charge $100-$200 per hour. So if a victim has to hire a lawyer, Credit Sesame’s policy may cover only some of their legal fees.

You might be worried that Credit Sesame doesn’t reimburse stolen funds, but in most cases banks will reimburse you anyway. The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) and the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) protect consumers from having their accounts drained.

The FCBA assures that you have to pay a maximum of $50 in fraudulent charges on a credit account. Your credit card company will reimburse your for the rest. In fact, most credit card companies have $0 fraud liability. That means you don’t have to pay for any fraudulent charges at all.

The EFTA covers you if someone steals money from your checking account. As long as you report fraud on your checking account within 48 hours, your bank will reimburse you for all but $50 of the charges. If you wait 2-60 days, the bank could leave you with $500 in losses.

Unless you have significant assets in a brokerage account, you’re legally protected. In the rare case that the law doesn’t protect you, your insurance probably won’t either. Most ID theft insurance companies limit their reimbursement of stolen funds to somewhere between $10,000 and $25,000.

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Is it worth signing up for a Credit Sesame account?

Credit Sesame’s insurance is a useful tool to limit financial exposure, and it can be a part of your plan to protect yourself against identity theft. But the reality is you probably don’t need identity theft insurance. You may prefer to keep your email address to yourself rather than get blasted with emails from Credit Sesame.

Most people can handle the $40 out-of-pocket fees associated with identity theft. Even $2,000 of costs can be manageable if you have an emergency fund.

When it comes to identity theft, the biggest cost you’ll face is the cost of your time. On average, victims spend four hours unraveling identity theft issues, and 5% of victims spend more than 130 hours. Credit Sesame’s insurance product won’t help you with that.

If you want identity resolution services, you can get them as a free perk from several credit cards, including:

You can also compare identity theft monitoring and resolution services on the MagnifyMoney website to find a product that suits your needs.

How to sign up

In order to take advantage of Credit Sesame’s ID theft protection, you’ll need to sign up on the site using your email address. You’ll provide personal information, including your Social Security number and your address. You cannot get free insurance unless you complete your Credit Sesame member profile.

Is it safe to provide this information? Credit Sesame promises that they will not give or sell your information to third parties without your express permission. They use multifactor authentication, which makes it difficult for hackers to take your information from their website.

What’s the catch?

The value of Credit Sesame’s insurance protection policy may not be worth the cost of handing over your email address. Customers are bound to receive marketing emails from the company, encouraging you to visit the site to check your credit score. Once on the site, you’ll receive recommendations to sign up for certain credit card or financial products that may or may not be best for your needs.

Eventually, Credit Sesame will nudge users to upgrade their Credit Sesame service.

Credit Sesame pushes their premium service offerings to existing customers. If you pay more, you can get up to $1 million of insurance and more monitoring. The additional insurance coverage still won’t reimburse you for stolen funds that your bank won’t replace.

The costs for these products include:

  • $14.95 for monthly reports from the three credit bureaus.
  • $19.95 for credit resolution help from an assistant.
  • $24.95 for lost wallet resolution assistance and dark web monitoring.

These prices are higher than competitors, and Credit Sesame’s product doesn’t offer full resolution coverage at any price.

Hannah Rounds
Hannah Rounds |

Hannah Rounds is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Hannah at hannah@magnifymoney.com

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Best of, Identity Theft Protection

7 FinTech Startups Helping Businesses Fight Fraud

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

fraud identity theft hacker

Whether it’s a small shop or a multinational company, businesses must constantly have their guard up to protect against fraud. Installing security cameras, verifying dollar bills aren’t counterfeit, and hiring a security guard to prevent shoplifting can all help with physical fraud. But as commerce and banking continue to go online, digital security is critically important as well.

LexisNexis’ 2016 True Cost of Fraud study focuses on U.S. merchants. The study reveals businesses reported an increase in the cost of fraud as a percentage of annual revenue for the third year in a row.

On average, companies have dealt with nearly 650 fraudulent purchase attempts each month, and over 200 of those are successful. Increasingly, fraudulent purchases are coming from remote channels, either from mobile devices or other online methods.

Combating in-person, online, and mobile-transaction fraud can be an exhausting process, and several financial technology (FinTech) companies are working to help businesses outsmart thieves and win the fight.

1. Feedzai

Feedzai

Feedzai uses machine learning and big-data analysis to help companies prevent fraud while managing payment processing, opening new customers accounts, underwriting merchant accounts, securing marketplaces, and validating customers.

Feedzai claims its Fraud Prevention That Learns technology, which bases its decisions on historical and real-time behavioral profiling, can detect fraud up to 10 days earlier than the competition, and identify 61% more fraud with lower false alarms.

2. IdentityMind Global

IdentityMind Global

IdentityMind Global has a platform that payment service providers, online merchants, and financial institutions can use to identify and prevent fraudulent purchases, botnets, phishing attempts, account takeovers, and other types of attacks in real time.

The platform also offers anti-money laundering (AML), know your customer (KYC), and other risk management services to companies, including Bitcoin exchanges and internet lenders.

3. InAuth

InAuth

InAuth is a risk management and fraud-detection and -prevention platform for the banking, payments, health care, e-commerce, and mobile commerce industries. Large companies can also use it to secure and identify employees’ devices and information.

InAuth’s InExchange service allows businesses from different industries to share positive and negative information about devices, helping companies determine whether or not the device has been linked to fraudulent activity in the past. InAuth also works to identify when devices are infected with malware or crimeware, and whether or not it’s a rooted or jailbroken device, potential signs of fraudulent use.

4. Jumio

Jumio

Available for merchants in the retail, travel, gaming, finance, telecom, and sharing economy industries, Jumio offers digital identification verification, mobile checkout, and form-filling software. Two of its three products can help prevent fraud.

Netverify helps authenticate potential customers by letting them take a picture of their photo ID and use their phone or computer to scan their face. The software verifies that the person matches the photo in the ID. BAM Checkout lets customers make mobile purchases by taking pictures of their credit or debit card and driver’s license. The software compares the names on the ID and card, and can help prevent fraud while creating an easy checkout process for customers. Jumio also has a third service, Fastfill, which allows customers to quickly fill in their information by snapping a picture of an ID card.

While Jumio filed chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2016 due to some reported financial irregularities within the company, Jumio’s assets were acquired by Centana Growth Partners. Under this new umbrella, Jumio does seem to have steadied itself and raised an additional $15 million from Centana in August 2016.

5. iovation

 

iovation

iovation delivers device-based fraud prevention and authentication services to help prevent mobile and online fraud. The service automatically collects information about a device. This information is used to visit a company’s site and decide whether or not they should allow, deny, or conduct a manual review of a transaction. For example, iovation may notice a device was used to make over $1,200 of purchases in the previous 12 hours, check to see if a phone number is connected to more than three devices, and see if this purchase is coming from a high-risk location.

Using iovation’s fraud prevention service, companies can require suspicious users to go through additional identification protocol or prevent a transaction outright. They can also use iovationScore, a predictive risk score, to help them identify good and bad customers. As a result, they make a checkout experience smoother for good customers, by letting them skip a security check, for example. The scoring system uses real-time machine learning to monitor billions of transactions globally and increase its predictive capabilities.

6. BioCatch

BioCatch

BioCatch has created cloud-based technology that builds user profiles based on over 500 cognitive parameters, including behavioral patterns. By learning what it looks like when fraudsters create accounts, purchase products, or browse websites, BioCatch can help detect and stop future potential frauds. BioCatch can also help detect when someone takes over a legitimate account by comparing a user’s normal behaviors, including typing speed or cursor movement, to behaviors during the fraudulent session.

7. Trulioo

Trulioo

Canadian startup, Trulioo, uses data from over 140 sources to collect and share information on over 3 billion people, making it one of the largest consumer data companies in the world. E-commerce stores can use Trulioo to verify new customers, reducing the risk of fraudulent purchases and subsequent chargebacks. Financial institutions can use Trulioo’s data to help them meet AML and KYC identity verification requirements.

Louis DeNicola
Louis DeNicola |

Louis DeNicola is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Louis at louis@magnifymoney.com

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Identity Theft Protection, Reviews

Review: PrivacyGuard Identity Theft Protection

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Pickpocketing at the subway station

We should all be a little on edge when it comes to identity theft. It’s no longer out of the ordinary for companies we do business with to experience data breaches. Plus, scammers, hackers and thieves continue to get craftier with their approaches to stealing our information.

Identity theft services seek to help us catch identity theft before it does too much damage. But, it’s important to note that no identity theft protection company can eliminate the risk of theft entirely.

PrivacyGuard offers an identity theft protection product that includes credit monitoring and recovery support if your identity is stolen.

PrivacyGuard Identity Theft Protection at a Glance

privacyguardPrivacyGuard has a three-part service including credit reports, credit monitoring and identity theft recovery.

Credit reports and scores – You get credit reports and CreditXpert credit scores from all three bureaus monthly. According to PrivacyGuard, CreditXpert uses common scoring methods to give you a credit score estimate. This isn’t the FICO scoring method which is used by most lenders. But, you can still use CreditXpert to gain a general sense of your credit score health. PrivacyGuard also has a score tracking tool that charts changes in your score monthly.

Daily Credit Monitoring – Credit alerts will inform you of credit inquiries, new accounts opened, public records added, change of address requests or derogatory remarks.

Identity Theft Protection Recovery – If your identity is stolen, PrivacyGuard has fraud recovery specialists that assist you in taking back your identity. They can help with disputing accounts, contacting your creditors and other paperwork. A toll-free hotline is also available for members if you have questions about your credit report.

Extra Services – Beyond the basic identity theft services PrivacyGuard reimburses for the cost of obtaining certain records including your driving history and MIB files. An MIB file holds the medical information you provide to health insurance companies.

Medical insurance fraud is another form of theft you need to watch out for. PrivacyGuard suggests you stay aware of the medical history in your file in case someone attempts to use your insurance to get free health care.

PrivacyGuard Doesn’t Have Identity Theft Insurance

Noticeably absent from the PrivacyGuard product is an identity theft insurance policy considering the price tag. We’ll get to how much this costs next.

When companies offer identity theft insurance it usually covers missed wages, attorney fees and other costs you incur while taking back your identity after fraud. PrivacyGuard will help in the logistics of identity theft recovery, but you have to foot the bill out-of-pocket.

How Much PrivacyGuard Costs

PrivacyGuard is currently running a special. Using the product for 14 days will cost you $1. After the 14-day period ends, $19.99 will be withdrawn from your account each month.

Ultimately, you can get credit monitoring and credit scores free on a variety of platforms including Credit Karma and Discover. So, what you’re really paying for in this service beyond what you can get for free elsewhere is identity recovery support.

Other Identity Theft Alternatives

Here are two other identity theft products you may want to consider before settling with PrivacyGuard.

identity-guardIdentity Guard will monitor your credit daily. This service provides credit score and credit report updates from all three credit bureaus quarterly. In addition to credit monitoring, you get identity monitoring, public record monitoring, lost wallet protection, personal recovery assistance and $1 million of identity theft insurance. This will cost you $19.99 per month.

zanderinsZander is a good alternative if you’re simply looking for restoration support and identity recovery insurance. The service includes a $1 million identity theft insurance policy. It also offers internet scans of your personal information and credit reports. Credit monitoring isn’t included, but you can always use a free site for this and then tap into Zander if you experience fraud. It costs $6.75 per month or $75 per year.

Is PrivacyGuard Worth the Cost?

PrivacyGuard helps you catch identity theft by regularly checking your credit report for account changes. Again, this is something you can do for free at Credit Karma, Credit.com or www.annualcreditreport.com. Some credit card companies now offer scores and reports with products, check there first before spending your money.

That said, there is one advantage of PrivacyGuard credit monitoring. You get access to credit reports from all three bureaus in one spot. Free sites usually give you access to reports from up to two credit bureaus. You can solve this problem by signing up for more than one free site. Credit Karma, for instance, uses TransUnion and Equifax.

Another thing you can’t get for free is identity recovery support. If you’re willing to pay for this service, PrivacyGuard is still on the expensive side. A product like Identity Guard will give you more for your money.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Identity Theft Protection, Reviews

Review: ProtectMyID Identity Protection

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Pickpocketing at the subway station

Experian is one of three major credit bureaus that collect data to produce our credit reports and scores. One of the products Experian offers is ProtectMyID, an identity theft protection service. ProtectMyID will monitor your Experian credit report and other sources to detect and prevent identity theft.

ProtectMyID Identity Protection at a Glance

This product is broken down into three main components, detection, prevention and resolution.

Detection – ProtectMyID keeps its eyes peeled for any threats against your identity in a few ways. It monitors your Experian credit report daily for the 50 top indicators of identity theft such as new loans and medical records in collections. You also get one free Experian credit report when you sign up. Whenever changes are detected on your Experian report, you’ll get a notification.

ProtectMyID will also monitor the national change of address database to pick up on anyone attempting to forward your mail to their own home. It performs internet scans with your accounts and Social Security number in dark places of the web where sensitive information is bought and sold.

Prevention – If you lose your wallet, an identity theft representative can assist you in cancelling and replacing your cards. You can subscribe to the ChildSecure service as well. This service will alert you if any accounts are opened using your child’s name and Social Security number.

Resolution – ProtectMyID partners you with a fraud specialist if your identity is stolen. This specialist will guide you through the necessary steps to restore your identity including contacting the police and setting up fraud alerts for your file at all three credit bureaus.

Part of the resolution service is $1 million of identity theft insurance. This insurance will cover costs associated with reinstating your identity and, in some cases, pay you back for unauthorized electronic transfers.

Out of all the ProtectMyID services, restoration and insurance hold the most value.

The ProtectMyID $1 Million Insurance Policy

So, what exactly does this insurance policy cover?

It reimburses you for lost wages, travel expenses and elder or child care costs you incur while resolving identity theft.

Of course, there are some limits to this coverage. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Lost wages – $1,500 per week, for 5 weeks maximum
  • Travel expenses – $1,000 per policy period
  • Elder, spouse or child care – $2,000 per policy period

Besides the expenses above, the identity theft insurance policy will cover the cost of re-filing loans, ordering medical records, notarizing documents, replacing your IDs and other expenses needed to restore your identity.

Hiring an attorney and private investigator may be covered if you choose someone to represent you approved by ProtectMyID.

In the case of unauthorized electronic transfer, the insurance policy pays out the principal amount stolen from your accounts. But, only after you seek reimbursement from your financial institution first and it’s proven that the transaction did happen because of fraud outside of your control.

The deductible for the insurance plan is $0 from the start.

The Cost of ProtectMyID

ProtectMyID costs $15.95 per month and it comes with a 14-day money back guarantee. There’s a 10% discount for adults 55 and over.

As mentioned, ProtectMyID offers you one free credit report from Experian in addition to regular monitoring. If you want another report from Experian or from any of the other two credit bureaus, TransUnion and Equifax, you’ll need to buy them.

(Remember, you’re also entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from www.annualcreditreport.com.)

Other Identity Theft Alternatives

Identity Guard has credit monitoring, credit reports and credit scores from all three credit bureaus, if you choose one of the two premium plans.

The very basic plan (without credit monitoring) includes database scans of your Social Security number, ID verification alerts, lost wallet protection and $1 million of identity theft insurance.

Here are the plans in detail.

  • Identity Guard Essentials – $9.99 per month for identity theft victim assistance, lost wallet protection and online “black” market monitoring.
  • Identity Guard Total Protection – $19.99 per month for everything in Identity Guard Essentials plus address change monitoring and 3-bureau credit report monitoring quarterly.
  • Identity Guard Platinum – $24.99 per month for everything in Identity Guard Essentials plus address change monitoring and 3-bureau credit report monitoring monthly.

IdentityForce offers two plans that monitor public records and the back alley internet for your personal information. There’s also 24/7 identity restoration and $1 million of identity theft insurance.

A step beyond the basic service, the premium plan includes daily credit monitoring of all three credit bureaus along with credit reports and scores.

Here’s the breakdown of costs.

  • UltraSecure+Credit – $239.50 per year or $23.95 per month
  • UltraSecure – $179.50 per year or $17.95 per month

Is ProtectMyID Worth the Cost?

ProtectMyID is competitively priced compared to other identity theft protection services and the insurance coverage is a key benefit. But, ProtectMyID doesn’t monitor all three credit bureaus. This is a red flag.

Your credit reports aren’t the same across the board, so having only one credit report monitored for fraud puts you at a disadvantage. Even ProtectMyID mentions the importance of monitoring all of your credit reports on the website facts page. But, getting all of these reports on ProtectMyID will cost you money.

Identity Guard or IdentityForce are both services that will monitor all three credit bureaus for you. Or you can use a free site like Credit Karma to monitor them on your own. Credit Karma offers free reports from Equifax and TransUnion.

Keep in mind, unauthorized transactions can happen on your current accounts and that won’t get picked up on your credit reports right away. ProtectMyID is not a substitute for setting alerts on your accounts for suspicious bank and credit card activity.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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Identity Theft Protection

Review: IdentityForce Identity Theft Protection

The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

IdentityForce Identity Theft Protection

About 7% of U.S. residents over the age of 16 were victims of identity theft in 2014, according to a report published in September 2015 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Over half of the victims were able to resolve issues within a day or less. However, victims that took longer to recover their identity were more likely to experience problems with work, relationship stress and emotional distress than those who could fix the problem quickly.

The purpose of services like IdentityForce is to catch identity theft fast so you can resolve issues right away and utilize services such as identity restoration to minimize the hassle of reclaiming your identity from scam artists.

IdentityForce Services at a Glance

The IdentityForce product comes with identity monitoring of public and court records. It also monitors for change of address requests, sex offender listings and payday loans in your name. You’ll get alerted if there’s any unusual activity with your personal information or strange transactions on your credit card or bank accounts.

If your identity is compromised you get one-on-one, 24/7 support from Certified Protection Experts and $1 million in an insurance policy to cover the cost of repairing your identity. This insurance is for the purpose of helping you recover your identity. The $1 million insurance does not cover $1 million in stolen funds.

IdentityForce offers two plans:

The base plan (UltraSecure) has everything discussed above (identity monitoring, alerts, restoration and insurance), but it excludes credit monitoring.

The IdentityForce premium plan (UltraSecure + Credit) gives you the extra benefit of daily 3-bureau credit monitoring along with credit scores and reports from all 3 credit bureaus.

Out of all the service features where IdentityForce shines is the restoration service because technically you can take care of everything else on your own or use a free tool. You can check public records for your own personal information. You can set up alerts with your bank or credit card company to notify you of excess spending or withdrawals.

You can also use a site like Credit Karma to monitor your credit reports for unusual activity and set alerts if there are changes to your accounts.

But, what’s more challenging to do by yourself is taking care of the problems that arise after your identity is stolen. If you sign over power of attorney to IdentityForce when your identity is stolen a specialist will make all the calls on your behalf to recover your identity.

Child Watch and Medical Identity Theft Protection

IdentityForce offers Child Watch and Medical Identity Theft Protection as service add-ons.

Once you subscribe you can add your children to the Child Watch program. This extra feature will notify you if there’s suspicious activity under your child’s name. Child Watch is also included in the $1 million insurance policy and restoration service.

Medical identity fraud happens when someone uses your insurance and personal information to get medical care without paying. Then medical bills you’re completely unaware of show up on your delinquent accounts and impact your credit. IdentityForce will monitor your medical accounts and medical insurance to stay on top of fraud.

IdentityForce Transparency Level

Overall the IdentityForce service is transparent with its terms and how the service works. In small print on the Family Identity Theft Protection page, IdentityForce mentions no one (or service in this case) can prevent all identity theft. It’s true.

If you purchase a service like this the purpose is to catch identity theft early so you can nip it in the bud. You can’t eliminate your chances of experiencing fraud entirely.

IdentityForce is also transparent about what the insurance policy does and doesn’t cover. This is a plus because you don’t want to sign up for a service and then get an unpleasant surprise when you need to submit a claim.

In a nutshell, the insurance will cover the costs of reinstating your identity if you’re found to be a confirmed victim of identity theft. According to the terms, getting a purse, wallet or sensitive documents stolen does not automatically mean you’re a confirmed victim.

After money is stolen from your bank account or other fraud activity occurs, you’re then considered a confirmed victim and qualified for coverage. The insurance plan covers reasonable and necessary costs like long-distance calls, loan re-application fees and the cost of up to 6 credit reports while resolving identity theft.

You’ll also get coverage for lost wages if you have to take off from work. Another benefit of insurance coverage is it’ll cover legal and defense fees for charges brought against you as a result of identity theft if you choose an attorney that’s approved by IdentityForce.

The Cost of IdentityForce

The UltraSecure Plan costs $17.95 per month or $179.50 per year: This is the basic plan including monitoring of public records and activity alerts. Also comes with restoration services and the $1 million insurance policy.

The UltraSecure+ Credit Plan costs $23.95 per month or $239.50 per year: This plan includes everything from the UltraSecure Plan plus daily credit monitoring. You’ll get credit reports and scores from all 3 credit bureaus. There’s a monthly score tracker and a credit score simulator.

Other Identity Theft Protection Alternatives

Zander is another identity protection service that offers similar features as IdentityForce without the credit monitoring aspect although you get free credit reports.

Identity monitoring, fraud alerts and identity restoration is included in the service. You’ll also get reimbursed up to $1 million of expenses caused by identity theft. Zander is $6.75 per month for individuals (or $75 per year) and $12.90 per month for families (or $145 per year).

TrustedID offers 3-bureau credit monitoring, credit reports and credit scores. It has fraud alerts, medical benefits protections, protection support specialists and $1 million of identity theft insurance. The plan for individuals costs $14.17 per month billed in one installment of $170 per year. For families it costs $25 per month billed in one installment of $300 per year.

Is IdentityForce Worth the Cost?

Comparing costs of IdentityForce against both Zander and TrustedID, IdentityForce is slightly more expensive.

If you were to pick between Zander and IdentityForce (since both offer restoration services), Zander gives you a comparable service for less money. And you can always solve the problem of Zander not having credit monitoring by coupling it with another free service (i.e. Credit Karma).

Ultimately, before checking out any identity protection product you should think about whether you can do monitoring on your own and avoid the cost entirely. For pros and cons of using an identity theft protection service check out this post.

Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor at taylor@magnifymoney.com

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