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.
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.
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 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.
- Capital One® QuicksilverOne® Cash Rewards Credit Card – $39 annual fee
- Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card – $0 annual fee
- Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card – $95 annual fee after first year
- Capital One® VentureOne® Rewards Credit Card – $0 annual fee
- Trio Credit Card from Fifth Third Bank – $0 annual fee
- Priority Destinations World Elite MasterCard from First Hawaiian Bank – $50 annual fee after first year
- Points Rewards World MasterCard from Patelco Credit Union – $0 annual fee
- Payback Rewards World MasterCard from Patelco Credit Union – $35 annual fee after first year
- Passage Rewards World Elite MasterCard from Patelco Credit Union – $85 annual fee after first year
- Premier World MasterCard from HSBC – $95 annual fee after first year unless you have a qualifying checking account at HSBC
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.