The recent security breaches at Target and Neiman Marcus have left more than 110 million people vulnerable to identity theft and fraud.
The incident has also Americans thinking about identity theft protection. Ruth to the Rescue spoke to some experts to see if buying that protection is worth the money.
Neil Chase is the Vice-President of Education for LifeLock Security, one of the leading names in identity theft protection. He spoke to us about how LifeLock keeps its customers' information safe.
"We're monitoring the opening of new accounts at various banks or retail credit card openings; The kinds of things that somebody can do with your identity that you wouldn't find out until much later and it was too late." said Chase.
Chase says that monitoring is a key first step. If LifeLock spots something unusual in a customer's records, they notify them. If a problem does arise, LifeLock's remediation team will help customers sort out the issue.
"If something does happen," said Chase, "You have somebody who is an expert, who can walk you through the entire process; from recording it, to contacting the different companies involved, to whatever else is involved. Which sometimes, on the more complicated cases, involves government agencies and lawyers and courts and things like that."
Do-it-yourself protection is less expensive
Tom Berry, a fraud investigator and former Detroit Police detective isn't sold on the idea that you have to pay a monthly fee to protect your personal
information. He says that while services offered by companies like LifeLock can be helpful, consumers can also take measures to protect themselves.
According to Berry, the best defense against identity theft is to put a security freeze on your credit with the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. The freeze means that verification is required before any attempt to open a new line of credit in your name.
"Everybody that's watching should get online of pick up the phone and put a block on your account. It's a win-win situation," said Berry.
Consumer Reports also says doing it yourself is a cheaper alternative to services like Lifelock. Fraud victims can receive the security freeze for
free. Other folks will face a minimal charge of about $10, you should look for more information from each agency.
Shopping for ID theft protection
According to Melanie Duquesnel, CEO of the Better Business Bureau, the decision about whether to purchase identity protection comes down to a question of cost versus convenience.
"If this is going to make you sleep better at night, by all means, but again, make sure its within your budget." said Dunquesnel
One thing Duquesnel advises consumers never to do, however, is accept identity theft protection service from a company that offers it unsolicited. This is almost always a scam.
"I can see the scam artist calling and saying 'Hey did shop at, fill-in-the-blank, and you know I am going to give you that protection that you see on
television.' No, no, no. no." said Duquesnel. "If anybody should call you out of the blue, stop then, and be polite, but say no thank you. Shut off the
Duquesnel also offered some advice on how to shop for protection:
1) Ask how often they monitor your accounts and information? Is it daily, weekly, monthly?
2) How quickly do they send notification of a problem?
3) How will the notify you? Via text, cell phone, landline?
4) If they offer any kind of insurance against losses, ask what's covered? What's not?
5) Check with your credit providers to see what fraud protection they offer, so you're not doubling your efforts.
6) Find out how they will remediate any theft/fraud situations that might come up.
Duquesnel says you shouldn't pay for coverage you cannot afford, but then you'll need to be more vigilant yourself in checking your accounts and watching to any signs of fraud or identity theft. If you'd like to check a company's reputation before you buy protection, you can go to the Better Business Bureau website.
If you'd like to know more about Lifelock, follow this link.
Here are the websites for the three credit reporting agencies: