What do forty million shoppers at Target all have in common? They have been the latest victims of identity theft. As has been reported on every major media news outlet, these customers' credit card information was stolen from one of Target's data bases over a period of a month. And the culprits have already been using these customers' information for their own financial benefit. The heart wrenching stories are now starting to surface. Lawsuits have started as well, with one woman claiming she can't pay her bills because the thieves used the money on her debit card. While her bank will investigate, and more than likely replace the stolen money to her in a week or two, there is still the headache of “overdraft fees”, utilities being cut off, and a host of other nightmare situations. |
The sad, but true fact is that identity theft is now common crime in North America. It has become the number one consumer complaint in the United States, striking 18 people every minute. So how do you protect your identity from being compromised? The universal answer would be to advise you to keep all of your information secret. Hide your social security card. Keep you credit cards in a vault with all of your other important papers like your birth certificate, drivers' license, bank account statements, and so on. And then never, ever, ever, use a computer. Okay, by now your are saying that I am “nuts” to think this is possible. And if I were really going to give you this advise, I wouldn't blame you one bit for saying that. The honest truth is that there is no way to keep your information from getting “out there”, because it is already out there.
Did your parents ever register you for school? Then your information is out there. They had to surrender it when they filled out the registration form. Do you have a driver's license? Your information is out there. Have you ever filled out a job application? Loan application? Library card application? Medical Forms? You get the point. Your information, just as much as mine, is already out there.
So what do you do to prevent ID theft? You could do what a many people do and search for and adhere to the many identity theft protection tips which offer the obvious things you can do to decrease your chances of being a target. You can find these tips plastered all over the internet. Tips like, “Never give out your social security number on the internet”, or “Never write down your passwords; commit them all to memory” – all one hundred of them, or “Don't keep you car registration in you car”. I could go on and on until you really think I'm crazy. There is no real way to fully protect your identity. So if you can't fully protect your identity, the real question that one should ask is, “How do I find out if and when my information is compromised?
The answer comes in purchasing identity theft protection. But buyer beware because the financial industry has recognized the need, and many businesses have rushed their product to market, offering some sort protection, so as to quickly capitalize on this crime wave. Hence, some companies offer what I consider to be the “drive thru” package, where you get a plan that gives you a bunch of preventative measures on the front end with a do-it-yourself kit to utilize on the back end, if and when you experience an identity theft incident. Other companies offer some mixture of services from credit identity monitoring, government agency monitoring, credit restoration services, and the likes. And other companies offer the “Card Blanche” service, with all of the above, including “real” investigators and agents that step in and do the expert leg work with you or for you. My suggestion to you is to make sure you are getting the coverage you need, because these plans can range from very basic to very comprehensive.
Here are a few things to consider when shopping for your plan:
1. How long has the company been in business? You definitely don't want a fly-by-night business, who's only mission is to capitalize on your risk, when dealing with your identity. There are some very good companies that have already been in the “Identity Protection” business for years. Find one.
2. Keep in mind that ID Theft is a world wide problem. Therefor you are at risk worldwide. It's best to find a company that has a global presence when considering what plan to purchase.
3. Face the reality that chances are your identity will be stolen. And when it happens, The time involved can be very lengthy and painstaking. Search for a company that won't just give you the “how to” kit to restore your good name. There are companies that have agents that take the lead in assisting you in restoration, should you become a victim.
4. Consider the extra costs involved should you become a victim. Find a company that keeps your out-of-pocket expenses to a minimum should the “unimaginable” happen to you. There are a few out there. Avoid companies that only provide basic initial consultation, then nickel and dime you every time you require their direct assistance or intervention. Your monthly premium “on the front end” should be enough.
5. Know your consumer rights. It might be a good idea to have a legal plan to compliment your ID theft coverage. An attorney or Law Firm that has your back at a time like this can be an enormous plus. These are some of the major things to consider when selecting your plan, and the company that stands behind it. It could very well be the difference in giving you a “simple headache” in dealing with an ID Theft incident, or causing your worst nightmare to become a reality.
Unfortunately, identity theft is a crime that will be with us in the unforeseeable future. That 20th century tool, the computer, that gave us access to the “information superhighway”, brought this horrible crime to levels never seen before. But remember the old saying, that “The best defense is a great offense.” Picture your “offense” as purchasing a plan that provides comprehensive coverage for you and your family. You'll have a sense of security in knowing that when it happens, you will quickly know it, and have the defensive tools available to stop it in its tracks, preventing a potential financial and psychological nightmare. And when it happens to you, you will be thankful that you invested in a “good” protection.
Gerard Cassagnol is a professional marketer of legal plans and identity theft plans for individuals, families, and small businesses. He has subscribed to a legal and identity theft plan for more than 15 years and has been an advocate of affordable legal and identity protection in the USA and Canada. For more information about Identity Theft Protection, please go to FREE REPORT ON ID THEFT PROTECTION . For more information about legal plans, please go to Legal Protection For My Family
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