ID theft services, which offer to help consumers monitor their credit accounts or restore identities for a fee, are a waste of money, suggests a new report from the investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office.
“We did not identify any studies that analyzed whether consumers who sign up for or purchase identity theft services encounter fewer instances of identity theft or detect instances of financial or other fraud more—or less—rapidly than consumers who take steps on their own,” the authors say.
Additionally, the services could actually create more opportunities for hackers to steal from you, the report observes. “One consumer group representative noted that identity monitoring services require consumers to provide additional personal information to enroll—which also could be compromised if the service provider’s information were breached,” the GAO report states.
The authors point out the services have limitations: among them is the vendors don’t address all data breach risks.
The Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau urge people considering paying for ID theft services to compare them with free or low-cost options before signing up.
Hackers can make purchases, take out loans or seek medical care in a victim’s name with stolen financial account numbers, passwords and Social Security numbers.
If you haven’t been a victim of ID theft, you probably know a few people who have.
For FREE information on how to protect yourself from ID theft and how to “freeze” your credit to prevent hackers and unauthorized persons from accessing your credit files, visit the website of the North Carolina Attorney General: https://www.ncdoj.gov/Consumer/Credit-and-Debt/2-4-3-1-1-Freeze-Your-Credit.aspx
A “security freeze” blocks access to your credit unless you have given your permission. This can prevent an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name. All consumers can get a free security freeze online, by phone or by mail. A security freeze, also known as a credit or a file freeze, can be lifted (or “thawed”) temporarily when you are applying for credit, or removed permanently.
Parents and guardians can also shield their children’s credit report with a special Protected Consumer security freeze. These freezes can also be used to safeguard incapacitated adults.
How a Security Freeze Works:
Once you’ve placed a security freeze on your credit, a creditor who asks to see your file will see a message that your file is frozen. The creditor will not see your credit score, and may treat your application as incomplete but not rejected.
Government agencies collecting child support payments or taxes and your existing creditors or collection agencies acting on their behalf can continue to access your credit despite the freeze.
Other creditors may also use your information to offer you pre-approved credit. You can stop most credit offers by calling (888) 5-OPT-OUT or visiting www.optoutprescreen.com
You will still be able to get a free copy of your credit report annually from each credit bureau.