I see a ton of articles that say identity theft protection is not something you really need. These articles have titles like “ID Theft Protection Does Not Work,” or “The Poor Man’s Guide to ID Theft Protection.” Though some of these articles have a bit of merit, they totally miss the point.
Here’s the deal – You can’t protect yourself from every type of ID theft out there, and the types you can protect yourself against require a ton of focus. One way or the other, it will cost you money, time, and probably a bit of anxiety too.
Those who have elected not to invest in ID theft protection say they don’t need to pay for a service that they can take care of on their own. Why? Because they do the following:
Dispose of Their Mail, Securely – One thing that people do to protect their identity is to shred all of their mail. This is especially the case when it contains account information. However, this isn’t enough. Though you might do your part, there is no guarantee that your bank, mortgage company, or even electrical provider won’t toss paperwork with your information into a dumpster. At that point, it’s free for the taking.
Opt Out of Preapproved Credit Card Offers and Junk Mail – Yes, this is good advice. You can do it online at OptOutPrescreen.com. However, keep in mind that even if you do this, you will still get some offers.
Get a P.O. Box – I’m not sure why people think that getting and using a P.O. box will help to protect them from identity theft, but they do. Yes, this is a more secure way of getting your mail and in some cases will protect sensitive data. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much.
Check Their Credit Report – Yes, you should always check your credit report. But, people who believe that checking their credit report can stop ID theft are mistaken. You can get a free credit report each year at AnnualCreditReport.com, but you really need to check more often than once every 12 months. Checking a credit report does not proactively protect your identity.
Set Up Fraud Alerts – People also set up fraud alerts and think they are fully protected from ID theft. Again, fraud alerts are great, but they expire after 90 days, and most people forget to renew the service. Additionally, these are only a guideline for your creditors, and they are not required to contact you if they issue credit.
Freeze Their Credit – These people also freeze their credit. This is a good thing to do, and I think it is fundamental to protecting your identity, but again, it doesn’t help to protect your ID from tax-related identity theft, criminal identity theft, account takeover or medical identity theft.
All of these things help, and are necessary in addition to a Protection Service, but people who stick with these and don’t get full service identity theft protection are putting themselves in a precarious position. Instead, it’s best to get a professional product, which offers better protection.
Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.