Since we began this column the focus has been on preventing identity theft. What do you do when you become one of the people from whom it is already stolen? There is a booklet you can get from the Federal Trade Commission or your local bank that will tell you some of the steps you can go through.
Depending on the type of identity theft that occurred, it may be necessary for you to contact 50 or 60 different people, with varying amounts of red tape, trying to get your situation corrected. This is assuming that your identity theft problem did not get you arrested or your property impounded or repossessed. The average time it takes to resolve an identity theft issue is 400 to 600 hours and about $1,500. That is a big investment.
What is your alternative to doing this yourself? There are seven companies in the U.S. that specialize in identity theft services. Do not be confused by the number of subcontractors who sell their services. Everyone seems to be in the identity theft business today, but only these seven companies actually do the work. For example, your bank is probably offering an identity theft plan but they don’t run it. They contract with one of those seven companies. Each one says they will protect you. But there is a lot of differences in coverage and three very important ones.
The first is which identity thefts they will cover. Every company will offer credit identity theft coverage. That is because it is the easiest and least expensive for them to cover. All major credit card companies will waive any charges if you are the victim of identity theft. Even if they offer a million dollar policy it never cost them anything. It is also only 16% of the identity thefts. If you are a victim of the other 84%, you’re simply out of luck. What you want to know is if they also cover these identity theft issues: medical identity theft, Social Security identity theft, criminal activity using your identity, identity theft using your driver’s license and identity theft of children who are minors. If your company does not cover these, move on to a better plan.
The second area you want to check is what the company actually does when your identity is stolen. Do they alert you? How quickly? By what means? My mother was one of the people who had her credit card lost by Target last year. They signed her up for complimentary identity theft protection. She recently bought a house and two weeks after she signed the loan papers she got a letter in the mail from Target’s identity theft protection provider alerting her that someone had checked her credit. Two weeks later!
It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. A good company will text you the moment a flag comes up and ask if the transaction is fraudulent. If your company does not do that, go to one who does.
The third area you need to check is what the company does besides alerting you to a problem. Notification is only the first step. It is what they provide afterward that counts. I mentioned the 400-600 hours of time it takes to resolve an identity theft issue. That is three 40 hour weeks of work. Do you have time to do that?