by Nancy Osborne, COO of ERATE®
We are told almost nightly on the evening news that Identity (ID) Theft is something we should all be on the alert for. It is reported that ID Theft is increasing at an alarming rate and that law enforcement is unable to keep pace with its exponential increase. Even more alarming are reports that it may take victims of this crime years to reverse the damage done to their credit. It would seem that taking preventative measures up front may be far easier to stomach than having to fight to repair your credit after the damage is done. Until merchants have near impenetrable security measures in place and law enforcement has a better handle on tackling these ID thieves, prevention may well be the best path to take.
Many consumer advocates claim that ID Theft protection services are unnecessary because the companies providing these services offer to do for you for a fee what you could easily do for yourself for free. However when evaluating whether or not these services may be right for you, ask yourself if you are willing to actually plan for and take the time necessary to protect your credit? Will you check your credit every 90 days, place fraud alerts on your report and continue to renew them on an on-going basis? A service may do this for you automatically and may also provide some additional insurance coverage to protect you in the event that credit or ID fraud or theft should occur. The key is to work with a reputable service company that will provide tangible services for the fee they require which should average about $14.00 per month. Ask how often your credit will be checked at each of the three credit bureaus and how quickly you will be notified if there is a problem and what help will be provided to you to correct them.
You may want to start with your homeowners and/or auto insurance company to see if any ID theft protection is already afforded you through existing policies you have in place. However there are so called “Identity Recovery” policies which can be purchased to cover the costs required to recover or restore your identity. A separate policy could run you about $50-$110 a year and some of these policies will provide coverage up to one million dollars in ID fraud related expenses.
In the end whether or not these added services make sense for you depends on how vigilant and organized you intend to be in monitoring your credit and whether you have the time and inclination to implement protective measures on your own and will quickly follow up should a problem arise. If you are a frequent user of credit with many accounts to monitor, then the decision to contract someone to perform these services for you may be the easiest option.
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Nancy Osborne has had experience in the mortgage business for over 20 years and is a founder of both ERATE, where she is currently the COO and Progressive Capital Funding, where she served as President. She has held real estate licenses in several states and has received both the national Certified Mortgage Consultant and Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist designations. Ms. Osborne is also a primary contributing writer and content developer for ERATE.
"I am addicted to Bloomberg TV" says Nancy.