Service of What To Do About Identity Theft

November 2nd, 2017

Categories: Uncategorized

The more I read about data breaches especially of companies, like Equifax, that are supposed to guard our personal information and countless subsequent almost daily articles about what to do about it, the more anxious I get. After a scampered through Tara Siegel Bernard’s excellent piece in The New York Times, I wasn’t one bit relieved. In “Is It Time to Consider an Identity Protection Service?” in addition to “not necessarily,” I kept thinking “fox in the henhouse!” In 2014, the most recent year for which there are statistics, she said that 17.6 million were victims of identity theft where perpetrators tried to enter bank or credit card accounts.

And just as I thought I was up to date and that it was time to write about this I read Michael Rapoport and AnnaMaria Andriotis’ article in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “States Quiz Equifax on Disclosure,” which reports that “Attorneys general in at least five states are looking into why credit-reporting firm Equifax Inc. didn’t tell the public for nearly six weeks about the massive data breach that potentially compromised the personal information of 148.5 million Americans.”

Back to Bernard. She wrote about services such as LifeLock and MyIDCare, so-called protection services, and the news wasn’t reassuring. A security analyst who works for a tech research firm Avivah Litan, told Bernard that she felt these services were a waste of money.

Bernard continued: “But these services vary greatly, both in reputation and in offerings, according to fraud and privacy experts. Signing up also requires consumers to entrust yet another corporate entity with their most sensitive data — many of the same details stolen in the Equifax breach — while entering into legal agreements filled with fine print that leads consumers to give up many rights.”

More distressing: “Some of the more prominent services also have questionable histories. The Government Accountability Office counts at least 16 federal enforcement actions taken against providers of identity theft protection—financial services among them.” Bernard reported that Lifelock didn’t secure client’s “most sensitive data,” and promoted false advertising, resulting in a $100 million fine paid the FTC. That was in 2015. This year Equifax and Transunion settled “a regulator’s allegations that they tricked consumers into paying for credit scores of questionable value.” Together they paid $23 million.

Bernard explained what the protection services do. They hire the big services, [such as Equifax, TransUnion and Experian], to look for any changes in activity such as new credit cards, a big increase in what you owe or a late payment so you hear about it after the damage is done. They also claim to scan and monitor a whole list of things such as misuse of medical ID and Social Security numbers, but “they aren’t necessarily going to prevent a crime.”

Bernard added: “But consumers need to be able to trust that the companies will protect the information they are scanning for. Identity Guard asks consumers to provide 26 pieces of personal data, though Mr. [Johan] Roets says that data remains on its operational servers and never touches the internet.”

The companies that specialize in helping once the dastardly deed is done, some with private investigators with limited power of attorney, don’t come cheap. IDShield charges $899 at first and a monthly rate of either $9.95 or $19.95 reported Bernard.

A credit freeze costs nothing and Bernard said will foil some fraud as it prevents anyone opening credit cards or loans in your name but does nothing to avoid “takeover of financial accounts and cellphones,” where plenty of activity occurs, nor does it thwart fraud relating to tax refunds and social security payments. I know three people who were told they’d already submitted their taxes. Scofflaws submitted early requesting substantial refunds. Someone had stolen their identity and submitted tax information early.

I just read on “Hauser & Wirth, London-based dealers Simon Lee, Thomas Dane, Rosenfeld Porcini, and Laura Bartlett, and Tony Karman, the president of Expo Chicago, have all been targeted by hackers or had money stolen from them in the midst of transactions over artworks, according to a report in the Art Newspaper. The most common form of fraud so far consists of criminals hacking into an art dealer’s e-mail account and monitoring incoming and outgoing correspondence.” Eventually the hackers slip in to the email conversation pretending to be the art dealer and instruct the recipient to trash the first invoice and wire payment to their account. They disappear once the money arrives.

Bernard lists 10 steps to safeguard yourself from fraud. They range from opening a “My Social Security Account” with the Social Security Administration to prevent a thief from redirecting your benefits to dedicating one computer for all financial activity.

What have you done to protect your identity? Are you concerned or do you think it’s much ado about nothing? Do you know anyone who has had their identity breached? Do you feel that the guardians of your credit information that have potentially let it loose in the land are culpable and should be held responsible to protect you for free?

8 Responses to “Service of What To Do About Identity Theft”

  1. JBS Said:

    We have had to change our Visa card three times because people have tried to use it without our permission (often in states we haven’t even visited and at stores where I never shop. I do shop on the Internet, because of health issues, and we assume that is where people have “captured” our Visa card numbers. Fortunately for us, the card company has caught every one of these false users, changed our number and sent us a new card within 48 hours. Since it is the card that I use most often, I really appreciate this service and I have to admit I will never get a Visa card from any other source. The bank where we’ve had a checking account and later car and home loans is the supplier of this card and I really appreciate them.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Sounds like a GREAT bank! But imagine what it costs THEM–and others–to mop up the mess made by lax companies–like Equifax appeared to be–that allowed people to breach data and were slow in reporting the news and/or, in the first place, didn’t have sufficient walls up to protect the millions off of whose data they make $millions.

  3. Hank Goldman Said:

    Wow. What a difficult question. In this day and age… Who can you trust? Even those who were supposed to watch over your identity, such as LifeLock, have their own identities stolen !
    Who can you trust? Have no idea anymore…

  4. Lucan Said:

    I grew up living mostly in European countries with centralized, often fascist, governments, and one of my earlier memories is of my father handing our passports to the concierge of the hotel we were staying at for his nightly report to the police. When I asked him why he had had to do that, he patiently explained to me that, unlike in America, everybody in Europe had to carry an official identity card and that the national police there wanted to know at all times where everybody was.

    It has come full circle. Now, while the FBI and CIA probably don’t care that much, Google, Facebook, Microsoft et al, do want to know all they can about me in order, in one way or another, to sell that knowledge to marketers. (Of course, if information useful to the government is also there, it is also ripe to be picked at will.) None of us can have secrets anymore either.

    There is no mystery as to how this capitulation of private freedoms came about. Go way back to when the internet was first organized and see what’s happened since. It’s all there.

    After hours of watching various C Span Congressional hearings, I am convinced that there is no practical way to turn the clock back to preserve our privacy and protect our property. The best we can do is to block access to accounts where possible, avoid membership in Facebook, Amazon, EBay and the like, restrict our use of the internet to the bare essentials and take our chances. Even doing this, though, won’t stop the trend downwards towards total vulnerability.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    That’s just it. The folks who were breached–Equifax–are the same folks the companies that you pay to protect you use to keep an eye out for unusual activity. And in one of the many articles I read the head of Equifax was promoting this service that his company also sells directly to the public while speaking to an audience at a time it is thought he knew of the huge breach–as yet unannounced–of his company’s database. Sigh.

    And nobody seems to be STOPPING the theft and misuse of information: It’s a question of mopping up afterwards. And who pays for that? The person who was abused and robbed.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Just this morning on WOR 710 radio, news director Joe Bartlett told the audience that he and his wife were in the kitchen recently discussing a product. He went to look it up on his computer and before he typed a word into Google, up popped an advertisement for just the product that he and his wife had discussed. He was freaked. He said, “Was my iPhone listening?”

    Instead of social security numbers we might all be assigned new numbers and start from scratch. But should the vehicle by which we receive the new numbers be breached, we’re no farther advanced. There are great minds trying to figure this out, or not. Why should they spend the money when regardless we all gleefully buy and bank online with abandon and in NY State, we MUST submit tax info via the Internet. On top of it those with banks have social security and goodness knows how many other monthly amounts from the government sent to them electronically.

    Seems to me I was asked for my passport at the hotel some six years ago when last in Spain.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    The present situation parallels the time when car radios were being stolen. While there were no guarantees that ones radio would not vanish, making it more difficult via locks and alarms, upped the chance a thief would seek easier targets.

    Simple precautions, often overlooked, is the shredding of all discarded personal records, including mail bearing name and address. Diligent thieves go through garbage to gather all the information they can get. This has been widely publicized, but contents of apartment compactor rooms strongly suggest this warning is ignored.

    Some insurance policies carry various forms of protection at affordable cost. Get it. Be prepared to pay a more substantial sum for a good shredder which reduces the trash to tinier than tiny pieces. Thieves welcome the contents of the $29.00 variety, since long and “fat” shreds permit them easy access to desired information. Lifelock advertises such items as a “free gift” when purchasing their services. One wonders how well it carries through with its promises.

    Finally, do not, under any circumstances play fast and lose with private information such as credit cards, bank statements, etc. Some people can’t stop revealing facts about themselves which may easily reach the wrong ears. It pays to keep the mouth shut.

    No precautions carry a guarantee of victim avoidance, but the more difficult one makes it, the better chance a thief will seek easier pickings.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Amazing how a low-tech solution–or lack of same–can help or trip you up. On the other hand, it would seem to me that for the hackers/data breachers who live around the world it would be easier to fiddle with their computers than dig through sliced papers. One of my credit card companies never uses my full account number of its correspondence. It XXXX a whole bunch of numbers. Other finance companies don’t take that precaution.

    My friend who, with his wife, learned in April that someone had stolen their identities and submitted tax info to the IRS in March asking for a $7,000 refund, said that there are rooms full of young people typing in all sorts of numbers and combinations of numbers for hour upon hour until they open this or that door to data. We don’t have a chance against them.

    But back to your suggestion: I’ve heard people give out credit card numbers on the phone in public places…there is a little that we can do to take care. Reminds me of the warning I heard on the radio after the terrorist ran over and killed 8 innocent people in NYC on Halloween and hurt countless more. “Look around you–stop texting as you walk around and be aware of your surroundings.” Will that stop terrorists? No. But it might save your life if you see something big coming at you on a sidewalk or in a place a truck should not be.

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