Not all forms of protection are created equal. And there are a lot of misconceptions out there about what identity theft protection actually is. Some services may guard your finances—which is definitely good—but there’s a big difference in stealing your money and stealing your identity.
Contrary to common assumption, identity theft protection and fraud services aren’t all the same thing. So before you pick a brand, you have to pick a product. But what’s the difference?
The Watch Dog: Credit Card & Bank Account Fraud Alerts
This type of monitoring is typically a feature offered by your bank or lender. If your financial institution detects a suspicious charge or change to your account, they will send you an alert. It’s a necessary level of protection to your credit cards that card issuers and banks provide for free.
However, these types of alerts only catch fraud related to a specific card or account. That’s it. What if an identity thief goes to another bank and opens an account in your name? Or if an identity thief uses your personal information for utility services or loans? Or what if your personal information is being traded in the online black market? These types of services won’t measure up.
Different companies offer different features and levels of protection. You can find out more about these types of alerts by contacting your bank or lender. Click here to learn about credit and debit card fraud.
The Alarm System: Credit Monitoring
We depend on our credit reports and score for everything from car loans, mortgages and even employment. So traditional credit monitoring (straight from the credit bureaus or from a third party company) sounds like it would be the most effective option.
But traditional credit monitoring is based solely on your credit report and score. What shows up on a credit report? Major changes and inquiries—often information that’s already been processed and approved.
What about the transactions that don’t end up on your credit report? Similar to card alerts, credit monitoring does not detect all forms of identity theft. And many other forms of fraud won’t end up on your credit report until it’s too late—defaulted loans, liens and judgments, bankruptcy.
It’s a smart idea to track your credit reports and score. But credit monitoring is only one piece of the protection puzzle.
To learn more about the information on your credit reports, click here.
The Surveillance Officer: Identity Theft Protection
More than just credit monitoring, the foundation of identity theft protection lies in the monitoring for personal information being fraudulently used in different types of applications, loans and services. It’s an attempt to stop a thief in his tracks before the damage is done.
But the key to these products is having a combination of credit, financial and personal information monitoring features covering everything from the scanning of court records to the protection of children’s Social Security numbers. A service that also includes credit reports, scores and inquiries is an even more robust option.
And identity theft protection isn’t dependent solely on your credit reports or bank accounts. Instead it relies on several different monitoring technologies and protection tools.
Beyond the basics, every provider is different. But for thorough protection, you need a product that includes a diverse collection of the most effective services at one affordable price. Just think of identity theft protection as a security bundle.
To learn more about the different types of identity theft, click here.
† Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For
January – December 2011.” February 2012.
† Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming
the New Fraud Frontier." February 2012.