Back when I discussed anonymity I raised some concerns about identity theft. Here is a follow up on my research on identity theft. Hopefully it will be of use to someone.
There are a number of domain anonymizer services such as as Domains by Proxy that allow you to legitimately register a domain anonymously. Note that there are some accounts of these services turning over your actual contact information with very little provocation.
I focussed my attention on fraud issues that reflect within your credit report.
I found that there are several approaches to protecting a credit report. You can get a good overview with a side of advocacy at The Consumers Union.
There are a few basic techniques.
Many of these techniques are mandated by law implying that the credit bureau services are reluctant to provide these consumer friendly options and limit them.
- periodic credit monitoring Periodically examine your credit report from each bureau and look for discrepancies. Note that by law you can get free credit reports from each bureau once per year. You should do this at http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
- credit monitoring alerts Be alerted each time new activity appears on your credit report. See Knowzy.com for a discussion of options here and arguments that the service is a waste of money for most people. They also have an excellent matrix comparing the various services
- credit score monitoring In addition to getting credit reports you can also get credit scores or even monitor changes to your credit score each week.
- Fraud alerts You can set fraud alerts that will require companies to call you for approval whenever a new credit line is opened. Setting the alerts is free but unfortunately these alerts only last for 3 months before they must be placed again. As a convenience you can set the alert with one bureau and they will automatically set it with other bureaus although there are accounts that this automation frequently fails. Personally, I would like to have an alert like this survive indefinitely.
- Credit Freezes In mosts states you can ‘freeze’ your credit report so that no-one can open up a new account or to get new credit in your name. In California it costs $30 to freeze your credit with the three national bureaus plus you can pay to temporarily lift the freeze when you wish to open new accounts. The main drawback with a freeze is that it takes some time to set and release them and that you must do this with each bureau.
Many services exist that will help you do each of these steps. Typically they charge monthly fees of up to $15/month.
I opted to just monitor my credit report via the annual free credit reports. Since I am not sure that I would follow through with doing this every 4 months I decided to signup for a service called MyTruston. They use a workflow approach to remind you of tasks that you need to do. Setting reminders to checking annual free credit reports is free but they also have a $10/month program that handles reminders about fraud or guides you through cleaning up actual fraud. I may additionally also use the fraud alerts approach although I have not taken this step yet.
Some raw notes on services
I took some notes about various services as I investigated them. Here are my raw notes:
lifelock.com $10/mo or $110/yr per adult
sets 90-day fraud alerts, renews them every 90 days
removes name from pre-approved credit card and junk mail lists and renews when needed
order your free credit reports for us each year
will defend your name if id theft occurs (pay for lawyers, etc…)
issues: http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/06/17/the-hit-job-on-lifelock/ read comment #78
debix.com $99/yr (10% discount if do their demo)
uses fraud alerts – but phone # is a debix # and then they notify you
insurance for fraud probs
does opt outs
debix vs lifelock: an advantage of debix is that there is a record of all calls so if a creditor misbehaves there is evidence
http://www.mytruston.com/ – free or plus. Plus is $10/mo
With tools for identity theft prevention and recovery – reminders, log
no need to give away any confidential info!!
free just does anual credit reports. paid helps you deal with fraud and does fraud alerts
https://www.trustedid.com/ $110/yr or $13/mo
I don’t like these guys since they hide the underlying mechanisms behind their trademarked terms and are poor at disclosing how things work
“lender doublecheck” = fraud alert
“credit lock” = freeze
sounds dangerous – “IDFreeze would also monitor the Internet for compromised personal information and enables you to opt out from all pre-approved credit offers, a leading cause of identity theft.”
Block your credit so only you can use it
Control who gains access to your credit report
Up to $1,000,000 ID Theft Insurance
No commitment required, cancel anytime
works with CardCops, a company that uses proprietary search techniques to roam the internet’s newsgroups, search engines, and chat rooms looking for insecure personal and financial information on consumers. Additionally, CardCops obtains information from fraudulent order attempts at merchants, from consumers themselves, and from the underground via their Amnesty program. Another large source of information is CardCops’ Anonymous Disclosure program, which enables merchants to anonymously warn its customer base that their information may have become compromised.
For $9.95 a month, Equifax offers “Credit Watch Gold,” a service that alerts you whenever changes are made to your credit report. Experian and TransUnion offer similar services.
Experian just launched complete three bureau credit monitoring for $4.95 per month!
Regarding Debix, Dan Wallach (one of the posters at the Freedom to Tinker blog, an associate professor at Rice, and an associate director of ACCURATE)
writes of some of his experiences with them: