Protecting you and your family's identity

December 9, 2009

Recently, Donna Santiago opened a new credit card to purchase some large purchases, later that night she received an e-mail from LifeLock, the ID theft protection service she had recently subscribed to.

"They stated that they feel there has been possible fraud under my name," Donna said.

Although Santiago's transaction was legitimate, she tells Action News, the service worked because LifeLock was aware of the transaction when it was happening and crosschecked with Santiago to make sure it was legitimate.

Santiago said the previous service she subscribed to simply provided her with credit reports, but LifeLock is just one of several new companies labeling their services as a proactive approach to preventing identity theft. A tricky task considering there are thousands of so-called virtual trading exchanges, where crooks buy and sell your personal information.

CEO of Lifelock, Todd Davis says his company's approach involves scouring the internet for signs your information is being tampered with.

"So we actively go out and monitor, call it web-crawling, as well, looking at all these criminal websites, chatrooms, even sometimes posing as a potential buyer looking for the personal information of our members being bought or sold," Davis said.

LifeLock competitors like Card Cops and TrustedID take a similar approach.

Trusted ID also runs a site called StolenIDSearch. Here you can type in your personal information for free and the service scans its data base of about 138 million records to check if your identity is at risk.

But are you putting yourself further at risk for ID theft by providing these companies with information they say its employees need to keep you safe like your social security number, credit card number, address and birthday?

We posed the question to The US Postal Inspection Service, one of the agencies that make up the Southeastern Pennsylvania Identity Crimes Task Force.

Postal Inspector Reggie Wade says you offer up your information every time you apply for a credit card, mortgage, make a purchase onlin,e or even when you go to the doctor.

"Your information is out there. Do you place yourself more at risk by giving your information to one of these companies? It's very difficult to say," Wade said.

The Identity Crimes Task Force strongly recommends that even if you subscribe to these services, you continue to take steps to keep your information as secure as possible. .

"I don't know if you'll be able protect yourself 100-percent but be as diligent as you can," Wade said.

The cost of the service is about $10 to $20 a month.

BE SURE the company:
has a good rating with the Better Business Bureau
does extensive background checks on its employees
undergoes regular government audits and security reviews.

Here are some tips to making sure that your identity is protected Shred any paper work or documents with personal information

Make sure when you enter any personal information on a website the http has an "s" on the end. That means it's "secure".

When you are purchasing items online, never use your debit card, always use a credit card

Memorize your social security number and passwords. Do not use your date of birth as your password and don't record passwords on papers you carry with you.

Never leave transaction receipts at ATMs, on counters at financial institutions, or at gasoline pumps.

FOR MORE TIPS AND INFORMATION ON ID FRAUD visit https://postalinspectors.uspis.gov/ and click on "Investigations" then "Identity Theft"

WEBSITES FOR ID PROTECTION SERVICES
http://lifelock.com/
https://www.trustedid.com/
http://stolenidsearch.com/
http://www.cardcops.com/

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