With ID theft protection services, know what you're buying

By Gray Hall - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Chances are you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft. If so, you may be shopping for an ID theft service to protect you and there are some things to keep in mind before you spend your money.

ID theft is a non-stop job for criminals -- it's why you always have to be alert. Many people turn to ID Theft Protection Services.

Elaine Lidholm, with Consumer Affairs says criminals help keep these services in business."The big advantage of them maybe the monitoring they do, they can probably let you know you are being victimized before you would find that out yourself," she said.

The services can be helpful but there are some things to watch out for. The Consumer Federation of America says consumers don't always get what they pay for. One important tip -- never believe a 100 percent guarantee.

"No one, no person, no service can absolutely promise to protect you a 100 percent of the time from identity theft. It would be wonderful if they could but it is just not realistic," Lidholm said.

To fight ID theft in our area, the Metro Richmond Identity Theft Task Force was created. It's a joint effort between the U.S. Postal Service and other Law Enforcement agencies.

David McGinnis, the Postal Inspector team leader, says it works. "We get an early leg up on the bad guys when they are in this area operating because we are talking to the financial institutions and we are also working the cases jointly between all area law enforcement."

The task force recommends these tips from www.annualcreditreport.com:

5. Never Give Out Your Identifiers Unless You Initiate The Contact

4. Shred All Financial Documents When You Are Through With Them

3. Pay Attention to Financial Account Statement Billing Cycles

2. Promptly Remove Mail From Your Mailbox

1. Review Your Credit Report Annually

McGinnis says, "If you maintain a certain level of vigilance and police these things yourself, you greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim."

Another piece of advice -- if you plan on paying for one of these id theft service programs -- consumer advocates say make sure you know the price before you give out your personal information.

Here is a link to the Consumer Federation of America ID Theft Services Tips.

· Report any unauthorized accounts to law enforcement

· Identity thieves steal both incoming and outgoing mail

· A missing statement may be an indication that your account address has been changed

· Especially pre-approved credit card offers

· Any document containing any of your personal identifiers

· Attempts are usually done via the phone or internet

· Identifiers include account numbers, PINs, DOB, SSN

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