What Identity Theft Protection Is and Is Not

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Robert Siciliano

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To all you security companies out there, listen up: “identity theft protection” has become an overused and abused marketing term, which is often used to sell a product or service that doesn’t actually protect users from identity theft.

It’s like labeling food “natural” when we know it’s not “organic.” It’s incorrect at best and a lie at worst.

Every security company on the planet claims to protect identities. But a firewall is not identity theft protection. An encrypted thumb drive is not identity theft protection. Antivirus software is not identity theft protection.

One could argue that phishing alerts count as identity theft protection, but not really. Do these tools protect your identity? Sort of.

A true identity theft protection service monitors your identity by checking your credit reports and scanning the Internet for your personal information.

It looks out for your Social Security number, and if something goes wrong, an identity theft protection service has people who’ll work with you to resolve the problem.

I get an email every month confirming my identity’s health. This is what identity theft protection looks like:

Dear Robert Siciliano,

No news is good news! Your credit reports from all three bureaus, Experian®, Equifax®, and TransUnion®, have been monitored daily for the past month. We’re pleased to let you know that there is no new activity reported. As a McAfee Identity Protection user, we’ll continue to monitor your credit report every day for your protection.

Remember, McAfee Identity Protection helps protect you from the financial loss and hassle associated with identity theft. Log in to your Protection Center and review your protection status any time. Just click here and enter the Username and Password you selected when you enrolled.

As always, you can get help from a dedicated Fraud Resolution agent if any suspicious activity should appear on any of your credit reports.

If you have any questions about McAfee Identity Protection, please call Customer Support at 1-866-622-3911.

Sincerely,

McAfee, Inc.

 

That’s what identity theft protection is. Don’t get me started!

Robert Siciliano is a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert. See him discuss identity theft on YouTube. (Disclosures)

 

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Kristin Ward People seem like their too busy now a days to keep track of things. Its important to check your credit score regularly, watch your accounts and take steps to prevent credit theft. I know as a landlord I often run credit checks on my tenants. I've started to do the same on myself. I use http://www.tenantverification.com/ once a year and the free yearly check from the credit bureaus, that way I only go 6 months without seeing it.
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Justin Mason Performing annual credit checks on your tenants is a good idea, but I ran into an issue where I was accused of improperly handling and securing a tenant's social security number and date of birth on the rental application. I've since switched to an applicant-initiated tenant screening service provided by http://www.accurental.com so that I don't have to handle that information at all.
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