K
  • Investments

    By Geoffrey VanderPal DBA, CFP®, Full-Time Faculty, Kaplan University
    Published February 2015

    According to Credit Sesame, "The effects and losses caused by personal identity theft in the U.S. are staggering. Approximately 16.6 million people experienced at least one identity theft incident in 2012 (the most recent data available) and financial losses totaled $24.7 billion. That's an average loss of around $1,500 per victim.”   

    Identity theft refers to a wide range of crimes including any attempt to misuse another person’s existing accounts or identifying information or personal information to commit fraud or other crimes. This includes using someone else’s credit, medical insurance benefits, and identity to commit a crime. According to the FBI identity theft website, “A stolen identity is a powerful cloak of anonymity for criminals and terrorists…and a danger to national security and private citizens alike.” So what can you do to stop identity theft and provide for more privacy of personal information?

    It’s a complex subject matter and this article will focus on a segment or specific area of focus to maximize protecting your personal information. There are services that claim to protect you from identity theft but their services have limits. In addition, some provide monthly credit scores or reports and monitoring of address changes and Social Security Numbers on black site databases. The most effective method is to use security freezes which are authorized in all 50 states, Washington DC, and some other US territories under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). According to Consumer Reports, most identity theft firms fall short of providing any real protection.

    Focusing on the main cause or root area for protection remains with identifying various credit and information databases that fall under the FCRA guidelines as a Credit Reporting Agency (CRA). A security freeze adds an additional layer of protection to require for you the individual to be notified and contact the CRA to either temporarily or permanently remove the freeze through a identification process and a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that was supplied when the security freeze was applied. There may be minor fees to unfreeze unless you are a victim of identity theft and can provide a police report or other documentation. 

    Beyond the three main credit bureaus of TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, there are others that get much less notice and can be equally important for keeping information secure, such as Advanced Resolution Service (ARS) and ID Analytics (IDA) and Chex Systems that most banks use to consider for approvals to open bank accounts. There are about 20 national CRA databases which an individual can freeze. Some of the databases are not CRA under FCRA and therefore can not freeze your information but are required to provide individuals upon request a free copy of their report every 12 months. Some of those databases include medical and prescription and check writing databases. For instance, some CRA firms, such as The Work Number or TALX a division of Equifax, keep track of your employment and detailed payroll and income information.

    An excellent source of information is the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse which provides a plethora of resources and materials for privacy and ID theft. It’s also important to note that several hundred databases, such as Intelius.com, PeopleFinder.com, and USsearch.com, provide public access to research and obtain private information on individuals. For many of these databases, if you click on the Privacy Policy you can find the process to remove or eliminate your personal information from being made available. While it’s a time consuming process, it is one way to protect your personal information.


    This article serves and general information and should not be relied upon as official legal advice. For legal application to your individual situation you want to be sure to consult a licensed attorney.

    Geoffrey VanderPal is a full-time faculty member at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.

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