What You Can Do About Identity Theft

Denis G. Kelly is formerly an executive in the banking industry that witnessed first-hand the horrific effect of identity theft both on individuals and society. Mr. Kelly decided to proactively fight this crime by providing education, training and community outreach vehicles. In addition to TheIDChannel.com, Mr. Kelly also founded IdentityAmbassador.org, which has a core belief that identity theft education must follow the F.A.C.T.S. principle: Free. Accurate. Current. Transparent. Shared. He also founded IDCuffs.com, which is an identity theft prevention company that provides basic identity theft prevention services. Mr. Kelly wrote The Official Identity Theft Handbook, which analyzes identity theft in its proper context and provides readers tangible takeaways that minimize the likelihood of identity theft or mitigates the negative consequences for victims. He also wrote An Identity Theft Paradise, a whitepaper outlining the dangers and systematic failures regarding synthetic identity theft.

Mr. Kelly has his Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) certification from the Consumer Data Industry Association, Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist (CITRMS) from the Institute of Fraud Risk Management and Certified Identity Expert (CIE) from IdentityAmbassador.org. Mr. Kelly speaks at numerous industry events and is recognized as a leader in the field of identity theft.

Denis Kelly, author of the book on identity theft (The Official Identity Theft Prevention Handbook: Everyone’s Identity Has Already Been Stolen – Learn What You Can Do About It), writes:

In Unknown, Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakens from a coma after a car accident in Berlin to discover that his wife (January Jones) suddenly doesn’t recognize him and another man (Aidan Quinn) has assumed his identity.

This is the whole enchilada of identity theft as the criminal has stolen your entire life, including your wife. While this is good for Hollywood, identity theft does not function this way in real life. Nonetheless, many of the feelings and emotions that Neeson experiences are similar. Victims feel isolated, betrayed and it is you against the world just to prove you are you.

In the Unknown, this feeling is perfectly encapsulated when Neeson states, “Somewhere there is proof I am me.”

What many fail to realize is the “severe emotional distress” that many victims of identity theft experience. In fact, according to the US Department of Justice most recent National Crime Victimization Survey, the percentage of victims of identity theft that suffer severe emotional distress where personal information was fraudulently used is actually greater than that of total violent crime.

While the scars of identity theft are not visible, this survey indicates the impact is often greater and takes longer to recover from then violent crime (of course, these are averages and does not indicate every incident of identity theft has a more severe emotional impact than every incident of a violent crime).

Identity theft is further complicated by the mountains of misinformation and deceptive advertising and marketing campaigns of trusted organizations.

Let’s consider a credit monitoring service which is commonly marketed as an identity theft prevention service:

1) It alerts you of a change in your credit profile
2) You must reconcile to determine if it is fraudulent
3) Often times the alerts are not received and reviewed for over a week
4) The net result is if you identify identity theft, it has already occurred. This is after-the-fact.

There are other shortcomings of credit monitoring services including a false sense of security and information overload (and why are you paying to make certain the information information in your credit file is accurate when the credit reporting agencies are legally required to perform this task), but the main takeaway is that it is by definition a detection product.

It is important to understand and distinguish between Prevention, Detection and Recovery tactics/services.

There is no “silver bullet” prevention tactic, and it criminals’ techniques are always changing and sophistication increasing. So, before discussing specific prevention tactics, a general approach must be established. Become an identity theft prevention A.C.E.: Alert. Current. and Educated.

Specific tips:

? shred EVERYTHING that has personally identifying information before disposing
? place a fraud alert on your credit file every 90 days
? use a credit card instead of a debit card as you have lower liability
? Do not click on emails from financial institutions even if you know it is your financial institution
? do not provide information over the phone if a financial institution initiates the call even if you know it is your financial institution
? stay educated and current by reviewing identity theft news and the latest prevention tactics weekly for 5-10 minutes. The best tool for this is TheIDChannel.com.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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