Identity theft is a major problem. And if you live in South Carolina, the chances are very good – 75% in fact – that you may be at risk.
In October, 2012, 3.6 million social security numbers of South Carolina residents were hacked, along with 16,000 credit card numbers. That means this cyber-disaster effects three-fourths of South Carolina’s population. Those 3.6 million South Carolinians are not yet victims of identity theft. Their data has been compromised though – meaning they are vulnerable to becoming victims of identity theft.
Having your identity stolen can be a major hassle. In addition to the potential expense, untangling the mess with credit card companies, banks, the government (if your identity was used to file false tax returns) can take months.
There are paid services that offer to protect you from identity theft. Is it worth it to sign up with one of them? The answer depends on whether you prefer to save money and do it yourself, or if you prefer to hire someone else. The paid identity theft protection services for the most part don’t do anything that you can’t do yourself. The question is will you do it yourself?
Identity theft protection does not so much prevent identity theft as minimize the damage when your identity has been stolen. In order to do that, it’s important to monitor your credit report, credit card statements, etc., for unusual activity.
By law, consumers are entitled to a copy of their credit report once per year. The three major credit reporting agencies have created a joint website where you can request your credit report from all three. It is recommended that you stagger your requests around the year. Instead of requesting all three at once, request them one at a time four months apart. That way you’ll be looking for suspicious activity at least once every four months.
Another thing the identity theft protection companies will do that you can do for yourself is to notify the credit bureaus to put a “fraud alert” in place. If you think your personal information such as your credit card or social security number may have been compromised, you can attach a fraud alert to your credit report, which means the credit bureau has to contact you and get your approval if someone tries to get credit using your name. If you will actually order the credit reports and review them periodically, if you will issue “fraud alerts” to prevent people from getting credit in your name without you being informed, you probably don’t need to pay for identity theft protection.
On the other hand, if it’s one of those things you would say you’ll get around to, but won’t, you might want to consider purchasing the protection. The companies that provide the protection usually also provide other services to help you deal with the aftermath of a case of identity theft. The best thing you can do, of course, is to prevent identity theft from happening in the first place by protecting your personal information. The US Federal Trade Commission has a helpful identity theft website where you can find many suggestions for how to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
About the Author Nussin S. Fogel, Esq., has been practicing for over 25 years as a New York slip and fall lawyer. Mr. Fogel founded Fogel Law, a firm specializing in Motor Vehicle Injuries, Slip and Fall Accidents, and other areas of Personal Injury Law. He has published on various aspects of Personal Injury Law across the web.