California is ranked number one for several reasons; beautiful coastlines and beaches, but being known for the highest rate of identity theft victims is not really what we as residents take pride in. In addition, some counties such as Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties have had the highest growth rate of identity fraud. An identity is stolen in United States every 4 seconds, and now over 10 million people have been affected by this crime.
Identity theft is essentially a white collar crime. However, even though there is no outward bodily injury, there is definitely emotional trauma and it takes, in some cases, years to get your life back on track. The average victim spends an average of 600 hours recovering from this crime and spends an additional $8,000 to resolve their nightmare.
Since 2005 when LifeLock emerged on the business scene, the public at large felt that they finally had a company that could really fight this uphill battle with and be on their side. LifeLock’s services included fraud alert protection, one million dollars insurance against any future theft and no junk mail. Unfortunately in a bizarre twist of fate, LifeLock is not only being sued in several states for fraud, the deceptive advertising practices are now being scrutinized.
Experts agree that the over one million LifeLock subscribers, paying $10 per month, are paying for what essentially they could get for free. Fraud alert protection is provided free to every consumer, thanks to the Fair Reporting Credit Act, FCRA. This act states that any consumer can contact any of the three credit reporting agencies; Experian, Equifax and Trans Union and get a free report and fraud protection for up to 3 months. Renewing for free is also available.
Several states are proceeding with class action lawsuits against LifeLock. Specifically, they are seeking damages for misleading subscribers and enticing them into a false sense of security and safety net. Also in question is the one million dollar insurance policy against any losses sustained as a result of identity theft. After reading through a lot of fine print, in reality, LifeLock will only investigate how to fix the issue with third party organizations, but no financial reimbursement will be met and there is no guarantee of restored good credit. These are the prime reasons people subscribed In the first place!
If you have been defrauded by a company or person, don’t hesitate to contact a good personal attorney.
As always, to protect yourself from identify theft, use good common sense and follow some of these basic guidelines recommended by the FTC, Federal Trade Commission:
· Order your free credit report every year directly from the 3 credit reporting agencies, Trans Union, Experian and Equifax. California can receive one free report a year.
· Place a fraud alert on your account and you will have an additional layer of protection · Never carry your social security in your wallet and never give your number to anyone, except in an absolute need-to-know basis.
· When buying products online, look for the “locked padlock” on the page (usually on the browser line). Be sure the page is secure before you put your credit card number on it.
· Store personal information in a safe place. If you chose to dispose of it, always shred all personal and financial records.
· Check your bank and credit cards statements closely for mistakes. Often time’s criminals will start with small expenses that may go unnoticed.
· Get a lock on your mailbox. This is an easy target for criminals to access your personal information.
For more helpful tips on how to avoid being a victim, visit www.ftc.gov