SAN ANTONIO – When Andrea Ferrero had her identity stolen, she was lucky. The identity theft protection service she’d enrolled in quickly notified her that someone had used her information to obtain a large among of credit in her name.
“They walked me through the steps to take to dispute the line of credit that had been opened and take care of that,” she said.
Before you enroll in one of these services, Consumer Reports advises you know what you are actually buying and to ask questions. Some services simply hand you a do-it-yourself checklist..
Also, some people assume ID protection services will prevent identity theft in the first place, but that’s not true.
“Consumers pretty much have to accept that criminals can get their hands on your personal information no matter what you do,” said CR money editor Margot Gilman. “The key is to spot fraudulent activity quickly and then do what you have to do to stop it.”
ID theft protection services like the one Ferrero used can help you dispute fraudulent transactions with your bank, credit card companies and other businesses after your identity has been stolen. There is typically a fee of about $10 to $30 per month.
Experts say the best way to avoid being a victim of new account fraud is something you can do yourself for free. You can request a freeze on your credit with the major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. No one, including yourself, will be able to open credit until you unfreeze it.
But freezing your credit still will not prevent all ID theft. For instance, a criminal could still use your personal information to get medical services or steal your tax refund.