Chances are, you’ll catch yourself using the phrase “protect yourself” many times throughout with your kids, and with good reason. While none of us wants to go through life paranoid, the fact is that there are some really mean people out there who don’t really care who they hurt as long as they get whatever it is that they want at the moment. These days, there’s a lot of buzz about identity theft protection.
We don’t know about you, but until recently, we couldn’t imagine what in the world anyone would want to do with our identity (much less our kids’). Fortunately, we found out before anyone had actually stolen our identity. There are many reasons to get identity theft protection, but here are the main ones:
- Identity theft protection helps stop thieves from using your credit card online without your knowledge.
- Identity theft protection stops identity thieves from opening up new credit or charge accounts in your name.
- Identity theft protects you from people obtaining false ID with your information, potentially saving you from answering for any number of crimes you didn’t commit.
- Identity theft protection usually pays you if someone does manage to steal your identity .
Of course, your identity isn’t the only thing in your life you need to protect. These days, we teach our kids to protect themselves almost before they can walk.
When they start riding a bike, we teach them to wear helmets and knee pads. We remember tempting fate itself by riding our bikes with no protection whatsoever.
When our kids get to be teens, we give them the old birds and bees speech. but we make sure to include a chapter on how to protect themselves. After all, there are all kinds of nasty stuff going around these days.
As kids grow into young adults, they learn to protect themselves with various forms of insurance. We teach them (hopefully) to protect their house, their car, their health, and just about anything else with a dollar value attached.
We’re a little behind the curve when it comes to teaching the younger generation to protect their identity, though. Most young people simply don’t realize how much damage can be done to them I someone gets hold of their personal information. So, while we’re teaching them to protect themselves in other ways, let’s make sure that we’re also teaching them to protect their identities.
Identity Theft, Fraud Alerts and Your Credit Score
One of the techniques that companies offering identity theft protection use to try to keep your identity safer and to keep criminals from opening up new accounts in your name is to use a fraud alert. A fraud alert is a 90-day hold on your file with the credit reporting agencies. What it essentially does for you is require that creditors who want to give you a new account have to go through some extra steps to verify that you really are who you say you are. The idea is that the identity thief, then, won’t have access to enough information to open the account.
In short, a fraud alert is a warning flag on your credit file that lets creditors take extra precautions. However, there has been some speculation that placing a fraud alert on your credit report will, in some way or another, harm your credit scores.
In fact, someone actually sued an identity theft protection
company, claiming that their use of fraud alerts caused his credit score to be lowered.
Do fraud alerts affect your credit score?
This, of course, raises an important question. Is the person filing the lawsuit correct? Did his credit score drop because of fraud alerts placed on his credit report from the identity theft protection company?
According to a spokesman for TransUnion, one of the credit reporting agencies, fraud alerts don’t harm your credit score in any way whatsoever. The FICO formula that has been developed to calculate a credit score as an indicator of a person’s credit worthiness doesn’t take fraud alerts into account.
There may be other harmful effects
There are some ways that those fraud alerts could cause some difficulty for you in other ways. For example, it might slow down how long it takes for you to be able to get a loan. Add to that the fact that these alerts are now being used as a safeguard rather than as a response to a specific threat or incident, the lender may pay less attention to the alerts overall.
Ultimately, there are more effective methods of identity theft protection than a fraud alert, and many of the major identity theft protection companies have stopped using them altogether.
Our All Time Favorite Thieves
In the days of old, they locked their doors or turned the sheriff loose on thieves. These days, we need identity theft protection to protect us from the most nefarious criminals of our day.
- Robin Hood. The noble outlaw of England’s Sherwood Forrest robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, displaying amazing acts of daring do and unthinkable skill with the English longbow in the process. Together with his band of merry men, Robin Hood claims the top spot of our all time favorite thieves.
- Bilbo Baggins. The original hobbit, Bilbo Baggins took his turn at thievery when he stole the ring from Golem’s cave while on his way to slay the dragon Smaug. What ensues is perhaps the best trilogy in the history of mankind.
- Bonnie and Clyde. There are bank robbers, and then there are bank robbers. Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks with a swagger and style that just wouldn’t have been possible outside of the 1930s.
- The Artful Dodger. Never mind the sniveling little orphan brat. The Artful Dodger had style. Not only could he pick a pocket or two, but he could charm the socks off of the lady thieves while doing it.
- Jesse James. No, not the tattooed knucklehead who works on motorcycles. We mean the real Jesse James. The son of a Baptist preacher, you could say he went astray, but you’d be understating things a bit. Jesse and his brother Frank returned from the Civil War full of piss and vinegar and started a reign of terror that stretched all the way north to Minnesota.
- Don Corleone. This guy had a sense of honor a mile long, which is what made all of us love The Godfather, even though he was the worst kind of thug in most respects. We thought about leaving him off of this list, but he made us an offer we couldn’t refuse .
- The identity thief. What’s that? You don’t really like this one? Well, you might as well invite him over to dinner and hand him your credit cards if you don’t have identity theft protection .