Use of ID Theft Protection Services Drops, Despite Rising Fraud

September 28, 2010
Terri Cullen

The number of people using identity theft prevention services is declining, despite a 12.5 percent increase in the number of victims of identity fraud last year, a new study shows. Here's a look at "best in class" credit-monitoring services, and how to go it alone.

The number of people using identity theft prevention services is declining, despite a 12.5 percent increase in the number of victims of identity fraud last year, according to a new study.

The report, released by Javelin Strategy & Research, found that although victims who detected fraud using a credit-monitoring service saw a sharp decrease in losses for average fraud amounts, fewer consumers nationwide are using ID theft protection services due to the weak economy and a drop in media reports of data breaches.

Roughly one in four Americans used credit-monitoring services this year, according to Javelin. Most Generation Y users who do rely on ID-theft prevention services provided by their banks, followed up by credit bureau monitoring services, the report found.

In 2009, 11.1 million adults in the U.S. were victims of identity fraud. New credit accounts fraud — where ID thieves open up fraudulent credit-card and other lender accounts using stolen personal data -- was primarily to blame.

Javelin’s study also named “Best in Class” identity-theft prevention services for 2010. The research firm ranked vendors products, based on services provided, fraud resolution, support, price and Better Business Bureau accreditation. The four winners were:

Best Overall: TrustedID’s IDEssentials

Financial Institution: Bank of America’s Privacy Assist

Credit Bureau: TransUnion’s Zendough

Single Product Offering: TransUnion’s TrueCredit

Do It Yourself Credit Monitoring

ID theft prevention services can give you peace of mind, but it’s possible to protect yourself from fraud without having to pay for a service. Consumer Reports recommends taking the following steps to stay on top of your sensitive financial information:

Check Financial Statements Promptly. Regularly review your monthly banking, brokerage, and credit-card statements for any suspicious transactions, and contact creditors and financial services providers immediately if you suspect fraud.

Regularly Check Your Credit Report. You’re entitled by law to one free credit report per year from each of the Big Three credit-reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. You can order your reports online at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you see anything suspicious (such as an unfamiliar address or alias, a credit account you don’t recognize, or incorrect report of a missed or late payment) contact the credit bureaus in writing immediately to dispute it.

Opt-Out of Financial Offers. Always take the time to fill out and mail back (or, if available, complete online) financial privacy notices from banks and lending institutions, and opt-out of sharing your personal information to stop. You can also opt out of all pre-approved credit offers by calling 1-888-5-OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688), and other most other marketing offers here.

The Federal Trade Commission has more information on combating ID theft here.