4/29/14 - Identity Theft - Guest Commentary

4/29/14 - Identity Theft Guest Commentary

The following is a guest ViewPoint from T. Robin Cole, III of Cape Girardeau

Electronic communication offers us all previously unimagined convenience and efficiency, yet these come with heightened credit and privacy risks. Dangers lurk -- that our identity can be stolen, abused, and used against us.

Though widespread in the news, credit card theft is not all that can happen. Hackers can hijack your identity to get a new driver's license, a passport, employment, or other identity document, then impersonate you and, yes, they can even end up in prison as you, which would cause lots of problems.

After discovering a data breach, most companies' PR response is to give their victims one-year credit monitoring promised to shield them. But the sad truth is that's small comfort because most services offer little in the way of real preventive protection against the fastest growing crime in America. Yes, monitoring alerts just shorten the time to detection, 'cause by the time you get the alert, it's too late; damage is done.

So to protect yourself -- what can you do?

First, under federal law, the three reporting bureaus must each provide you with a free credit report once a year. So why pay? Mark your calendar and go hereto request your free credit report. Make a request to each service one-at-a-time in rotation every four months.

Secondly, don't wait until you are a victim of identity theft – from now on, monitor use of your identity year-round. If anything reported seems unusual, suspicious -- immediately file a security/fraud alert with any one of the credit bureaus. File a free security/fraud alert with one, and the law requires all three to simultaneously alert the other two, as well. Alerts last only 90 days and don't automatically renew.

Finally, mark your calendar again, and every 89 days before the last one expires, renew your free 90-day security/fraud alert. Do this to lock aggressive cyber-thieves out of your wallet. Remember: everyone is a target. Don't wait. Act now.

These free steps stand up your own defense, so you are not the next victim. I am T. Robin Cole, III. Please -- make this the best day of your life. This is my ViewPoint. What's yours?

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