Tag Archives: fraudulent activity

Why Credit Monitoring Doesn’t Work

Chances are you have received a letter stating that your personal data may have been compromised. Perhaps you were one of the 80 million people with an Anthem health insurance plan. Maybe you were one of the 21 million current or former employees of the federal government, or you could have been one of the 40 million who shopped at Target. There are countless examples where organizations failed to protect sensitive data and then were required to notify the affected individuals.

These notifications typically reveal how the breach happened, what steps are being taken to prevent another incident and what a company is doing to protect you from identity theft. Most organizations offer some form of credit monitoring and ID theft remediation services. Some states are beginning to mandate at least one year of credit monitoring under certain circumstances.

The Limits of Credit Monitoring

Offering credit monitoring seems to be a necessary post-breach strategy, and the very least a company would do. However, a deeper dive into what it does – and what it does not do – is long overdue.

Credit monitoring immediately notifies an individual that an attempt was made to obtain some form of credit in her name. Credit restoration services are usually offered when identity theft occurs. This is a valuable service that restores a victim’s good credit, saves time and alleviates stress.

Credit monitoring does not prevent identity theft. The only way to prevent an identity thief from accessing a victim’s credit is to either place a 90-day fraud alert on a credit file or freeze credit lines.

  • Fraud alerts require potential creditors to contact individuals before opening lines of credit. To activate a fraud alert, individuals are required to notify one of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian or Trans Union) and to repeat the process every 90 days to maintain the fraud alert status.
  • ƒFreezing credit can be accomplished by contacting all three credit bureaus and requires each one to place a freeze on an individual’s credit file. Each bureau provides a PIN # that can be used to lift the freeze later. There may be a nominal fee based on state of residence, which typically ranges from $5 to $15. Some states may require an additional fee to lift the freeze. A credit freeze may cost less than credit monitoring and identity theft restoration services. In fact, it has been widely reported that the Office of Personnel Management spent $133 million for three years’ credit monitoring for the 21 million individuals affected by their 2015 data breach.

Legal Ramifications of Offering Credit Monitoring

Offering credit monitoring can cost an organization even more than the dollars spent. In Remijas v. Neiman Marcus, the plaintiffs alleged that 350,000 payment cards were affected when hackers gained access to Neiman Marcus networks. Even though a small fraction of the cards were affected by fraudulent activity, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted the plaintiffs legal standing, allowing the class action to proceed, because card holders had a legitimate fear of future identity theft. Because Neiman Marcus offered credit monitoring to the card holders after the breach, the court concluded that it was conceding that future identity theft was entirely possible.

The state regulatory environment, coupled with recent appellate
court decisions, leaves organizations in a difficult position. States
are beginning to require credit monitoring following a data breach. Organizations that do not offer credit monitoring face scrutiny by attorneys general, potential fines for non-compliance and a public relations fiasco. Yet those that offer credit monitoring will incur significant costs and, as evidenced in Remijas v. Neiman Marcus, may actually hurt their defense in a class action lawsuit.

A Better Way to Protect Your Identity

A more rational approach is needed to identity protection. Organizations and state regulators reacting to data breaches involving sensitive data elements need to address ways to prevent identity theft. As of this writing, organizations cannot legally freeze a consumer’s credit for him, and have little means to prevent identity theft on his behalf. However, with the full support of state officials, a more efficient process to freeze credit can better protect identities and mitigate costs.

Why Credit Monitoring Isn’t Enough

Having credit monitoring instead of identity monitoring is like putting a security system in the elevator but not in the whole office building. The scope of security is limited and leaves the workforce vulnerable. Thus, understanding how monitoring programs differ, how they work and why it matters is critical for safeguarding your identity.

Why should you care?

Victims of identity theft deal with increased stress, hours of work rebuilding their reputation and recovering from major financial losses; all of which have major consequences in other areas of life – like decreased productivity and performance on the job.

Given the statistics, if you haven’t dealt with the crime in some capacity, it’s only a matter of time.

The good news is that arming yourself with credit monitoring and identity monitoring gives you a better chance of stopping identity theft before it gets out of hand, thereby diminishing the negative effects that follow.

What is credit monitoring? How does it work?

There’s a broad range of credit monitoring services available in today’s market, and each program varies. Credit monitoring is a reactive approach to identity theft that involves checking credit reports for fraudulent activity. Because a credit report shows past activity, it will only reveal fraud or theft that has already affected the victim. That’s why it’s like only having security in the elevator: Once you realize the culprit is there, he has already infiltrated the building.

Credit monitoring programs will pull a member’s report, often quarterly or annually, from any number of the three major credit bureaus and make it visible to the member. On top of that, programs watch credit reports, transactions and activity for changes that could be criminal.

Another aspect of credit monitoring is resolution and recovery assistance, but, again, the levels of assistance vary from product to product. For instance, credit monitoring services will alert a member if they find fraudulent activity on the credit report(s), but some services don’t inform the credit bureaus on behalf of the member.

What is identity monitoring? How does it work?

Identity monitoring takes a more active approach. It not only focuses on credit reports but broadens the security sweep to account for name, birth date, address, email, driver’s license, Social Security number and more. Think of it as a security system for the whole office building, with security officers at every door and window.

Top-notch identity monitoring programs will check national databases for suspicious activity, watch out for questionable transactions and ultimately try to keep the member informed with real-time alerts about a data breach or fraudulent act. Touch points could even include scanning criminal record databases, sex offender registries and public records.

Identity monitoring can also give people peace of mind about their biggest worries: More than 70% of consumers are concerned about their Social Security number, credit card, insurance and driver’s license number, while less than 60% are concerned about their credit score and transaction history. People want more protection than what’s offered by credit monitoring alone, and identity monitoring is the answer.

What is the difference?

One major difference between identity monitoring and credit monitoring is accuracy. The all-inclusive nature of identity monitoring allows for a more accurate assessment of susceptibility to identity theft. For example, credit monitoring may not detect problems like tax fraud or medical identity theft because credit reports don’t necessarily show those types of information. Because identity monitoring is more robust, it can discover anomalies and provide protection for more than the financial aspects covered by credit monitoring.

Simply put, identity monitoring provides more coverage than credit monitoring.

For more information, visit clcidprotect.com.