Things to Check When Shopping for Identity Theft Protection Services

This week is part one of a three part series on things to check when shopping for Identity Theft Services. Many companies and organizations sell services that promise to “protect your identity.” Identity theft services may be able to help you detect identity theft quicker than you could yourself so that you can take action to prevent further damage. Some services provide software or other technology to safeguard the personal information in your computer from ID thieves (though you can easily install antivirus and antispyware software yourself). And some services help victims resolve problems caused by identity theft. But, as Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has reported, the claims that some identity theft services make are exaggerated or misleading, and it’s not always easy to tell from their Web sites and advertising exactly how these services work, how much they cost, or what protection or assistance they really offer.

This checklist was developed by the CFA’s ID Theft Service Best Practice Working Group (which includes identity theft service providers and consumer advocates) to help Americans look for identity theft services that follow good practices. The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of non-profit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization’s Board of Directors.

Here are the first 3 tips about what to check when shopping for Identity Theft Services:

(1) Do the claims on the identity theft service’s Web site or in its advertisements make you think that the service will completely protect you against identity theft? If the answer is yes, steer clear! No one can absolutely protect your personal information from being stolen or fraudulently used, and identity theft service providers that follow good practices won’t imply that they can.

(2) Does the identity theft service use scare tactics to try to get you to enroll? If the answer is yes, steer clear! While identity theft is a serious problem, not everyone is or will become a victim, and the impact of identity theft varies. For instance, if someone steals your credit card number and uses it, you’re not liable for more than $50, and most credit card issuers won’t make you pay anything if you report the problem as soon as you discover it. Other identity theft problems can be harder to fix. Identity theft service providers that follow good practices won’t exaggerate the likelihood of becoming a victim or the harm that identity theft causes.

(3) Does the identity theft service make basic information about the company easy to find on its Web site? If the answer is no, steer clear! Identity theft service providers that follow good practices will provide basic information such as the company name, the physical location of its headquarters, and how to contact it or its product distributor directly for answers to questions.

One of the best things you can do to protect your identity is shred your personally identifying information. HV Shred is an on-site service that makes that process simple and cost effective more at

by Judith