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.

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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.

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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.

History and legend alike are replete with examples of outlaws who have won our hearts. In some cases, it was because they committed their crimes to benefit the poor and downtrodden. In other cases, it may simply be that we wish we had the guts to do what they do. In any case, here is our list of our XX favorite thieves of all time:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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Most of us are somewhat flattered when we realize that someone thinks enough of us that they try to imitate us in one way or another. Of course, there are times when it gets out of hand, and an entire industry is rising up to offer us identity theft protection from illegal imitation. Most of us tend to believe that identity theft is a distant crime that happens to “someone else”, but reality paints a different picture.

The truth is that identity theft protection has become available for one simple reason: it’s necessary. Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the United States, and is also growing rapidly around the world. While you might not mind someone imitating you, you certainly don’t want them imitating you with a credit card.

Don’t get us wrong. If you are the victim of identity theft, the criminal is complementing you, albeit in a rather nasty way. Frankly, identity thieves aren’t interested in stealing the identities of people with don’t pay their bills or who have bad credit. No, they’d much rather steal the identity of upstanding citizens with good credit.

Unfortunately, identity thieves aren’t interested in imitating you for flattery’s sake. We’re talking about your money, your credit, and your good name. Depending on what exactly an identity thief is planning on doing with your information, all of these and more could be at stake.

Some typical things identity thieves do with your information include:

  • Take out credit cards in your name.
  • Get cash advances on your current credit cards.
  • File tax returns.
  • Procure false IDs. An identity thief can, for all intents and purposes “become” you in extreme cases.

The worst part about this unflattering form of imitation is that it can take quite some time before you realize what’s going on. Fortunately, companies who specialize in identity theft protection know what to look for and can generally prevent identity theft or, even in the worst case, catch it before the thief has time to do much damage.

Most of us have medical insurance to protect us from the cost of health care, automobile insurance to protect us from the financial liability of an auto accident, and home insurance to protect us against loss of our home. In today’s world, it just makes sense to also insure yourself against identity theft.

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In our modern age, even theft has lost some of its glamour. Don’t get us wrong, if you are on the receiving end of a theft, there’s nothing glamorous about it, and there never has been. Whether it’s your identity someone is stealing (you should have purchased identity theft protection) or your heirlooms (you should have bought better locks), there is little that can make you feel more violated than someone taking what rightfully belongs to you.

Still, all throughout history, we have had romantic notions of our outlaws, and some of them we cast in a heroic light. Here are some of our favorite thieves of all time:

  • Robin Hood. We all love the underdog, and when you have someone who robs from the rich and gives to the poor, it’s hard not to pull for them. Of course, no one knows for sure if he was a real person or not. We suspect that there was a historical Robin of Locksley, though we figure the stories about him got bigger with each retelling, if you know what we mean.
  • Ali Baba. You have to love a guy with the ingenuity to steal from other thieves. Ali Baba, of course, stole from the 40 thieves, making himself rich in the process. In the end, old Ali is living comfortably and the thieves are brought to justice. Not too shabby.
  • Bonny and Clyde. We know, they were gangsters, and dangerous people. We also know that it hurts everybody when banks get robbed. Still, bad as they were, Bonny and Clyde managed to be sexy while committing their crimes.
  • The Artful Dodger. Of course, he’s fictional, but the Artful Dodger is still one of the most colorful thieves throughout time. We recommend the musical version, by Lionel Bert over the Dickensian version.
  • Long John Silver. He switches sides occasionally, but by the time you learn that he’s a pirate, you’ve already become attached to the character.

You will notice, of course, that identity thieves don’t appear on our list. They probably never will. There is simply nothing appealing at all about someone who sits at a computer and ruins someone else’s life by using their identity. Appealing or not, though, this is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world today, to the point that it’s almost silly to bother locking your doors if you aren’t also going to invest in identity theft protection.

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Identity theft protection is serious business. When you’re the victim of identity theft, your life can be turned upside down. Depending on the circumstances, you can face financial and even legal problems in the future because of identity theft.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help get identity theft protection. The first thing you need to do is understand exactly how identity theft occurs, and what the most common identity theft traps look like.

Here are some of the most common identity theft techniques:

  • Phishing. This occurs when you get an email that claims to be from a financial institution or other business. They give you a link that asks for your username and password. The email is actually from an identity thief who wants to get access to an online account of yourse (such as PayPal or eBay).
  • Smishing. This is like phishing, but it’s with a text message instead of an email. They are most effective with iPhones and other smartphones.
  • Vishing. This is voice phishing. Someone calls you and asks you for personally identifying information. They may claim to be from your financial institution, or they may claim that you’ve won a contest or a prize of some sort.
  • Spoofing. Sometimes, hackers will break in and drive traffic from a legitimate web site to a fake website. So, you’ll try to log into Facebook, but your computer will take you to the hacker’s site where they will steal your login information. From there, they’ll have access to plenty of personal information they can use to steal your identity.
  • Spyware. Some types of software can infect your computer without you even knowing it. You might install a game, and a hacker somewhere is recording your keystrokes including things like credit card numbers or bank account logins.
  • Digging through the trash. Believe it or not, it does happen. Make sure to shred any important documents before tossing them out, and fully destroy your old credit cards when it’s time to dispose of them.

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One of the most common, and oldest, types of identity theft is the simple stealing of your checkbook. Someone gets ahold of your checkbook and writes checks, pretending to be you and signing your name. All of the identity theft protection services in the world can’t stop someone with a convincing fake ID and your checkbook.

So, when you have a check go missing or lose your checkbook, you’ve got some choices to make. You can contact the bank and have them place a stop payment hold on that check. This will cause the bank to refuse payment on the check if it’s presented.

Not a permanent solution

Unfortunately, most banks won’t keep the stop payment on a check for more than six months. That might not sound so bad, because most banks won’t cash a check that’s more than six months old. However, that’s not a hard and fast rule. If a teller decides that the check looks good, even if it’s seven months old, many banks will give them some leeway in cashing the check. And that’s where that stolen check can come back to bite you.

Keep on stopping

The obvious solution is to put another stop payment on the check after six months. The problem with this is that, unless you’ve filed a police report for a stolen check, chances are pretty good that your bank is going to require you to pay a fee each time you want to put a stop payment on. You could be looking at almost $80 in fees, just to protect yourself.

How long should it go on?

There’s no easy answer to this question. At some point, you probably don’t want to continue paying $30 or $40 every six months to protect yourself. Eventually, you’ve got to decide if the risk that someone will write a check is worth it. After all, if they do write the check, most checking account agreements only hold you responsible for a certain dollar value in that transaction. Often, it’s less than what the first two stop payment requests would add up to be.

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Post image for 47 Stories of Dumb Identity Theft Scams-and Why They Actually Worked!

Identity theft is extremely common nowadays with the web and all the financial info being passed around on it, yet there are still some very dumb identity theft scams that people have fallen for.  It is amazing how some of the simplest things you do online can allow someone to steal your identity, and what is even more amazing is that some of these scams actually worked. Here are some interesting stories on various identity theft scams and why they worked. [click to continue…]

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Identity theft is an extremely frightening term, even more frightening are the statistics associated with the crime. Every 28 minutes, someone in the US falls victim to identity theft; and if that wasn’t scary enough, every 79 seconds a thief steals personal data, uses it to open false accounts, and goes on a buying spree. In 2009 alone, there were 11.1 million recorded reports of identity theft. This epidemic is affecting more than just the everyday individual; $22 billion a year are lost by businesses who also become victimized.

With the overwhelming power and technology of the Internet, many Americans believe the majority of theft occurs online; however, this is not the case. Being aware of the security risks of Internet usage may not be enough to keep you safe, 68% of identity theft still occurs by conventional methods; I.e.: stealing your mail, losing your wallet, etc. On average it takes a victim 12 months to even notice their identity has been stolen, allowing the damage already done to seem irrevocable. That being said, the road to recovery will not be a short one, but it will have an end. Each identity crime can be as unique as a set of fingerprints, but some of the same tips for prevention and recovery can be used in several separate occasions. [click to continue…]

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