Thursday, January 31, 2008

Identity Theft “Prevention” Defined Accurately

Everybody that talks about prevention uses the word in a different way. It is about perspective. Here is an example:

Think about how you would feel if this scenario happened: Your bank called and said “someone infiltrated your savings account and they have been making withdrawals regularly for the last three months. Your account has been drained of $25,000 but due to our diligence we stopped it and you still have $15,000 left. We have effectively prevented the thief from draining your account. We thought you’d like to know we mitigated your loss.”

Was there any prevention here? Absolutely! Are you going to be happy about it? I doubt it. People are paying big money for a false sense of the word “prevention”. They are really paying for and getting “mitigation”.

Now let’s compare the words “prevention” and “mitigation”:

pre·ven·tion [ pri vénshən ] (plural pre·ven·tions)

action that stops something from happening: an action or actions taken to stop somebody from doing something or to stop something from happening

  • the prevention of crime

mit·i·gate [ mítti gàyt ] (past and past participle mit·i·gat·ed, present participle mit·i·gat·ing, 3rd person present singular mit·i·gates)

  • to mitigate a loss

lessen something: to make something less harsh, severe

When put in the context of identity theft: Everyone uses the word prevention when they are referring to credit freeze, fraud monitoring and credit reports, and credit monitoring, data scouring etc.

Now let’s look at it from the context of the consumer: Prevention would be keeping my information completely secure and preventing it from being stolen in the first place.

Real prevention is thwarting the theft of your personal information. Securing your name so nobody uses it for anything. That is what ID theft “prevention” truly is.

If I rely on a credit report, a fraud alert or a credit freeze to stop something from happening, that means that SOMEONE ALREADY HAS OBTAINED MY PERSONAL INFORMATION ! A CRIME HAS ALREADY OCURRED! Now that does not sound like identity theft prevention at all, it most definitely is mitigation. Sure it may have plugged a small hole but in the grand scheme of the information that thief still has, it is like putting a bandage on a bullet wound.

So how can credit freeze, fraud monitoring and credit reports, and credit monitoring qualify as prevention? Well, they stopped something from happening, and that has some limited value, but now who has this information and where are they going with it next? Keep in mind if they have gone to the effort to steal your info, they are going to use it. A car thief does not steal a car and drive around in it until it runs out of gas. They are going to use the stolen device until it no longer meets their needs. The same with your identity, it could be used next for medical services, prescriptions, getting arrested, forging a check, and so on.

An ID theft recovery company stated under the guise of “prevention” that they look for changes in your existing accounts and they look for new accounts and transactions in your name. By doing this, they can detect someone's attempt to steal your identity before it gets too far and before any damage has been done. Sorry people, but if any of this is detected, the damage has been done. SOMEONE HAS ALREADY STOLEN YOUR IDENTITY! THEY HAVE YOUR PERSONAL INFORMAION AND ARE PUTTING IT TO USE! This should not be sugar coated as identity theft “prevention”. The prevention ship has sailed, it is now time to mitigate.

You will still have to wonder when or where they may use it next. And you still may have work to do, to get everything closed down, changed, modified etc. and you may never be completely sure you’ve plugged the gaps because how do you know your personal information has not been passed around or sold on the black market?

So how much is “mitigation” really worth? It is up to you, but most will pay much more for “prevention”.

True identity theft “PREVENTION” is about stopping the crime from occurring, and that starts with preventing and keeping your information out of the hands of the thieves to start with. True prevention is up to you! True prevention starts with you doing the right things with your personal information.

Don’t confuse paying for mitigation services and expect prevention. You may not end up being happy with the results.