Frequently Asked Questions

What is identity theft?

You may have heard of identity theft, but what does this term really mean? Going far beyond credit card fraud, identity theft is a rapidly growing crime that most people will face at some point in their lives. Identity theft is officially defined as the deliberate assumption of another person's identity. It is a crime where a criminal acquires and uses the victim's personal information, such as a Social Security or driver's license number, to take out loans, obtain new credit cards, rent an apartment, purchase a car, run up debt, file for bankruptcy and other criminal activities. Identity theft can not only damage someone's creditworthiness, it can also create unknown criminal records that can result in the identity theft victim being wrongly arrested or denied employment after a routine background check.

How is identity theft different from financial fraud?

The term "financial fraud" covers common credit card, check, and debit card fraud. When a criminal uses your credit cards or debit cards to make a purchase, he or she usually hasn't assumed your identity. Recovering from financial fraud is usually easy, since most creditors don't hold you liable for fraudulent charges. These days, financial fraud is increasingly grouped into the same category as serious identity theft. The FTC combined both types in a report announcing that there were 9.9 million cases of identity theft in 2003. These crimes alone cost businesses $27.6 billion and cost consumers $5 billion directly in losses every year.

How does the identity thief get my information?

Identity thieves use a variety of methods to gain access to your personal information:

  • Steal records from their employer, bribe an employee who has access to the records, con information out of employees, or hack into the organization's computers
  • "Dumpster dive" through your trash at home or work to find bills and credit statements that contain personal information
  • Fraudulently obtain credit reports by either posing as a perspective landlord or misusing an employer's authorized access to credit reports
  • Steal credit and debit card account numbers by using a special information storage device in a practice known as "skimming"
  • Steal wallets and purses containing identification and credit and bank cards
  • Steal your mail or complete a change of address to redirect your mail so that they will receive your credit card statements or tax information
  • Use camera phones to take a picture of your credit or personal information while you complete a retail transaction
  • Steal personal information from your home
  • Scam information from you by posing as a legitimate business person or government official

What can I do to protect myself from identity theft?

Identity theft is a serious problem affecting more people every day. That’s why learning how to prevent it is so important. Knowing how to prevent identity theft makes your identity more secure. The more people who know how to prevent identity theft, the less inclined others may be to commit the crime.

Preventing identity theft starts with managing your personal information carefully and sensibly. We recommend a few simple precautions to keep your personal information safe:

  • Only carry essential documents with you. Not carrying extra credit cards, your Social Security card, birth certificate or passport with you outside the house can help you prevent identity theft.
  • Keep new checks out of the mail. When ordering new checks, you can prevent identity theft by picking them up at the bank instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered and cashed by identity thieves.
  • Be careful when giving out personal information over the phone. Identity thieves may call, posing as banks or government agencies. To prevent identity theft, do not give out personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
  • Your trash is their treasure. To prevent identity theft, shred your receipts, credit card offers, bank statements, returned checks and any other sensitive information before throwing it away.
  • Make sure others are keeping you safe. Ensure that your employer, landlord and anyone else with access to your personal data keeps your records safe.
  • Stay on top of your credit. Make sure your credit reports are accurate and that you sign up for a credit monitoring service, which can alert you by email to changes in your credit report – a helpful way to prevent identity theft.
  • Protect your Social Security number. To prevent identity theft, make sure your bank does not print your SSN on your personal checks.
  • Follow your credit card billing cycles closely. Identity thieves can start by changing your billing address. Making sure you receive your credit card bill every month is an easy way to prevent identity theft.
  • Keep a list of account numbers, expiration dates and telephone numbers filed away. If your wallet is stolen, being able to quickly alert your creditors is essential to prevent identity theft.
  • Create passwords or PIN numbers out of a random mix of letters and numbers. Doing so makes it harder for identity thieves to discover these codes, and makes it easier for you to prevent identity theft.

How can I tell if I am a victim of identity theft?

Consistently monitor both your financial and public record information and look for:

  • Unfamiliar criminal records, court records, address information or bankruptcies
  • Unexplained charges or withdrawals
  • Failing to receive bills or other mail. This may signal an address change by the identity thief
  • Being served court papers or arrest warrants for actions you did not commit
  • Receiving credit cards for which you did not apply
  • Being denied credit for no apparent reason
  • Receiving calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you did not buy

Although any of these indications could be a result of a simple clerical error, you should not assume that there's been a mistake and do nothing. Always follow up with the business or institution to find out.

What information do I enter in the Medical Identities field?

Enter your Member ID number as it appears on your health insurance card.

Where does IDStrong’s data come from?

IDStrong’s data comes from Internet forums and websites, web pages, IRC channels, refined PII search engine queries, Twitter feeds, P2P sources, hidden and anonymous web services, malware samples, botnets, and torrent sources.

What time range does my initial IDStrong report cover?

Your first IDStrong report includes data from the previous 8 years. This means that IDStrong searches the prior 8 years of records it has collected for a match to the personal information you are monitoring.

What does it mean when I receive an alert?

Your IDStrong service tracks Internet activity for signs that the personal information you’ve asked us to monitor is being traded and/or sold online. This alert means that our surveillance technology has discovered information on the Internet that is a match to your monitored identity elements.

What if the alert references only some of the personal information IDStrong is tracking?

Even if only some of your personal information has been detected by IDStrong, it is recommended that you contact the appropriate institution to have your account information changed, or change your account information yourself if possible - like it would be with the password to your email account. It is safe to assume that if some of your information is compromised, all of it is. You may also want to review a copy of your credit report to ensure that all of the information that appears there is familiar to you.

Is the buying and selling of others’ personal information online illegal?

This activity is illegal in the United States, but other countries do not necessarily have the same laws as related to cyber crime. United States regulatory agencies have no jurisdiction to prosecute fraudsters acting on websites and chat rooms located in other countries.

Can I still become a victim of identity theft even though I am enrolled in IDStrong?

IDStrong dramatically reduces your risk of identity theft by letting you know sooner if your personal information is compromised, and in turn enabling prevention or quick resolution of an identity theft incident. In addition to IDStrong, you also have identity protection insurance and recovery services to help alleviate some of the financial burden of identity theft.