Kim Schneeweis

Credit: High Tech Solution Protects Against Identity Theft...
 
Credit: High Tech Solution Protects Against Identity Theft...
ARAnet, inc.

(ARA) - Do you shred your unwanted mail before throwing it away? Are you careful not to give out too much personal information to people you don't know? And do you keep important papers like your birth certificate and social security card in a bank box?

While these are good practices, unfortunately they won't necessarily prevent you from falling victim to the fastest growing crime in America. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that by the end of this year, approximately 1 out of every 23 people in the U.S. will have become an identity theft victim.

How can the problem be that extensive? "Because thieves have gone high-tech," says Robert Fisak, a retired secret service agent who is an original architect for ID Watchdog, a company created to help people make sure their personal information is not being misused. "These days identity thieves aren't just getting access to your personal information by dumpster diving or stealing wallets. They are hacking into computer databases that contain a wealth of information about you."

Two high-profile cases you may remember: This past summer, someone hacked into Monster.com's database and stole more than 1.6 million records including the names, e-mail addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and resume identification numbers of people who had used the company's job search services; and in January 2007, thieves accessed the computer system of TJX, the parent company of T. J. Maxx and Marshalls, and stole 45.7 million debit and credit card numbers.

Identity thieves are also getting their hands on sensitive information during what on the surface appear to be run of the mill burglaries. Last May, someone broke into the home of a data analyst for the Department of Veteran Affairs and stole a computer disc that contained the names, Social Security numbers and birthdates of approximately 26 million U.S. veterans. And just this past January, New Jersey's largest health insurance company warned more than 300,000 members that some of their personal information was on a stolen laptop computer.

In both cases, potential victims were offered free credit reporting for a year to calm their fears. While monitoring your credit report is a good thing to do, it's likely not enough. "Thieves aren't necessarily after your money. Your identity is much more valuable to them. By knowing just a few things about you, like your name and address, they can open a new cell phone account in your name, rent an apartment, even take out a mortgage, all without you knowing it," says Fisak.

But there is something you can do to protect yourself against today's high-tech criminals. Get some peace of mind by turning to ID WatchDog for help. The service monitors thousands of identity records on your behalf - across the largest computer databases in the world. It also resolves any claims against you and helps re-establish your good name all for just a small monthly fee.

For a limited time, you can try the program out for free. Log on to www.idwatchdog.com and fill out a quick form to receive your free 15-day trial. During this time, the company will provide you with a free identity report, showing all the addresses associated with your name. If there are any you don't recognize, ID Watchdog will fix the problems for free. Customers also get access to identity theft experts who can advise them on steps to take to protect themselves.

"Once you get ID Watchdog, you can forget about identity theft once and for all," says Fisak.

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