This is gonna be a long one. No, seriously, go get a bag of chips or something before you commit to this. There is a lot of information here and I don’t want you to be jumping all over the web to find links to stuff so I’m just going to put it all here in one place. Feel free to get halfway through and take a nap. I did!
State of the Union – Where we are now.
We’re living in an age that’s different than any time in human history. Techincally that’s always true, no matter what time in history you say it, but hopefully you’ll get my meaning if you keep readong. The reasons I’m going to focus on today are mostly related to technology. One very important factor of technology affects all of us in a way we might not have anticipated. This past few years has seen the first time in history where people all across the world are actively trying to steal your identity just about every single day. Most of the time they fail but the times they succeed cost us more headache, financial stress, and sometimes its much worse than that before its eventually settled. I’m writing this in September of 2017. At the time of this writing we know there were 18 million ID thefts last year. Think about the scope of that for a minute. People have fabricated, lied, cheated, or stole their way into the financial lives of 18 million people and caused them disastrous harm in the process.
The Equifax database breach this year should be the wake up call for anyone that hadn’t already had one. I’ve written myriad articles over the years about the do’s and don’ts of technology and how to protect yourself. This is one of those times where nothing you could have done can help.
If you’re an adult over the age of about 21 that hasn’t had your head in the sand and your parents paying your bills all your life, chances are you have probably heard the name “Equifax.” The scary thing is – whether you’ve heard of them or not, they’ve heard of you. Equifax knows who you are. Understand that up front. This isn’t one of those “Yeah, well I don’t use insert-product-here so they can’t affect me.” If you’re a functioning member of society, Equifax knows who you are. If you’ve ever had a bank account, they know who you are. If you’ve ever had a credit card, they were the agency the bank asked before deciding to give you that card. If you’ve ever done anything in the financial world at all, Equifax has your information.
Apples and Oranges
Let me be clear here… This isn’t like having your Facebook password stolen. If you get hacked on Facebook, chances are someone got your email and your password to your Facebook account. That can be a pain but its fairly easy to remedy and you usually know pretty much immediately that it happened.
If your information was in Equifax’s database and it was retrieved, it has the potential to be magnitudes of order beyond any hack you’ve ever had to deal with and there’s a good chance it might not even bite you for a year, two years, maybe five years.
What does Equifax have on me?
Well, let’s assume a few things about the average person that might be asking themselves that question. I’ll generalize to make it simple for everyone. Let’s assume the following for the sake of good converation, ok?
- You have at least one checking account
- You have or have had at least one savings account
- At some point in your life you applied for a credit card – whether or not you got one.
- At some point in your life you applied for a car or home loan or personal loan, or signed a rental agreement with a landlord that does credit checks.
- You’re a normal, functioning member of society that conducts their life like the rest of us.
If that’s true, let me tell you what Equifax most likely knows about you.
- The name of every bank you’ve ever banked with.
- All your account numbers on every checking and savings account you ever had since you opened your first account.
- When you opened them, when you closed them and what your balance averages were for each account.
- The full physical and mailing address of every place you’ve ever lived since you were at least 18, if not before.
- How long you lived there.
- Who your landlord or mortgage lender was.
- How much you paid in rent.
- Your gender.
- Your age.
- Every job you’ve ever had that took out taxes on you.
- What you made at that job.
- What your annual tax returns were for the last decade or so.
- Your drivers license number.
- Your social security number.
- Your credit and debit card numbers.
Yep, you can pretty much bet they know more about that your best friend, spouse, and parent combined.
Has the reality of that sunk in yet?
Let’s just take a moment.
Ok, moving on.
The Equifax Breach – Are you affected?
The fact is that about 143 million users had their record stolen from Equifax over a two-month period. The how, and why doesn’t matter so much now. I’ll save that for another article. The point is – 143,000,000 records are out there. What’s the odds that yours was one of them?
My personal math differs from what you’ll read on a lot of websites. Some are saying 1 in 2 people were affected, or about 50%. Personally I believe that’s stupid math and the people coming up with that figure don’t know how to read a census. Let me delve into why a moment.
The population of the United States of America as of September 1st, 2017 is calculated to be 324,577,356. Let’s just call that 325 million for the sake of easy numbers.
[My Source: https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2016/demo/popest/nation-total.html ]
How many citizens over the age of 18 are possibly affected? According to the census, the population in the US over the age of 18 (old enough to have an identity to steal) is 249,485,228. Let’s round that to 250 million.
[My Source: https://www.census.gov/data/datasets/2016/demo/popest/nation-detail.html ]
Since I hate single sources of information, let’s cross-reference that math against another source: Census.gov.
[My source: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045216 ]
How many adults over 18 in the US according to that website? 247 million. That’s within 2% of agreeing with the other figure, so we’ll consider it factual.
I can’t find the number of people over 90, but the number of people over 65 is approximately 15.2%, so about 50 million. Assuming those with active credit in that bracket are most likely between 65-80, let’s say 1/3 of that number over 65 still has active credit profiles and mortgages, car payments, bank accounts they’re handling, etc. Let’s make that 20 million.
That basically means that out of 325 million people living here, whether they bank, live here legally, pay taxes or not, there are about 220 million adults that probably COULD have had their credit affected. That’s including every non-tax paying person, illegal alien, etc. We have 11 million illegal aliens that we know were NOT affected, but are still in the population numbers, so that’s knocks the number down to around 209 million people.
Out of 209 million people of credit-worthy age in the US, 143 million of those were stolen. That’s 68% of the population if my math is even halfway correct. I’d bet it’s closer to 3 out of 4, but I can’t extrapolate those figures and don’t want to “guess” any more than I have thus far.
Knowing all that above – there’s almost 3 to 1 odds your identity information was leaked. That’s better odds than any game of bingo you’ve ever played and every lottery ticket you’ll ever buy. Ding ding ding! You’re a winner! Tell ’em what they’ve won, Pat!
Just Assume you Were Compromised. – What do you do?
The FIRST thing you need to do is understand something. Gaining access to identity information is way more valuable that the password to your Facebook account. Hackers aren’t simply going to try to annoy your friends on social media with Angry Birds invites. (Seriously people, stop sending me that junk.) Chances are hackers aren’t even going to use your data at all. They’re going to sell it. Then they’re going to sell it again, and again, and again, as many times as possible before the value of the information becomes worth less than the monetary gain they receive from doing it.
And they’re not going to use it tomorrow, next week, or even next month. The news cycle is too hot on the topic at the moment to act on it. Everyone is up in arms freezing their credit accounts, paying out the nose for credit monitoring and watching their accounts. The smart money is in sitting on this data, sifting through it, and waiting long enough for people to get tired of monitoring their accounts. I bet some of you have logged into your online banking more this past week than you have in years, just to be sure no one is making unauthorized purchases with your account. The smart identity thieves know this. They’re patient and they’ve got all the time in the world.
Three years from now…. that’s when you’re most likely to find out something from this hack affected you. As soon as Mustafa stops paying the note on his new 24′ fishing boat he bought on your mom’s line of credit, you’l find out about it. As soon as the warranty runs out on the new jets ski you didn’t know you bought, you’ll get a call asking to extend it and you’ll have no idea what they’re talking about. When you get turned down for a new credit card becuase the bank says you have too many cards already and you only know about one of them – then it’ll hit you. When the IRS tells you that you’ve already filed your taxes and don’t you remember that refund check they sent to an address you’ve never lived at in your life – then you’ll know. When you get a bill for hospitalization services for an emergency room visit in Vancouver when you live in Louisiana – you’ll know why.
Identity theft is a nasty nasty business and it will sadly never stop. They will only get more conniving, more sneaky, and better at what they do as time goes on. The average Joe isn’t ever going to be smart enough to stop them.
I had no intention of writing an article about this. I felt like it’s one of those things normal adults should be able to take care of on their own. I mean they lasted this long in life, right?
It took about two days after my Facebook post about the Equifax breach for me to change my mind. I got inundated with either messages saying people were affected and they trust my judgement (thanks I guess) or people just blindly admitting they have no idea how to protect themselves from this kind of thing and it’s too hard to do on their own.
First things first – Credit monitoring!
Yes, you need credit monitoring, but credit monitoring has become this buzz word that’s getting people to sign up for stupid programs left and right. And the funniest is – people are trusting Equifax to give them a year of free monitoring to make up for their mistake. Sure… take free credit protection from the idiots that are responsible for you needing credit protection! That’s smart! (insert dry sarcastic expression here).
Credit monitoring is great but it’s not the big threat we’re all facing. Of the 18 million cases of identity theft last year, only 17% of them were credit fraud. Most of them were much more insidious cases that cost people a huge amount of time, worry, time off work, and tears before they were handled and many of them still aren’t handled. It can take years to fix identity theft if you’re trying to do it yourself.
I learned a LONG time ago (ok, who are we kidding – I only figured this out in the last five years or so)… Anyway I learned that I should spend my time focusing on the things I do well and let the professionals handle the things they do well. With that mantra in mind, I let ID Shield handle my identity theft headaches – which basically means I don’t have any. I’ve got “people” for that. lol
Let me ‘splain it to you, Lucy!
There are three major credit bureaus; Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You can purchase credit monitoring from these guys for between $10 to $20 a month. Experian charges $19.95 a month per person. So does Transunion. You can verify the pricing right on their websites. They are both advertising like crazy right now because of this incident. Equifax – well, I’m not going to bother including them. Losers. Moving on…
So sure, you can go spend $20 a month at Experian and get credit monitoring. If that will make you happy, go for it. There’s nothing with that approach – unless you just like throwing away money and not getting more for your buck.
ID SHIELD – what it is and how it works
ID Shield is a program from the creators of Legal Shield. It’s been around a long time and a lot of you out there know I’ve spoken endlessly on applauding Legal Shield and how helpful they’ve been to me over the years. ID Shield is the same idea by the same team – except it’s for protecting your identity. (No, not just your credit. Your ENTIRE identity).
The cost of ID Shield?
ID Shield costs the same for 2 adults and up to 8 kids that Experian and TransUnion for ONE person simply for credit monitoring, but it does a whole lot more.
Let me start with Credit Monitoring first. ID Shield gives you credit monitoring through Experian, so if you wanted to protect your entire family with ID shield, it literally costs the same thing as getting Experian’s credit monitoring for only one of you… so it’s a no-brainer in my opinion. But assuming you want more than just credit monitoring, let’s go on to the things it covers beyond that.
And if you’re enamored with the idea of your free credit report, they include one credit report from each of the agencies every four months, so you get three credit reports a year with the membership.
My ID SHIELD platform monitors everything about who I am.
- If anyone tries to register my Drivers License somewhere, I know about it.
- If anyone tries to register my Passport somewhere, I know about it.
- If anything out there contains my bank account numbers, checking, savings, or even my Lowe’s card, they’re on top of it for me.
And then it gets cool…
So, let’s say someone DID get hold of my identity information and I’ve got to start the process of trying to get it back. Are you qualified to handle that on your own? (The answer is no – you’re really not. Neither am I.) ID SHIELD uses Kroll’s team of private investigators to do the leg work for you.
On the off chance you’re not absolutely up-to-date on who the badasses in Private Investigations are, let me help you out. It’s Kroll. These are the guys the Kuwait government hired to go track down Saddam Hussein’s money while he was hiding. They successfully located 100 million of it. They’re the guys that took down Enron. The are the Jason Statham of private investigations.
I only mention that because of things like Lifelock that advertise a “team of investigators.” By that they mean a bunch of unlicensed hamfisted wannabes that think watch a lot of detective shows on TV and occasionally stay in a Holiday Inn Express.
Kroll is the real deal. There is literally no one better at what they do. And if you had to afford them out of pocket…. well, most of us simply couldn’t.
What Kroll Does for You
Kroll performs all the back-end analysis and storage of your data that they’re protecting. They are the ones that scour the darkweb’s 10,000 plus id-sale sites to see if your information pops up anywhere it shouldn’t. If for some reason your identity DOES get stolen, they don’t tell you how to handle it. They handle it themselves. You just sit back and watch the professionals work.
How does that work? It’s pretty simply really. You sign a limited power of attorney when that kind of thing happens, giving Kroll’s security arm the power to do some work on your behalf and they they setup a website where you can track the progress of your investigation in real time.
They don’t tell you how to get your identity back. That would still take you months and months of headache and missed work depending on the severity of the issue. They simply include “Complete Identity Restoration” as part of the package and handle it for you.
How is ID SHIELD Different?
Supposing you’re still curious on what sets ID SHIELD apart from the others out there and why I’d use them. (Funny side note – I was watching a news article the other day and the news anchor was speaking to Morgan Wright, the US State Department’s senior counterterrorism advisor. He dropped live on the air that he uses ID SHIELD for the same reasons I do. It’s freaking awesome.)
So what are some other bonuses you might care about…? Ok ID Shield is the only one that
- Actually uses a limited power of attorney instead of you revealing information to some schmuck over the phone you’re not sure is qualified to do his job.
- Has LICENSED private investigators doing the work.
- Has a 5 million dollar guarantee on their work!
- Monitors your passports as well.
- Monitors social media to catch counterfit accounts.
- Monitors file-sharing networks.
- Monitors PayDay Loan companies (one of the largest sources of ID theft)
- Gives you unlimited consultations with investigators over the phone any time.
- Has 24×7 assistance for emergencies.
- Covers your entire family up to 8 kids living at home and your spouse.
- Provides Social Security Number Fraud Detection
- Monitors Sex Offender Registries
Yeah, they also offer the $20 credit monitoring… whoop-de-doo! If none of the stuff above interests you, then I got nothin’ for ya! lol.
Seriously, just let the pros do it and you can relax, ok?
Full Disclosure – I’ve been a rep for Legal Shield since 2001. That includes ID Shield and always has. I just haven’t bothered mentioning ID shield by itself before. If you signup for ID Shield, SOMEONE is going to get a commission on it. If you sign up through me, then I’ll be that person, so thanks in advance. If you like the information but disagree with the idea of me getting a commission, simply sign up through someone else. That’ll work too. Either way, it’s too stupidly simple NOT to do and it solves just about all your problems with identity and credit monitoring in one shot!
Yes, you’re welcome!
Oh yeah.. the link to sign up. Crap. Almost forgot that!
If you want to sign up for ID SHIELD, you can do so at the link below.