In a recent article, we talked about identity protection plans and the difference between identity monitoring and identity recovery services. In a nutshell, by the time monitoring shows a problem with your identity, the damage has been done, and that’s when having top tier recovery services can make all the difference.
If your only experience with identity fraud has been to have a credit card number stolen, you may be wondering what the fuss is about. But recovering from full-on identity theft is not as simple as making a phone call and disputing a few credit card charges. 1 in 20 Americans falls victim to identity theft every year, and the average person spends 30–50 hours trying to clear their name. It often takes multiple phone calls to reach the right person at a business or bank who often has the same weekends and lunch breaks that you have that you’re using to handle this yourself. Then you’ll possibly be given bad information and spend hours on forms and follow-up calls with little result. And businesses often resist canceling accounts or reversing fraudulent charges, sometimes treating the victim as a deadbeat trying to get out of legitimate debts.
Some so-called identity protection services give a victim “resources” such as booklets on how to recover your own identity. This is about as useful as a 911 operator emailing you a pamphlet on fire safety while your house is burning.
If you have the right identity protection, a recovery advocate will go to work restoring your identity. First, they will gather information: How did you find out about the theft? Have you identified the full extent of the fraud? Who have you contacted? Have you checked credit reports or filed a credit freeze?
At that point, the recovery advocate will determine the solution that best addresses your situation. In some cases, the problem might be resolved quickly with a conference call between you, the recovery advocate, and the bank or business. If there are more complex kinds of fraud involving your identity, the recovery advocate will likely have you file a police report before taking over the recovery process.
In addition to saving you hours of work, a recovery advocate can get your identity restored faster because they know who to call at businesses, banks, and credit bureaus, and exactly what forms to file. Often thieves will reuse a stolen identity for different scams over a period of months, so the advocate will continuously monitor your identity for signs of more fraudulent activity, working as long as it takes to restore your identity to pre-theft condition.
The other advantage of having recovery services is that an advocate can provide reassurance and the support you need. Identity fraud is stressful: it can affect your ability to rent or buy a home or car, to get a job, or to receive medical care. Your recovery advocate will be your champion, letting you know what to expect, helping you get the resolution you need, and giving you the confidence of knowing someone is equally invested in getting this resolved.