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Protecting your identity

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Levin says Identity Theft 911 offers a $1 million limited guarantee for its identity theft services.

Through co-branded Web sites such as MetLifeIdentity.com, Identity Theft 911 provides newsletters, white papers, articles, daily alerts and identity theft literature. Site members can log into their account or call the provided 800 number and communicate any compromises, such as a stolen wallet, credit card or Social Security number.

"We handle it," Levin says. "We write all the letters, we get on the phone with them to do conference calls with creditors, credit reporting agencies and government agencies. Over time, as trust builds, they basically have us do things."

Direct protection for consumers
Consumers also can go directly to an identity-theft protection service -- rather than through a bank or insurer -- to get protection.

The information commerce company Intelius offers ID Watch, which tries to stop problems before they occur, according to senior vice president and co-founder Ed Petersen.

Petersen says the initial stages of identity theft don't show up in credit reports and may be undetectable through fraud alerts or credit monitoring. But suspicious activity often does appear in public records.

"We created a system that not only monitors credit reports, but we monitor national changes of address and any other information that comes through a public record," he says. "If we detect your SSN (Social Security number) has been in an unsecured place on the Internet, we'll let you know about it right away."

Intelius' ID Watch sends out warnings of such suspicious activity in real time, which can be crucial to preventing identity theft, Petersen says.

"Identity theft is bigger and more broad than just financial," he says. "Whether someone takes your identity and uses it when they get arrested or a sex offender in another state had taken your identity -- believe me, there's a million of these kinds of stories -- we monitor all those things."

Intelius' ID Watch fees range from $7.95 a month for one year to $4.95 a month for three years.

LifeLock is another of the well-known identity-theft protection services. It has received a lot of publicity because the company's CEO, Todd Davis, publicly reveals his Social Security number -- 457-55-5462 -- in advertisements for the service.

Davis does this because he is "absolutely confident" LifeLock will protect his good name.

This bold tactic has contributed to LifeLock's becoming the fastest-growing identity theft prevention company, with 895,000 clients currently. In 2007, LifeLock's growth rate was 1,557 percent. The firm expects an annualized growth rate of 320 percent in 2008.

-- Updated: May 23, 2008
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