Since the Department of Veteran Affairs announced in late May that it had lost information for more than 26 million vets, the Federal Government has been involved in at least 10 additional losses of personal data affecting more than 300,000 people.
The IRS, the Department of Energy (twice), the USDA, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Navy (three times) and Department of Defense have all issued press releases stating that they have lost the personal information of thousands or tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of Americans. In many cases, these records contain all of the information a thief would need to completely assume someone?s identity. After all, it was all of the information they needed to confirm the consumer?s identity in the first place.
Most stories provide the same advice: Get a copy of your credit reports from each of the three credit bureaus once a year. Check your banking and credit card statements for unusual transactions. File a police report. Shred your mail. Get free credit monitoring for a year. But credit industry leaders admit that these efforts are too little, too late.
"That doesn't protect consumers. It's not going to help and the public is starting to learn that," says Thomas Chapman, CEO of Equifax, one of the 'big three' credit reporting agencies in the United States.
Due to ever stronger consumer protection laws, Americans are financially protected from most losses when it comes to damage to credit reports and credit cards caused by a thief. It's the other ways a thief can use someone else's identity that can cause serious damage to a victim's life.
Take, for instance, the reporter whose 20-year old checkbook wound up in the wrong hands. "The thief was bouncing checks all over the place. The problem was, he was using my name and check fraud is a felony."
Or the Phoenix man whose identity was stolen by a man who went on to commit rape and murders using his name; "Even though he?s sitting in prison, I sometimes feel like I'm the one serving the life sentence," says the victim.
Or the single mom in Houston whose seven year battle with a bank spurred new legislation in Congress. "Although the new law is good, I'm still dealing with the consequences," she said.
So where is the protection coming from? The federal government is trying to act but inner-battles about what to do and who is paying for it has the process bogged down. Other options coming through Congress are getting weight down with other non-ID theft legislation getting attached. "As one senator told us ' we sit here trying to fix the problems and you have already found the answer,'" says Robert Maynard, co-founder of LifeLock, a former victim of Identity theft and a veteran himself. "We have uncovered the secret to this problem and currently protecting thousands of people right now from this faceless crime. Our identities are so much more than our credit reports, monitoring and apology letters."
In the meantime, the notification letters continue to be sent and people like decorated Veteran Bobby Joe Harris of Chandler, Ariz. "I trusted my personal information to just about all the companies that recently announced problems. How am I supposed to feel when I keep getting letters in the mail saying take precautions now? I know the VA has come out and said that it's all clear, but what about the others? I'm not sure what to believe anymore. That's why I took control of the situation and signed up for LifeLock."
LifeLock has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, CNBC, in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Morning News and more than 100 more. For more information on LifeLock, go to www.lifelock.com. Veterans and military families can still enroll for LifeLock's service free for 90-days. After the initial 90-days, the service can be extended at a 25 percent discount. There is no obligation to extend the service beyond the first free 90-days.