New Services Help Prevent Identity Theft

Illustration: Mark Matcho
For ID theft victims, it's often the hair-pulling hassles of the recovery that cause the most pain. This month I looked at online services that can ease this difficult process.

MyTruston.com has a free and easy monitoring service that guides you through looking for anything suspicious on your free credit report. The site's fraud recovery service, which costs $20 per month, walks you through the necessary steps. You pay for it only when you need it; you can revert to the free monitoring service at any time.

Since you're the one doing the actual work, the only info you have to give myTruston is your e-mail address--for, say, getting reminders when you're eligible for another free credit report.

One thing myTruston doesn't yet provide (but says it will) is a guide to freezing your credit report. For a fee, you can instruct credit bureaus not to give anyone access to your report, something most companies require before granting credit. Rules for freezes vary by state, and not all states allow them.

Another site, TrustedID.com, handles credit freezes as part of its $8-per-month IDFreeze service. Much of its offering consists of acting on your behalf to do things you could do for yourself but may not want to deal with. One of its included services, which searches for your credit card or Social Security number among data pulled from shady online caches, is also available free from stolenidsearch.com.

You'll need to give TrustedID a limited power of attorney that authorizes it to communicate with the credit bureaus and to flag or freeze your report--and only those tasks, the company says. If you are hit by identity theft while you are a TrustedID customer, the company will guide you through the recovery steps at no extra cost, but you'll need to perform the work yourself.

These services do little that you can't do on your own if you're willing and well organized. (If that's you, one great free resource is the ID Theft Resource Center.) What they can do is help make a burdensome situation a little easier to deal with.

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