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A Cool New Tool That Lets Consumers Protect Their Identity From Theft

Sean Trundy
Data Breaches since 2004

Identity Theft continues to rank as the fastest growing form of fraudulent crime

A recent report by CIFAS - a not-for-profit company working to protect businesses, charities, public bodies and individuals from financial crime – revealed that prolific users of social media had experienced a 57% increase in incidences of misuse of their personally identifying information over last year. All because fraudsters were able to scrape their victims’ important personal data straight from social media profiles. Information such as birthdates, mother’s name, addresses, former residences and more can all be a key part of building an identity profile sufficient to enable access to accounts or the creation of new ones.

Of course, it is best to not list complete details about yourself on such sites. But, the world is a changing place and more and more, social interaction on sites such as Instagram, Facebook, Tinder and others are becoming mainstream and accepted practice.

It is not only social media butterflies who are feeling the bite of identity theft - even companies are reporting greater incidences of credit card fraud, account hacking, and fraudulent credit account openings, mostly due to data breaches. Auto dealers and cellular phone services report being among the hardest-hit industries thus far in 2016. In many cases, it is the victim of fraud who ends up eating the final bill.

Data Breaches since 2004
A comparison on the amounts and sizes of data breaches between 2004-2006 and 2014-present. There has been a significant increase in both the amount and size of data breaches in the past decade alone. Too see a full visualization of this data breach infographic, please checkout: http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/visualizations/worlds-biggest-data-breaches-hacks/.

Up until now, consumers have had few options available to proactively protect themselves from fraud. The best advice has been to either lock your credit so no new activity can occur on your credit profile, or to pay for credit monitoring services who can notify you after the fact (sometimes, well after the fact) that an event has occurred that might be suspicious.

Enter Civic, a new software-based solution that seeks to help consumers manage their exposure to fraud. The company is aiming to replace competitive identity protection services, such as the well-publicized LifeLock service, by focusing on a broader market than just credit monitoring, while also allowing people to respond to fraud alerts in real-time in order to prevent the fraud from actually taking place.

The other identity protection services available right now are paid services and are designed to monitor clients’ credit reports for fraud - but what that actually means is that customers will receive an alert that their information has been compromised after the fact.

Civic sets itself apart by shifting this process to real-time by alerting users via a push notification to their smartphone, via text or email, when their Social Security Number is being used at the time of the transaction. This gives the consumer power to deny unauthorized transactions immediately.

Free to the Consumer

“At Civic, our belief is that the only way to ensure that you’re never a victim of identity theft is to make sure that your information is worthless in anyone else’s hands.”
- Vinny Lingham Co-founder & CEO of Civic.com

To reach the largest possible market, in addition to providing real-time identity protection, Civic will be entirely free to consumers, while also providing insurance policy protection similar to what you’d receive from a paid credit monitoring service. The policy includes credit monitoring alerts from those outside its network, $1 million in identity fraud protection to help victims recover and a 24/7 fraud support hotline.

Meanwhile, it’s Civic’s partners - such as banks, credit card companies, healthcare companies and other organizations that might require your SSN as part of their procedure to do business with you - who will pay to join the network. As the size and scope of the Civic network grows, their fees will gradually reduce.

Can it Work?

I, for one, am encouraged. This morning, me and one of my colleagues (the notorious Stephanie who blogs alongside me on the FraudFighter site) joined as consumers.

The process was a little uncomfortable, at first because they do ask for a lot of personal information right off the bat, but I suppose that's the only way to wholly monitor all my information. But, to give consumers peace of mind, they instituted a 2-factor process (in this case, email and mobile) to verify you before you have to give the really juicy details.

The first step was to input my personal email address and wait for their confirmation email to arrive. I clicked on the confirmation link in the email which took me to page asking for more authentication information. On this page, I entered my cell phone number, where they sent a text message with a credential code that I used to finally access the full profile site and began to enter things like my address and my SSN. As an additional layer of security, Civic implemented a 3rd-factor procedure as a final step to authenticate my identity: a postcard will be mailed to my home address with a code on it that I need to input in my profile online to complete the final step of the registration process. If I do not complete this third and final step, my registration will be considered incomplete and identity protection services will cease in a couple of weeks.

It's a somewhat lengthy registration process, I know, but I'm hoping it will be worth it in the long run. We will keep you all appraised on how it goes.

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Why Blog About Civic?

FraudFighter sells products to help detect and deter identity theft from occurring during a transaction. We are not directly involved in any products or services that help the consumer prevent their own identities from being stolen.

However, we are, after all, a fraud prevention company. Anything we can do to help reduce fraud is a victory, regardless of whether it contributes to our bottom line or not. I felt a surge of optimism when I learned about this product. I wanted to share it with you all in the hopes that it might be of interest.

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