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A Better Way To Stop Identity Theft

Jul 6, 2008
Just five years ago, hardly a single American had ever heard of Identity Theft. In recent years, however, it has permeated every aspect of our culture. It is now the fastest growing crime in America, and thousands of victims have their identity stolen every day. The price? Vicims have to spend thousands of dollars, and countless hours, fixing their credit and getting their life back in order.

Of couse, with every problem comes a solution, and in recent years literally hundreds of companies have popped up around the country offering to help protect people from Identity Theft. But disappointingly, it seems that just about every company offers the exact same solution: "credit monitoring."

The idea behind credit monitoring is simple - when an identity thief opens a credit card in your name, there is a short time delay from when they open the account to when they can actually use it. The time delay allows a window of opportunity for you to cancel the account. So, credit monitoring services look at your credit report daily - when a new account is opened in your name they notify you immediately, and, if it is not your account and has been illegally opened, you can report it as fraudulent and have it cancelled before the identity thief is ever able to use it.

Does it work? Yes, usually it does. But is it also fraught with problems? Yes, absolutely, it is.

The problem with "credit monitoring" is that potential victims have to wait for an identity thief to steal their credit before they can do anything about it. It is true that once someone steals their identity they can quickly cut the account off, but think about it, wouldn't it be better if an individual could prevent identity theft from ever happening in the first place?

The key to doing this is to consider how identity thieves get information about you. If you can keep that information secret, you are a lot less likely to have your identity stolen in the first place.

So, where do we look?

The average American never thinks about it, but when you buy a home, there is an incredible amount of information about you that is published in your local county tax records. Tax records are a breeding ground of opportunity for identity thieves, and they contain:

* Your full legal name
* Any nicknames or aliases you may have, including your nicknames and maiden name
* Your home address
* Your mailing address, if it is different from your home address
* Your phone number and your contact information
* The type of mortgage you have on your home, and information as to whether you refinanced your home or pulled cash out, and if so, how much you cashed out

And this is just a small, small sample. When you own a home, you are not only easy prey for identity thieves, but also for snooping neighbors, "friends," co-workers, and anyone else who wants to do a little bit of research about you and find out all sorts of juicy information about your personal finances.

So, what can you do about it?

Believe it or not, there is a solution that is quite simple, and has been around for decades. "Land Trusts," as they are called, allow individuals to own their homes anonymously and keep their name out of the public records.

The way a land trust works is simple. Once you form it, you take your home out of your name, and put it in the name of your trust. You can call your trust anything you like. As an example, lets say you form the "ABCD Trust". When someone searches through the tax records, they find the ABCD Trust, not you, making it virtually impossible to find the crucial information they need to steal your identity.

While land trusts have been used for years, individuals had to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to set them up. In recent years, though, as people have increasingly recognized the need to keep their personal information private, a number of companies have sprung up which have made the process a whole lot cheaper and easier. What used to be a complex procedure is now quite simple and affordable. My favorite of these, whom I also consult with, is called The Privacy Professionals(http://www.theprivacypros.com), and the company will do just about everything for as little as $295!

Anyone who owns a home and is concerned about Identity Theft should consider using a Land Trust. Simply "monitoring your credit" does nothing to prevent your identity from being stolen in the first place, and does even less to protect your personal privacy. In "The Information Age," individuals need to work proactively to keep their information out of the public eye if they hope to truly protect themselves and their identity.
About the Author
Jeffrey Ellerman, Esq. has spent over 7 years as an attorney focusing on real estate law. He works as a consultant with The Privacy Professionals theprivacypros.com as well as a number of other organizations that protect the public from the hazards of Identity Theft.
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