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Fraud Alerts Don’t Work

Check ID? Not usually
(Image used under Public Domain)

When I worked for retail stores, part of my job was to convince customers to buy things on credit under terms that were carefully designed to cost you as much as possible. It was a bad deal even when you agreed to it, but it's even worse if some thief gets the goods while you get the debt

That's why I was always careful to look at ID cards and watch for signs of fraud. Like that one time I thought something wasn't right so I went to the back room to call the customer's home phone number. Guess who was at home right then and NOT at our store applying for credit?

Because of my effort, I stopped more instances of fraud and identity theft than every other store employee combined… which is frightening if you think about it. Why was I so much better? Was it because the fraudsters always came to me? Did I have some special talent for spotting issues? I don't think so. In almost every case, it was simply a matter of making an effort.

In my days of commission sales, you can bet it hurt to spend an hour helping a customer only to have to put a careful of high-profit stuff back on the shelves. Even as an hourly employee, turning away a sale was likely to bring down the wrath of management. You might think you could just explain the situation or show them the fakes, but I quite literally handed a manager a "credit card" that had been printed so recently the ink was still tacky. He handed it back and said, "looks fine to me!" ring it up!

What this has to do with fraud alerts

Imagination: Stop right there, criminal scum!
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Fraud alerts are supposed to work like this:

Reality: Code 10? I should check their identity more carefully, but meh...
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Here's how it actually works:

Of courses, this assumes they even notice the fraud alert at all. When I worked retail, it was a tiny flag near the bottom of the screen and easy to miss. But let's be really generous and say that all of this works exactly as intended. Thieves are scumbags, not idiots. Obviously they'll wait until after 90 days to use any identity they got from a data breach.

A fraud alert might be a little better than nothing at all, but it relies random strangers to have both the training/desire to protect you AND thieves that aren't smart enough to wait out the preposterously tiny fraud alert period. Fraud alerts are a joke and a fraud.

Course Guide for: Goodbye Identity Theft

Next lesson:
ID Theft Monitoring Is a Ripoff

Credit monitoring promises a lot: they'll watch for suspicious activity, they'll alert you when they see it, and they'll even scan the "DARK WEB!" I doubt you'd be surprised to know that it's almost entirely marketing fluff. There may be some small value to monitoring services, but on average, they do little but take your money.

Or choose a lesson below:

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