Now, when I talk to people about preparing for the eventuality of identity theft and getting a damage control program in place before disaster hits, they have a hundred reasons for not following my advice. They say it's too expensive. They say they can do it themselves. Unfortunately, though, they're setting themselves up for a fall. This crime and its aftermath can be so complex and the lag time in detection can be so great that consumers find themselves in over their heads and desperate for someone with the expertise to help them navigate these tricky waters.
On a relative basis, people can't afford not to afford solid identity theft protection programs. In absolute terms, the cost may be minimal -- or even free -- since many insurance companies, smaller banks (the ones without the prefix "mega-"), credit unions, associations, and employers make these programs available to clients, customers, policyholders, employees, and members as a perk of the relationship. Unfortunately, their efforts at socializing the information may not be effective or people may not be paying attention to those notices. I think of the poor souls who wouldn't evacuate, even after repeated warning from Mayor Bloomberg and Governors Christie and Cuomo.
You don't have to take my word for it, but maybe you should. Like it or not, believe it or not, bad things do happen. Mother Nature loves us. But she doesn't provide apologies, and it doesn't do any good to ask for them. Far better to have that Plan B where you can reach it easily. We'll all get up again and make life better, because that's who we are and what we do. But don't make things tougher than they need to be. As we have learned yet again, oftentimes our worst fears are realized. Be ready. A little preview of reality can go a long way.
Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.