While the heavyweights battle, brokers can be great crusaders against ID theftTerry W. ClemansExperian, LifeLock, identity theft, fraud alerts In February, Experian, one of the three national credit reporting agencies (and a partner of First American CREDCO), filed a suit against LifeLock, a provider of identity (ID) theft prevention services. LifeLock is the company with Chief Executive Officer Todd Davis, whose Social Security number is 457-55-5462. Many LifeLock advertisements prominently display Davis' name and social security number, which he claims is the actual number. In print advertisements, there is an asterisk (*), which indicates a disclaimer (written in fine print) at the bottom of the page, advising readers to avoid giving out their Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. That is good advice, especially considering that it has been reported that Davis had an ID theft issue after running the company's ads. In the litigation, Experian claimed that LifeLock placed phony 90-day fraud alerts on hundreds of thousands of the credit files they maintain. The claim also states that Experian has suffered "millions of dollars" in damages from being forced to process large numbers of initial fraud alerts and mail mandatory notices, as LifeLock keeps its clients files in a perpetual state of alert by repeatedly "crying wolf" on behalf of its clients. The suit questions whether LifeLock has the legal right to request the 90-day alerts on behalf of its client, as fraud alerts are meant to be placed only by individuals who have a reasonable suspicion that fraudulent activity has occurred or is about to occur. Other companies, such as Debix Inc. and TrustedID, offer a service very similar to the LifeLock model. Further, Experian also charges that LifeLock has used false and misleading advertising to entice consumers into buying its protection, and is exploiting the system by acting as a middleman for services that the credit companies are required to provide to consumers for free, including annual credit reports, removal from mailing lists and fraud alerts. The ironic part of this claim is that Experian's ConsumerInfo.com has been the subject of similar claims of misleading advertising from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Experian has settled two consent orders for more than $1 million in fines, while admitting no wrongdoing in their direct-to-consumer program. Mortgage Brokers have a great opportunity (while Experian and LifeLock slug it out in federal court) to become agents in reducing the toll that ID theft can take on a victim by offering consumers applications for an ID theft recovery program. This program, called ID SafeChoice, costs as little as $2 per person. It completely eliminates the problems and headaches associated with trying to restore the consumers name and credit history after they have been victimized by ID theft. This nominal fee, added to each credit report you purchase, covers each of those consumers for a period of one year after the loan application date, which is recorded and triggered with the purchase of the credit report. When you add the ID SafeChoice service, available through most credit reporting companies that are participating members of the National Credit Reporting Association Inc., a certificate will print with the credit report as a receipt for enrollment in the program. Participating credit reporting companies can be found at www.ncrainc.net, which is also the Web site that consumers use to register and process claims on ID SafeChoice. When a consumer with this program becomes a victim of ID theft, the ID SafeChoice service takes over for a consumer, through a limited power of attorney, with its team of credit experts from the credit reporting company. They act on the consumer's behalf to restore the victim's credit history to pre-theft status. ID SafeChoice also covers an individual who is already a victim of ID theft and discovers it at the time of their mortgage application. There are no other fees for this service—the extra $2 per person on the credit report covers this program for one year, regardless of the number of accounts that must be notified and removed from the consumer's credit history due to the ID theft. Just think of the marketing opportunities this provides you as a Mortgage Broker to help bring new applications in the door. You can offer a consumer peace of mind and protection from the troubles associated with ID theft for a whole year just by completing an application. In addition to the applications, you will promote goodwill by helping someone solve the problems associated with restoring their identity, which is estimated by the FTC to take more than two hundred hours of time on their own. Solving that problem should certainly go a long way in securing a consumer's mortgage business for life. Some mortgage companies and lenders offer services like this for more than three times this price, per month. Now just be careful how you advertise it! Terry W. Clemans is the executive director of the National Credit Reporting Association Inc. (NCRA). He may be reached at (630) 539-1525 or e-mail [email protected].