Identity thieves are working overtime to cash in on the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but a Scottsdale-based company hopes to stop them in their tracks.
LifeLock developed and is offering its identity theft prevention service to all hurricane victims free of charge.
It sells the product nationally, and the normal fees are $10 a month or $110 a year.
LifeLock has been in business for six months and its client base is approaching 75,000 consumers nationally, said Todd Davis, the company’s chief executive officer.
The company expects to have 10 million subscribers in three years, and to expand its work force from 15, to about 80 employees by early 2006.
LifeLock decided to start offering its service free of charge to hurricane victims after hearing news reports about ID thieves preying on those left homeless.
"Seventeen hundred people at one of the Mississippi shelters had their identities compromised by three individuals posing as Federal Emergency Management Agency officials," Davis said. "Though you would think that by the fact that they were victims, people would not try to go after them, the reality is these kinds of circumstances bring out both the best and the worst in people."
The company will provide the following services to hurricane victims:
• Place statements on all credit reports stating that the consumer is a victim of the hurricane and ask the lender to take that into account should their credit scores decline in the aftermath.
• Place fraud alerts on all credit bureaus directing anyone trying to access a credit file to contact the account holder personally at a number where they can be reached.
There is no cost or obligation to continue the service after the first set of 90-day alerts expires, Davis said.
Robert Maynard, LifeLock’s chief operating officer, was a victim of ID theft in 1998, and ended up spending time in jail and paying $20,000 before it was established that he was a victim and all charges were dropped.
"I was confused and quickly became frustrated," he said.
"Then I got angry because I began having to fight the bureaucracy at (the Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division). I just filed the incident away, but as the issue became more topical, I realized that so many people were facing this."
That experience led to the formation of LifeLock and its prevention service, Maynard said.
"I thought that there had to be a way to stop the problem in the first place," he said. "Taking proactive measures always made the most sense to me. I’d rather keep the barn doors locked rather than watch the horses running off, if you get my meaning."
The company’s service includes removing clients’ names from all preapproved credit card mailers, which puts a stop to the flow of preapproved credit card offers in the mail, Davis said.
"Thieves have gone out and started breaking into mailboxes, and taking those preapproved credit card mailers, saying they accept the offer, but then putting a new mailing address," he said.
Should someone request a change of address, the credit card company would be required to contact the Life-Lock client before doing so, Davis said.
"If they say no, we can stop the transaction dead in the tracks before their identity can ever be compromised or their credit affected," he said.
LifeLock hopes to prevent many people from being victimized all over again.
"Everyone who lived in these areas still has a long way to go before their lives are close to being normal again," Davis said.
For information, call (877)- 543-3562 or (480) 563-3000 or visit www.lifelock.com.