It is not just criminals who are profiting from identity theft; financial institutions are making money, too, reports the New York Times. Fear of identity theft has helped give rise to a nearly billion-dollar business in credit-monitoring services sold by the major credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian and TransUnion–as well as direct marketers and banks. More than 12 million Americans are now subscribers. The services alert them when lenders have requested their credit files, usually an indication a credit application has been made in their name.
Credit monitoring has quickly gained traction with consumers through aggressive advertising that often promotes its value in protecting against identity theft. But its abilities are far more limited than is commonly perceived. Meanwhile, measures that could stem fraud from identity theft have faced stiff resistance from industry groups. “Identity theft has essentially become a business – not just for bad guys but for good guys, too,” said one privacy consultant in Washington. The biggest beneficiaries from identity theft have been the three credit bureaus.