Get to know EZShield, a SontiqTM Brand
We’re proud to be one of Sontiq’s trusted brands. In 2018, EZShield, a portfolio company of The Wicks Group and the leader in digital identity protection and resolution, acquired IdentityForce, the #1-rated identity theft protection provider for businesses and consumers. But our story goes back much farther than that, incorporating more than 60 years of combined identity security experience and groundbreaking innovations.
Here’s a glimpse of the EZShield brand history.
The pioneer and patent holder of check fraud protection, EZShield Check Fraud Protection Program® launched in 2001. Since its inception, the service has educated over 15 million U.S. consumers and small businesses on how to protect themselves against check fraud, including forged signatures, forged endorsements and altered checks. The company also provides resources to minimize the impact when fraud does occur and helps victims restore their finances and their lives.
The Story Behind EZShield
In 2001, an American couple celebrated their recent retirement with an extended trip to Australia. Prior to traveling, they sold their home, banked the cash and moved into an apartment. While abroad, the couple used their credit card to pay their way. When it came time to pay the credit card bill, their payment check bounced and their credit card ceased to be accepted.
They soon discovered that another apartment resident had stolen their checks and cleared out their bank account. Since their bank required the couple to prove it was fraud, and the couple couldn’t do so from afar, they wound up having relatives wire them money to get home. It took six months for the couple to recoup their money from the bank.
The couple’s story made primetime news, capturing the attention of John Browning, founder and CEO of Maryland-based check printing company Custom Direct. More than piquing his interest, the victims’ story inspired Browning to create the EZShield Check Fraud Protection Program® to protect others from similar crimes.
The service gained immediate acceptance upon its introduction to customers via phone, with a large number choosing to add it to their check order. Shortly thereafter, check printing companies became licensed to provide EZShield to their customers. Other check printing companies as well as financial institutions soon followed suit.
As of 2014, EZShield partners with check printers, financial institutions, insurance companies, benefits providers and warranty companies to offer fraud protection services. In June 2019, EZShield and IdentityForce combined under a new parent company, Sontiq.
The Rise of Identity Crime
Identity theft and payments fraud saw enough of an increase in the 1990s that identity theft became a United States federal crime by 1998.
In one notorious case of identity theft, a convicted felon incurred more than $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and handguns in his victim’s name. Adding insult to injury, he called to taunt the victim—saying that he could continue to pose as the victim for as long as he wanted because identity theft was not a federal crime at that time—before filing for bankruptcy, also in the victim’s name.
While the victim and his wife spent more than four years and in excess of $15,000 of their own money to restore their credit and reputation, the criminal served a brief sentence for making a false statement to procure a firearm. However, he made no restitution to his victim for any of the harm he had caused. This case, and similar cases, prompted Congress to deem identity theft a federal offense in 1998. * (United States Department of Justice)
Despite this federal identity protection law, titled Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act 18 U.S.C. §1028, and hundreds of related state laws in place, identity crimes persist as one of the top crimes in the United States. Sixty-nine percent (over two million) of all 2013 complaints to the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database of consumer complaints accessible only to law enforcement, were identity theft and payments fraud related.
Answering Consumer Needs
While EZShield is the first and only company to offer check fraud protection, shortly after launching in 2001, other identity protection companies arose in response to the growth in identity crimes. Seeing the need to expand its service offerings, EZShield began adding other identity protection services (including individual and business identity restoration, internet monitoring, online document and password storage, checking account protection, and business security services). To reflect the service expansion, in 2013 the company changed its name to EZShield Identity Protection®.
Over the past 13 years, hundreds of thousands of American consumers have flocked to various identity protection service companies seeking relief from the threat of identity theft. However, instead of allaying panic, some of the companies escalated fear through their advertising campaigns. With trust becoming more of an issue, the vast majority of consumers turned to financial institutions to meet their needs.
Recognizing customers’ reliance on banks and credit unions to supply trustworthy services from the beginning, EZShield primarily delivers fraud services through financial institutions. Additionally, EZShield now partners with benefits, payroll and warranty providers, as well as insurance organizations to help protect their consumers against fraud and identity theft.
Creating Clarity in a Cloudy SpaceSM
The fraud and identity theft protection industry is one riddled with confusion. From fear-monger messaging to overinflated promises and misinformation, consumers are often left not knowing what to believe. The result: many consumers are frightened or embrace a false sense of security upon obtaining certain protection services.
To add to the misperceptions surrounding the industry, some consumer advocacy organizations dismiss the need for identity protection services altogether. These consumer groups’ primary oppositions have been to the cost and to consumers’ abilities to handle their own protection without the aide of a service.
In an effort to provide clarity amongst the confusion and rectify the negative press, EZShield developed FightingIdentityCrimes.com. The site provides detailed fraud and identity theft information, education and related news so consumers can gain a clear understanding of identity crimes and how to protect themselves.
EZShield’s approach to empowering consumers is part of our focus on identity and fraud protection. The company’s overall mission is to provide expedient personal assistance to secure, monitor and restore a consumer’s identity, combined with providing consumers the necessary tools and information to take responsibility for the safe handling of personal data.
Every aspect of EZShield showcases our commitment to data security, which is further highlighted by award-winning products and best-in-class service and support.