A lot could go wrong if your personal information falls into the wrong hands. From damaged credit scores to mounting debt, thieves can do a lot of financial damage that could cost you a fortune. Luckily, identity theft protection services help to alert you the moment suspicious activity is detected. In the Digital Age, there’s a lot to learn about identity theft and how to protect your identity.
5 minute read
Understanding ID Theft and Services
What is identity theft?
Identity theft is the unauthorized use of someone’s personal information. This includes Social Security numbers, credit cards, health insurance and other personal records. After your personal data is exposed during a data breach thieves may be able to make transactions, use your credit and make other risky moves – including applying for loans, get a passport and other fraudulent activity. There are several types of identity theft including financial, criminal, medical and insurance. Regardless of the theft attempt, the damage could be detrimental.
Identity Theft Statistics
In 2017, there were 1,579 data breaches that exposed 179 million records
14.2 million credit card numbers and 158 SSNs were exposed in 2017
Fraud costs consumers more than $16 billion
In 2018, 15 percent of ID theft with 444,602 complaints
Credit card fraud is the number one type of ID theft fraud in 2018 – with 130,928 reports
What is identity theft protection?
Identity theft protection services scan databases and websites to regularly search for your personal information. If your identity theft protection provider finds your information used suspiciously, you’ll automatically be alerted via a mobile alert, email or text message. And if you become a victim of identity theft most providers will offer recovery assistance to secure your information from further harm. Identity theft protection services do not prevent your identity from being compromised, but if suspicious activity is detected, you’ll be alerted so you can act quickly.
DIY Identity Theft Protection
There are a few ways to self-monitor your personal identity for free or at a low cost such as:
Checking your credit reports at all three credit bureaus. You get one free credit report from each credit reporting agency, once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com.
Regularly review your bank and credit card account summaries and statements for any unauthorized transactions and changes.
Freezing your credit report to prevent new accounts being opened without your permission. You’ll need to place a freeze on your credit for all three credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This service is now free of charge to all U.S. residents.
Most self-monitoring identity options range from free of charge to a very low monthly service fee. If you choose to monitor your identity and fall victim to identity theft, IdentityTheft.gov offers help with recovery plans, letters and forms if you choose to monitor your identity or credit using services like Credit Karma, or professional services that don’t offer recovery assistance.
Professional Identity Theft Protection Services
Professional identity theft protection services use a combination of technology and professionals to monitor your personal data. Identity theft protection services offer a variety of plans for most age groups and needs – including children and seniors. Thieves prey on child identities because they can open accounts, take out loans and create a whole new identity that goes undetected for years. Consider freezing your child’s credit until they’re of age to avoid the misuse of their personal identification. Most providers offer plans that include the whole family for $86-$240/yr., depending on the features selected and the number of people monitored. Usually, if you choose to pay the annual price upfront, you’ll receive a discount lower than monthly pricing.
Lower costing plans often only monitor your credit, while more expensive plans also monitor your social security number (SSN), bank and credit card activity, tax records, relating to crimes and neighborhood watch lists.
It’s important to note the two types of identity theft services offered – monitoring and recovery. Monitoring identity theft services look for signs and alert you if your identity is stolen including credit card changes, loan applications and identity trade websites to share stolen information. On the other hand, identity recovery services assist in financial and reputational recovery that include help freezing credit, correcting credit reports, filing police reports and closing accounts opened in your name. Most professional identity monitoring services also offer up to $1 million in recovery costs.
ADT Identity Protection helps protect your personally identifiable information with 24/7 professional monitoring and instant mobile alerts of suspicious activity. You’ll be able to easily review all alerts and reports using your smartphone and an easy-to-read dashboard.
ADT also offers fraud and ID theft recovery assistance with fraud resolution professionals and up to $1 million in reimbursement insurance. Help protect your information with ADT Identity Protection services starting at $9.99/mo.
Read more about ADT services, pricing and features.
What we like
Affordable for most people
Accessible online dashboard and instant alerts of fraud
Scans for medical insurance IDs
What we don’t like
Only one monitoring product offered
Membership required – no one-time purchase option
Credit score tracking and non-credit monitoring requires additional enrollment
LifeLock is an industry leader committed to protecting your identity with Norton Security to keep a close watch on your information and devices. With LifeLock, experts will monitor your Social Security Number (SSN), devices and bank accounts. They’re also able to track any crimes in your name and monitor credit reports from all three credit bureaus.
LifeLock’s identity theft technology is designed to scan your account transactions every second to quickly spot any suspicious activity. LifeLock offers a Million Dollar Protection™ Package™ covering up to $1 million in stolen funds, attorney fees and stolen money. Plans for LifeLock coverage start as low as $9.99/mo.
Read more about LifeLock packages, pricing and features.
What we like
20% discount if you pay for a year, instead of month-to-month
Proprietary technology scans hundreds of millions of data points a second
Their portal is very easy to navigate
What we don’t like
Doesn’t monitor all transactions at all businesses
Basic package only pulls monitoring through Equifax
IdentityForce offers 24/7 identity protection support and real-time alerts if suspicious activity is detected by IdentityForce’s Certified Protection Experts. The team will keep a close eye on your information including the selling of your personal data and credit.
If your data is compromised, you’ll receive instant mobile alerts and experts will handle recovery on your behalf including phone calls, letters and an identity theft protection policy up to $1 million. IdentityForce offers free trials for families and businesses and plans start as low as $17.95/mo.
Read more about IdentityForce services, pricing and features.
Identity Guard uses IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect identity threats using predictive analytics and provides recovery assistance. During set-up, you’ll be able to create a Watchlist for Identity Guard to monitor your email address, credit, accounts and phone numbers.
Identity Guard displays all of your personal information on an easy-to-use dashboard, and receive instant alerts about activity that could be the earliest indication of identity theft or fraud. They’re trusted by more than 47 million customers, backed by over 20 years of experience and plans start as low as $8.99/mo.
Read more about Identity Guard services, pricing and features.
ID Watchdog offers credit monitoring for all three credit bureaus and identity monitoring that regularly checks public records to spot any unfamiliar changes and transactions. This ID theft protection company helps keep your data safe with Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialists (CITRMS) that handle monitoring and identity restoration if you fall victim to ID theft.
ID Watchdog offers $1 million in reimbursement and guaranteed payment for recovery if ID theft happens with an ID Watchdog plan. ID Watchdog is dedicated to fighting identity theft by providing recovery assistance for non-customers that face identity theft and fraud.
Read more about ID Watchdog services, pricing and features.
What we like
Offers a family plan
Offers recovery service even to non-customers
What we don’t like
Family plan pricing isn’t advertised – must call for a quote
Information on identity fraud of FAQs not available
EverSafe analyzes your regular financial behavior, spots any irregular activity and immediately alerts you with an email, text message and notification using the EverSafe mobile app. If hackers get ahold of your identity, EverSafe specialists will work with you to create a recovery plan.
EverSafe offers bank, credit and investment account monitoring for you, your children and special assistance for seniors. You’ll be able to easily monitor all of your family’s individual accounts using one unified dashboard for your convenience.
Read more about EverSafe services, pricing and features.
What we like
30-Day free trial
Special protection for the elderly
What we don’t like
No ID theft monitoring in basic plan
Insurance only offered on higher tiered packages
Limited time in industry
Features to Look for in Identity Theft Protection Services
Family plan options – Instead of buying several plans to monitor your family’s personal identity, look for identity providers that have family plans. Many providers include a number of children in the monthly cost, while some allow you to add children for a small monthly fee – some as low as $3/mo.
Mobile app accessibility – Look for a provider with an app that makes it easy to glance at your credit score, review transactions and manage any information from your smartphone at all times. The best identity theft protection services offer a mobile app to manage your personal information and accounts. You’ll receive instant alerts to always know about credit changes, account updates and suspicious activity. You’ll immediately know of any changes including if a new account is opened in your name and any credit or loan applications.
Recovery plan assistance – The best identity theft protection services monitor your identity and offer recovery plan assistance to reclaim your personal information in the event of identity theft. Experts will offer guidance correcting your credit reports, closing accounts and negotiating with debt collectors to secure your information quickly and avoid further damage.
Reimbursements – Most professional identity theft recovery services offer reimbursements to cover any costs incurred from identity theft and fraud, such as stolen money from bank accounts, fees and attorney fees. Identity theft protection services offer a specified amount of identity theft reimbursement – most up to $1 million. Some insurance agencies, such as Allstate and State Farm, offer identity theft insurance to cover all costs for identity theft recovery as an addition to your existing policy. Keep in mind, the limit and coverage limitations may vary by provider.
Identity monitoring – Credit monitoring is one of the most common services, but not all forms of identity theft and fraud can be found on your credit report. Shop for a provider that scans multiple databases to check for your personal data. The best identity theft monitoring services check court records, loan applications, health insurance fraud and other private and public records.
Identity Theft FAQs
Why do I need an identity theft protection service?
You should consider identity theft protection if you’re worried about your personal information being stolen – especially in the Digital Age. Identity theft protection services can’t entirely prevent identity theft, but they can detect it quickly, which minimizes the financial toll. If you’ve misplaced your social security card or have been a victim of ID theft, you’ll also want to strongly consider a professional monitoring and recovery service.
How do I know my identity has been compromised?
Without a professional or DIY identity theft protection service, it’s nearly impossible to monitor every website or area where your personally identifiable data could be compromised, but the Federal Trade Commission offered a few common signs to watch out for:
– Unauthorized and unexplainable transactions from your accounts
– Notices from debt collectors about an unfamiliar debt owed
– Bills from providers that you didn’t receive service for – such as medical bills
– Multiple tax returns filed on your behalf
– A data breach letter from a company you have an account with
What’s the difference between a data breach and identity theft?
During a data breach, hackers release unauthorized personal information on behalf of a company. A result of the data breach can be identity theft when hackers use your personal information without your permission to access bank accounts, take out loans or other risky behavior.
What do I do if I’m a victim of identity theft?
If you fall victim to identity theft there are a few immediate steps to take before creating a recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov recommends immediately alerting the FTC, filing a report with your local police department, and notifying the company included in the theft. So, if you’re billed for a medical service you didn’t receive notify the medical provider immediately.