Nearly everyday we hear about someone whose identity has been hi-jacked. Identity theft, data breach, the exposure potential of Social Security numbers and just leaving papers around are all potholes in the road of a secure identity.
A February 2014 Javelin study reports 13.1 million cases of identity fraud in the United States for 2013. Identity Theft Protection Services offer a layer of protection against identity theft, but what do they protect against?
Identity Theft Protection Services are effective against new account fraud, where criminals try to use personal data such as your Social Security Number to open phone, credit card or bank accounts under your name. They also monitor your financial accounts for suspicious activity and let you know pronto when something looks fishy.
The level of service varies with the expertise of the particular service. For example, some identity protection companies may not be as strong in Tax Return Fraud or Medical Identity Theft. The services can't stop someone using your information to apply for a job, or to get a smart phone.
Compare Features of Monitoring Services
The top protection services all cover the basics, but it's worth comparing their features to see if you're getting what you expect.
Check the frequency of their credit monitoring, with real time monitoring being the best. Which of the three major credit agencies do they monitor? Of course, coverage of all three is the best. What level of access are you provided to your credit reports and credit score by each service?
What additional monitoring services are provided? Does the identity theft protection service scan search engines, blogs, chat rooms, and public records? Do you get any add-ons such as security apps for your laptop?
Lifelock Ultimate Plus is a service providing extra coverage above and beyond the basics, including ongoing scanning of accounts, public record and registries and they include a service guarantee.
Compare the prices of each service as you weigh there effectiveness; there is a range of pricing available.
Identity Theft Protection services are all over the map with their customer service packages. It's good to have some level of 24 hour help available, but you may find you pay a premium for this level of access. Some services offer counseling while those really on their toes will contact law enforcement and creditors and pertinent others in case of a problem. Highly rated Identity Force, for example, offers round the clock support by phone or email.
Choosing a Service
Identity Theft Protection products offer a layer of added protection, but even consumers who purchase these services should keep a close eye on their credit reports and financial accounts on a regular basis. Take a look at the Federal Trade Commission's primer on identity theft for some straightforward information on the subject.
Prior to subscribing to a service, read the fine print and be sure you understand the details of the product. Ask yourself whether the provider is delivering value for your hard earned cash.