Can you guess the world's fastest growing cyber-crime? Each year nearly 15 million Americans have their identities stolen or used fraudulently in one form or another and in 2014, more than 17 million people were the victims of identity theft.
In all, losses soar into the billions. The best identity theft protection service can help safeguard your sensitive financial information by closely monitoring your accounts for any unusual activity. Here are some best identity theft companies I've researched.
In This Guide
Our Top Picks
- Data Breach Notifications
- Lost Wallet Protection
- Live member support
- Reimbursed for range of expenses
- $1 million total service guarantee
- Does not monitor medical insurance information
- Only tracks TransUnion credit score monthly
LifeLock Identity Theft is an exclusive identity theft protection program that monitors over a trillion data points in order to efficiently monitor any misuse regarding your personal information. LifeLock offers a service guarantee to members, which states that LifeLock will to provide up to $1 million to hire experts to help with identity theft problems should any member become a victim of identity theft.
The LifeLock Ultimate Plus Identity Theft Protection plan is also a product to consider from LifeLock. LifeLock Ultimate Plus provides you with the ability to protect your finances with the LifeLock Privacy Monitor Tool, Black Market Website Surveillance, Lost Wallet Protection, LifeLock Identity Alert System, Stolen Funds Replacement, Credit Card, Checking and Savings Account Activity Alerts, Address Change Verification, $1 Million Service Guarantee, the ability to reduce pre-approved credit card offer, and so much more!
Thanks to their innovative monitoring technology and their range of product options, LifeLock is a solid choice.
- $1 million ID theft insurance
- ID Analytics search
- Protects wide range of personal data
- Mail list removal
- Triple-bureau credit report and monitoring
- Does not protect driver’s license number
IdentityForce offers triple-bureau credit report and monitoring and identity analytics research among a wide array of services at an affordable membership rate.
IdentityForce protects and detects the illegal use of your personal, financial and credit information along with your children's social security information with their ChildWatch service. Their UltraSecure plan comes with a 14-day free trial.
Identity Guard Review
- From the company that helped protect more than 47 Million customers
- Lost wallet protection
- $1 million insurance policy
- Monitors credit score and 3 bureaus
- Security programs available for members
- Does not monitor sex offender registry
- No FICO or VantageScore monitoring
Identity Guard is another strong contender that provides a wide range of identity monitoring and theft prevention services along with unique features like mail list removal, password protection, and keystroke encryption to protect your against unrecognizable malware as you browse the internet.
Affordable memberships range from $9.99 per month to $24.99 per month. Identity Guard provides prompt alerts to members via text, phone, and email along with wallet loss protection that includes up to $2,000 in emergency cash should you ever misplace your wallet with personal information in it.
Key Considerations Before Buying ID Theft Protection
The Best ID Theft Protection Services
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is when a criminal steals numbers, documents or online data that contains private identifying information. Usually, this information is used to open credit accounts, open lines of customer credit, or commit other crimes under your identity.
At the first sign of suspicious activity, some companies will send you an identity fraud alert and allow you to issue a credit freeze which disallows lenders from accessing your credit until the issue is further explored.
A credit freeze also stops an identity thief from opening accounts under your FICO score. Enrolling with a competent identity protection service can significantly mitigate damage in the event a customer credit account is stolen. What's more, many of the best-rated identity companies offer additional services to even improve your current economic standing.
The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information page has a variety of resources regarding identity theft. This Federal Trade Commission page contains information on recovering from identity theft, handling a data breach, and protecting your identity. There, you can also find free resources on how to prevent identity theft, as well as resources for law enforcement, businesses, and attorneys and advocates.
Monitoring & Fraud
A large portion of fraud monitoring is automated. The identity protection service should conduct searches of dangerous websites to ensure that your information is not being traded illegally. If the automated system does find instances of fraud, you should be alerted.
...in 2014, more than 17 million people were the victims of identity theft.
Credit card fraud (not saying debit card fraud should go ignored) is one of the most popular forms of fraud where criminals attempt to use lost or stolen credit cards, steal important information from your mailbox or trash, or access your personal records in order to open or use credit in your name. It's important to obtain detailed credit reports from the main credit bureaus so you can thoroughly review your accounts for any signs of fraudulent activity.
Other types of fraud include medical and insurance fraud. Having identity theft insurance monitoring on the lookout for fraudulent activity in your name along with access to efficient and professional restoration systems around the clock will offer solutions to damaged caused by thieves if your credit is stolen.
To protect your information, you need monitoring, but you also need another couple layers of protection: anti-virus software and anti-keylogging software, which will help prevent identity theft.
Related: A VPN is another way to hide your identity and keep it protected while online. To learn more, consult our buyer's guide to VPN services.
How ID Theft Protection Companies Alert You to Danger
It's important to know how to report identity theft when there is a problem with your report.
Notifying the people's credit bureaus, like Experian and Transunion, of fraud is incredibly important. Otherwise, your credit can dramatically suffer from someone else's unscrupulous behavior. If an electronic pickpocket attempts to open a credit line in your name (while a fraud alert is in place), the bureau will contact you directly for verification. This allows you to always be aware of changes to your credit report so you can confirm whether you authorized them or not.
If you have been or suspect you may become an identity theft victim, there's an option to place an initial fraud alert or 90-day fraud alert on your credit file to alert the three main bureaus. Extended fraud alerts are often called 7-year alerts and can be placed on your credit file for free.
However, you may want to enlist help from a professional service when it comes to drawing up all the paperwork to submit by mail or fax in order to submit an extensive fraud alert.
Do You Need ID Theft Protection Services?
If you've never had issues with identity theft, or if you've never had errors on your credit report, you might feel it's unnecessary to sign up for identity theft protection. But given how identity theft affects millions each year, you can't afford to take chances with your credit history.
We need to safeguard our credit and identity by any means necessary. Even if you don't have immediate plans to buy a house or a car, you never know when you'll need to apply for financing. And if you don't monitor your credit, there could be information on your reports that prevents qualifying for a loan.
Thieves know how to get hold of information to steal your identity. In fact, many things you do on a daily basis can compromise your personal information. This includes shopping online, carrying sensitive information in your wallet, using public Wi-Fi, receiving mail in an unlocked box, or visiting an ATM.
Identity theft protection is an affordable, hassle-free way to keep tabs on your credit. Signing up doesn't mean you're obsessed with your credit. Instead, you're acknowledging that identity theft can happen to anyone, and you're hoping to be one less victim. Here's a look at three reasons to sign up for protection.
Related: How to Secure Your Wi-Fi
Receive Fraud Alerts
Sign up for a credit monitor service and you'll receive alerts whenever a company checks your credit, a new account opens in your name, or other, new activity appears on your reports. Even if you diligently check your credit reports each year, a credit monitoring service protects your credit in-between these routine checks. Notifications arrive via email, at which time you can determine whether it's an authorized activity. If not, file a dispute and begin an investigation.
Gain Access to Your Credit Report and Score
Identity theft protection also gives you free access to your credit reports. You can check your credit history for accuracy, and see what creditors are saying about you. You might receive a free credit report every month, quarter or year, depending on the service and your package.
You'll Save Money in the Long Run
Some victims of identity theft lose less than $100, whereas others are cheated out of tens of thousands. But regardless of whether an identity thief walks away with a little or a lot, no one want's to be a victim. According to Identity Guard, "$4,841 is the average amount stolen from an identity theft victim." There's a monthly subscription fee for credit monitoring, which might be as low as $9.99/month. It's a small price to pay for reliable protection. And if truth be told, you might save a ton in the long run by simply having this service.
Identity theft protection safeguards your FICO score, and with a higher credit rating, you can score lower interest rates on loans. Additionally, identity theft protection service providers give customers up to $1 million of the best identity theft insurance for related expenses, such as lost wages, travel expenses, legal costs, etc. However, you will want long-term care, so be sure to renew your subscription as often as possible. Long-term care ensures that your information and finances remain safe.
Keeping Sensitive Information Protected is Paramount
Check thoroughly that the service monitors the use of your Social Security, credit card number, debit card number, bank accounts, telephone, email, name, driver license number info, and other information that could be used to steal your identity.
Some services also monitor other forms of information like public records, internet information connected to you, payday loans in your name and even sex offenders in your area.
When you think about all the sensitive information you share in confidence each day that could potentially become misused, it can be overwhelming. This is why it's advantageous to enlist a professional to protect all of your information and provide you with additional services and software protection so you can have peace-of-mind and little work to do on your end.
Additional features are usually offered, apart from the standard fraud monitoring and alerts. If possible, seek a company that also monitors your credit and credit history reports, removes your name from bothersome mailing lists, and provides you with online protection by monitoring your online information. These are all important factors that will especially in the digital age when much of our lives are conducted over the internet.
However, there will be some unique benefits that a monitor service may carry. For instance, the LifeLock Ultimate Plus service reduces pre-approved credit card offers, which can release important information to the identity thief.
Most companies will offer different types of identity theft protection plans at different prices to accommodate your needs and provide you with bonus features and services. Some great popular bonus features to take advantage of are lost wallet protection and identity theft protection for children and families.
The more benefits you can receive with your membership the better as long as it fits in your budget. Most premium comprehensive identity theft memberships end up being less than $30 per month in order to accommodate your needs for less.
How accessible is the company by phone or email? You should be able to reach your identity theft protection company easily and quickly should you ever have any questions or concerns. Most companies will have helpful resources and FAQs on their website to help address common inquiries that come up often.
Since identity theft can happen at any time, you ideally want a service with 24/7 customer support online or over the phone.
If you are a texter, there are a few companies who will give you the option to receive texts in addition to phone calls and/or email alerts. You should also be able to log on to your account anytime, anywhere in order to always stay updated. Choosing a company with flexible hours and an exceptional level of customer service is your optimum option.
When you are shopping around for your ideal identity theft protection company, some red flags would include companies with limited hours or customer support specialists who are difficult to reach. You want to be able to call on your identity theft experts and receive a quality level of service when you need it.
Keep all these factors in mind when searching for the best identity theft protection company that suits you and your ideal needs.
Customer service, legitimacy, and company reputation are three important factors to consider when doing business with any of the companies reviewed in this article.
Tips & Advice
If you are considering getting identity theft protection for yourself, I suggest you review our advice section to find resources and guides on staying safe online and protection personal information. Here, I've provided in-depth insight on identity theft protection as a whole, along with things you can do to protect yourself while you work with a reputable company to your monitor personal information.
Here are a few examples:
- Do you know how many people are affected by identity theft and what actionable steps you can take to stop identity thieves from doing lasting damage? More than 13.1 million people became victims of identity fraud in 2013. While it's ideal to pair up with an identity theft protection company for theft recovery, you can take actions on your own as well to protect yourself like refraining from giving out personal information on the internet, social media or anywhere you think is unsafe. You can also change your passwords regularly and monitor your finances more closely.
- What are the pros and cons of an identity theft company? It heavily depends on what you are looking for in a service. Some people want certain services like medical theft protection, 24-hour customer service or 3-major credit bureau monitoring (Experian and Transunion, as well as Equifax) and reports. If you can find a company who is offering all the services you are interested in for a reasonable monthly price, that would be a benefit. I understand that not all identity theft protection companies are equal and some operated with very different systems and technologies. This is why I've provided a wide array of reviews - such as a LifeLock review - on some of the most excellent offers so you can compare the best lenders and choose what works best for you.
- Is there anything you should not have in your wallet that may attract identity theft? Yes, you should never keep your password and pin number, social security card, old receipts, multiple credit cards, passport or birth certificate in your wallet
- How can identity thieves steal your personal credit card information without even touching it? They can do so by copying your credit card information by hacking into unsecured websites and store computer systems to steal the data. A few years ago, Target's high profile security breach resulted in at least 40 million payment card numbers being stolen and 70 million other pieces of customer data becoming compromised.
It's important to be knowledgeable about all aspects of identity theft protection so you can make an educated decision as to how you will go about protecting your identity online and offline.
Identity theft protection is a serious issue which should be handled with the utmost importance. I hope this guide equips you with the knowledge and resources needed to help protect your personal information or team up with a professional who can help.
Besides monitoring the use of your identity online, it's important to check your credit report periodically. Using any of these top credit report sites can give you an accurate depiction of your credit score. Viewing the report can also help you identify mistakes that may be resulting in an incorrect score. Furthermore, your devices should be equipped with the best anti-keylogging software to ensure that a virus or any other type of malware doesn't slip in and steal your information.
Also, contact your financial institution once in awhile to ensure that your accounts are safe. You can also refer to the financial institution's website, which would contain information on your accounts.
For more information, tips, and strategies, you can read our comprehensive guide to Internet Safety & Online Privacy.