We have access to do incredible things online from communicating with family members to even managing our finances from the comfort of our home. At the same time, there are risks associated with using the internet such as incurring identity theft; this is where an identity thief steals your personal information, which he or she can use to open bank accounts, credit cards or even sell it on the black market. Over $26 million was lost to identity theft in 2014.
Even more problematic is the fact that once you have your identity stolen, it can be timely to have everything resolved, unless you have identity theft protection. Here is a look at how this service works as well as how to find the best identity theft protection available.
Identity Theft Protection Services - What is Identity Theft?
Simply, identity theft is when hackers steal your personal information -social security number, name, address, birth date and phone number- then use that information as if they were you. This can result in them opening credit cards, bank loans even auto loans in your name, thus crippling your finances and credit as a result. Further, by examining identity theft statistics, you'll discover this continues to be a major problem. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 17.4 million people in the United States experienced a form of identity theft in 2014. This represents a growing need for more people to have identity theft protection.
How to Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
There are several things you can do to protect yourself. One of the easiest ways is to get identity theft protection. This is where a company will offer different types of programs such as monitoring your credit so you remain informed when there are any changes in your credit reports, which could signify someone stole your identity.
Over $26 million was lost to identity theft in 2014.
Moreover, many companies offer enhanced identity theft protection. As part of this coverage, some providers will scour black market websites to ensure your data isn't on them. Along with this, they provide text, email or phone alerts anytime there's a change in your finances such as a large purchase on your bank account or a credit account opened in your name. This level of protection can give you confidence in knowing that your information is safe.
But that is only one-half of the equation. The other half has to do with the practices you do on an everyday basis. For starters, if you use the internet to conduct online banking or shop, then it's vital you have up to date virus protection with added security features such as a firewall. This reduces the risk of hackers entering your network and stealing your information. Other basic tips to help you protect your identity include the following:
- Never leave your credit or debit cards up when paying at restaurants or stores as you never know who could be watching.
- Store all documents that contain your personal information in a safe.
- Shred all pre-approved offers for credit cards or other loans that might arrive in the mail.
What to Expect From the Top Identity Theft Protection Services
When you are ready to buy identity theft protection service, it's important to find a provider that offers a comprehensive list of services that helps you the most. As part of this, here's a look at some of the features a good provider will offer you:
- Fraud alert: This is where a provider will identify unusual behavior in your finances such as a large purchase on a bank account that doesn't have much activity. When this occurs, the company will report fraud to the credit bureaus and any law enforcement agencies then work on your behalf to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
- Fraud Protection: This proactive safety measure encompasses many things from monitoring credit reports and bank accounts to searching through file-sharing programs to ensure your information hasn't been compromised.
- Credit card protector: Most credit card providers already do an excellent job monitoring credit card fraud. To illustrate, say you regularly make purchases under $50, but then out of the blue, there's a purchase of $800 on your card. Some providers might call you to verify you made the purchase since this is unusual activity. Identity theft protection services work in the same regard. Not only will they monitor your purchases, most have credit card fraud detection by which if they know the purchase is illegal, they can stop it then, preventing someone else from running up a large balance on your card.
- Identity theft insurance: On rare occasions, you could have done everything right including signing up for identity theft protection services and still have your identity stolen. In the unfortunate event, this occurs, many reputable providers offer identity theft insurance. This is where they will repay for the financial losses incurred by you up to a specified amount. As part of this, many will also offer identity theft restoration service where they will work on your behalf to help you file all the right paperwork with credit bureaus, law enforcement and banks to gain your identity back.
Identity Theft Protection Services Recap
To find the best identity theft protection, it's important that you compare multiple providers, as this is the easiest way to identify the one that's going to offer you the best services. To assist you in this regard, Money Saving Pro has an excellent comparison feature on its website, where it researched identity theft protection companies and ranked them on a variety of factors including product offerings, customer service and the effectiveness of the tools they offer their customers.
Along with this, you'll want to read customer reviews on companies that offer identity theft protection. One of the things to be mindful of is a pattern of complaints such as a company failing to respond to its customers in a timely fashion. If you find a pattern, it's indicative of a larger problem and it is best to avoid using the provider altogether.
Lastly, you can use the Better Business Bureau as a gauge of a provider's reputation. The Bureau assess companies in part on how they handle customer complaints then assigns a grade from A to F based on the studies they conduct.