If your sensitive personal information falls into the wrong hands, the effects can be devastating. That’s why you need to protect your data and credit.
Now, you might’ve seen advertisements for identity theft protection services, but do you really need them?
Like you, we also want to get our money's worth every time we buy a product. So we looked closely at the top ID theft protection services, reviewed their features, and examined the plans and costs.
Read until the end to discover your best defense against ID theft. Don’t miss out on valuable tips for keeping yourself safe against ID theft and signing up for a product unsuitable for your needs.
Do you need identity theft protection?
ID theft protection services are helpful, but they’re not for everyone. Here’s when you might need them:
1. Convenient monitoring
Checking your credit reports, social media profiles, and financial statements requires time, which you might not have due to your job or other responsibilities.
So if you want someone to keep track of your information for you, we recommend subscribing to monitoring services. The platform automatically checks your credit and identity, albeit for a price.
ID theft protection is for working individuals who want to spend their time on things other than constantly observing where their information is being used. It also scours the dark web and illegal forums to check for your personal details.
It would be risky to visit these illegal sites, so you might want ID theft protection.
2. Automatic monitoring
ID theft protection services automatically track your information, so you don’t need to check your accounts manually. It’s almost impossible to monitor your personal details every second and on every website.
It’s one of the features of ID theft protection products—scanning hundreds or even thousands of websites to check for signs of stolen identities.
For example, most providers use an algorithm-based process to access the dark web. It allows them to locate your information quickly. But it will require too much effort if you’re the only one looking out for your sensitive details.
3. Organized reports
Who doesn’t want an organized platform to check all your accounts?
You can access most ID theft protection via mobile apps downloaded on your iOS or Android device. Some companies also offer desktop apps, while you can access other ID theft products through their websites only.
Either way, they show the reports in one place. So there’s no need to monitor your social media accounts and financial statements on different platforms.
You only need to switch tabs, and after a few clicks, the website or app will show whether your information is at risk or not.
Also, if you need to request credit files or place a security freeze, you can do such activities on one website. You don’t need to contact different sites and agencies to protect your information.
4. Insurance and reimbursement
Fraud protection services almost always include insurance coverage. If you want peace of mind, most experts recommend purchasing ID theft protection products.
Most people think that the only money you can lose is the one in your bank account, but usually, the legal fees and incidental expenses can take up to hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on your case.
CNBC reported that, on average, a victim loses $500 due to scams.
An ID theft product provides a safety blanket against the uncertainty that scammers bring. Fortunately, some providers also offer insurance for children who are targets of identity thieves.
So if you want an organized report of your information but don’t want the hassle that comes with it, you can subscribe to ID theft protection products.
5. Identity theft’s prevalence: real-life examples
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 1,434,676 reports of identity theft in 2021. It comprises 25% of the total reports filed with the agency.
Here are the most common types of ID theft:
- Credit card fraud
- Loan or lease fraud
- Phone or utility fraud
- Bank fraud
- Employment or tax-related fraud
Javelin Strategy & Research also stated that consumers lost $56 billion to identity fraud in 2020. These alarming numbers show that ID theft can affect almost anyone. It also permeates daily transactions, such as those related to employment, utilities, and finance.
William Burnett shared to CNN his experience as a victim of identity fraud. He’s a 68-year-old retired pilot who spent his lifetime building up his credit.
But he received a letter from his bank informing him of fraudulent accounts and transactions. Since then, he has been trying to shut down fake accounts under his name. His credit score also went down until it was under the “Very poor” category.
Burnett hasn't lost money to ID fraud, but most scammers successfully got their victims’ funds.
For example, a married couple lost $40,000 to impersonators. The fraudsters pretended to be them and accessed their Fidelity Investments retirement account.
The criminals changed the couple’s contact details and made separate withdrawals, each amounting to $20,000. Unfortunately, the bank didn’t return their money because the couple reported fraud beyond the 30-day limit.
You might notice that the bank implemented a 30-day limit, but perhaps the couple didn’t receive alerts regarding their retirement account.
That’s one of ID theft protection’s uses. It informs you of possible risks to your information, allowing you to act immediately. It can also assist in recovering your money.
But what are the instances when you don’t need ID theft protection?
We’ll discuss its limitations in the latter part of this article, so keep on reading.
What do identity theft protection services promise?
1. SSN & Identity Monitoring
ID theft protection services keep track of your Social Security Number (SSN) to alert you in case someone associates it with another name or identity.
They also monitor websites and other databases to know if scammers are using your name or address in fraudulent activities.
Aside from your name, address, and SSN, the platform may also monitor your passport and driver’s license numbers.
2. Credit Monitoring
Aside from checking your personally identifiable information (PII), an identity theft protection service also provides your credit files from the three reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.
You can also see your credit scores to recognize sudden and unexplainable changes. The advantage is that you can request a daily, weekly, or quarterly report, depending on the provider and the plan you’ll pay for.
3. Financial Account Monitoring
Most scammers want to steal your identity to get money from your financial accounts.
A crucial feature of ID theft protection services involves financial account monitoring. You can receive alerts if someone makes fraudulent purchases using your credit card, checking, and savings account.
The platform will also inform you regarding large wire transfers and withdrawals, which indicate financial fraud.
4. Dark Web Monitoring
Here are the usual details that it scans on the dark web:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Medical and financial data
As you might notice, some companies also offer to keep track of your medical data to prevent medical identity fraud.
5. Payday Loan Monitoring
Most lending companies only require little information to approve payday loans. So it’s easier for identity thieves to apply for loans under your name. Fortunately, ID theft protection alerts you of lending activities associated with your name.
6. Identity Theft Insurance
Who needs identity theft insurance?
It’s useful for almost anyone because insurance covers some costs of reclaiming financial identities and repairing credit reports.
Usually, providers offer up to $1 million in stolen funds reimbursement and personal expense compensation. Also, the best credit protection for families includes coverage of up to $1 million, even for other family members.
Most victims don’t know the next steps to take, so choosing a provider that offers full identity restoration protection is important. Through this feature, you can communicate with lawyers and security experts who will provide a personalized recovery plan and assist you through every step.
We only mentioned the critical elements of ID theft protection services. Still, other features exist, such as social media monitoring and lost wallet restoration.
What are the limitations of identity theft protection services?
While an ID theft protection service is a helpful tool, it still has shortcomings.
1. Limited scanning capabilities
We mentioned that ID theft protection services scan even the dark web but only have a limited list of databases. So it’s possible that if a hacker posts your information in an illegal forum not scanned by the platform, you won’t get alerts regarding the incident.
It also can’t look into other people’s conversations because it’s against privacy laws. Hence, even if someone sells your personal details via messaging sites, you wouldn’t know about it.
2. Can’t prevent identity theft
Companies might call them “protection” services, but in reality, they can’t protect you from ID theft. The features we mentioned can only help after ID theft has occurred.
For example, you can only know the value of SSN monitoring once you get alerts that your information might be at risk. It allows you to alert your bank or credit union immediately.
3. Can’t monitor all forms of fraud
An ID theft protection service can’t monitor tax fraud. Also, some providers don’t offer medical fraud monitoring. That’s why your chosen platform isn’t the entire solution to fraud.
How much does identity theft protection cost?
In this section, we’ll show you the average price of ID theft products and their features. Although you can get free identity theft protection, we’ll focus on paid plans to discover if they’re worth it.
You can subscribe to Zander’s Essential Plan for only $6.75 per month. According to its website, you can get up to $1 million for stolen funds and expenses.
You can also take advantage of SSN and dark web monitoring. The platform will alert you if someone changes your address in sensitive documents.
The average cost of ID theft products ranges from $15 to $17.99 per month.
If you have a Discover card, you’re eligible for a $15-per-month ID theft protection service. It also includes SSN monitoring, like Zander’s Essential Plan. You can receive alternative loans, dark web, address change, and criminal court alerts.
The company also offers up to $1 million in insurance coverage.
You can also get up to $1 million in insurance coverage from LifeLock’s Advantage Plan. It also has identity and dark web monitoring features. Also, the company will alert you in case of data breaches and criminal cases filed against you.
MyFico Premier costs $39.95 per month, far from other products’ monthly fees. The company offers up to $1 million in insurance, identity monitoring, and score and credit monitoring.
But we noticed that you could get the same features for a lower price when you choose other providers.
Can you protect your own identity?
Yes, you can do the basic services offered by these platforms.
- You can look for suspicious transactions in your credit card and bank statements.
- You can report ID fraud and receive a recovery plan from the FTC by visiting IdentityTheft.gov.
- You can request free credit reports from the three credit reporting bureaus.
- It’s also free to place a security freeze. You only need to contact the three major reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.
You can call the following numbers:
How to lessen the threat of identity theft?
ID theft affects not only your finances but also other aspects of your life, such as mental and physical well-being. We compiled tips to help you prevent this type of fraud.
- Use strong and unique passwords for all accounts. So in case of a data breach, the hacker won’t be able to open your other accounts.
- Store sensitive documents in a fireproof and waterproof safe. We recommend putting it in the low-traffic area of your house.
- Don’t click malicious links and attachments from strangers. Make sure to only open files from trusted sources.
- But what is the best defense against identity theft? Freeze your credit to stop criminals from applying for loans and opening new accounts under your name.
- Monitor your credit files regularly to recognize unfamiliar transactions.
- Don’t share confidential information over the phone, especially with strangers who claim to be employees of well-known organizations.
Should you pay for identity theft protection services?
You can subscribe to ID theft protection plans if you don’t want the hassle of constantly checking your personal and financial information. The price ranges from $6.75 to $39.95 monthly.
But you can also do some of the basic tasks that such platforms offer. You only need to check your credit reports regularly and visit IdentityTheft.gov for assistance.