How to choose an identity theft protection service that’s right for you and your family
Identity theft is a growing problem that can affect anyone. Fortunately, there is an ever-growing list of identity theft protection services available to help you better protect your identity. These services may include a combination of identity monitoring, credit monitoring, identity recovery and identity theft insurance at prices that vary by feature.
Identity theft occurs when an individual or a criminal enterprise steals someone’s identifying information and uses it to commit fraud. This data may include names, social security numbers, birthdays, addresses, bank account information, etc. This information is then used by criminals to illegally open financial accounts in a victim’s name, steal pension benefits, buy real estate, and more.
As stated earlier, identity theft is a growing problem. In 2021, 5.7 million fraud reports were filed in the United States, worth more than $5.8 billion. A quarter were specific to identity theft, which saw a 113% year-over-year increase.
What do identity theft protection services do?
Protection Services are designed to prevent identity theft, alert the customer that identity theft may have occurred, or assist in identity recovery.
- Identity monitoring services scan the web and online databases for subscribers’ personal information, such as social security numbers or email addresses. When this information is part of a reported data breach, the subscriber is notified and given suggestions on what to do next. In most cases, identity monitoring services serve as a preventative measure.
- Credit monitoring services allow customers to quickly access their credit reports and credit scores using various online tools, both free and paid. This gives subscribers an overview of their financial accounts, making it easier to identify issues after they occur.
- Identity recovery services can help victims after a crime has been committed. These companies can help freeze credit reports, write letters to creditors that a theft has occurred, and contact law enforcement if necessary.
- Identity theft insurance is designed to reimburse victims for any monies spent to recover their financial identity and repair credit reports. However, they are often not necessary.
Things to consider when looking for an identity theft protection service
There are different points to explore when choosing an identity theft protection service that is right for you.
Remember there are THREE credit bureaus
There are three independent credit bureaus in the United States, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Each offers regularly updated credit reports and credit scores, although this content may vary slightly by bureau. When looking for an identity theft protection plan, make sure it offers access to all three offices. Many basic programs don’t, so keep in mind. Only by having real-time access to your credit reports from all three companies can you uncover any potential issues.
Take advantage of free trials
Identity theft protection providers compete for your business. For this reason, each offers free trials to new customers. Use these reviews to compare programs and see which features you need more than others. Premium features inflate the price and you don’t want to pay for something you won’t use. To avoid paying monthly fees, cancel your free trials before the end date,
Look for discounts and if you already have access to identity theft protection
Yes, discounts are available for all popular identity theft protection plans. These discounts may involve using a promotional code found online or purchasing an annual (not monthly) subscription. Discounts are also sometimes offered when activating automatic payment.
Interestingly, you may already have access to a free identity theft protection plan and I don’t know. For example, after a retail data breach, companies often offer free protection plans to potential victims on a limited basis. The freebie is usually mentioned in the letter or email you receive following a data breach.
Additionally, some banks and credit unions now offer free identity theft protection as part of their membership. Credit card companies are also doing this with increasing frequency. Employee benefit plans and landlord/tenant insurance policies also sometimes offer identity protection, as do service organizations such as AAA and AARP.
One thing to keep in mind: some companies that offer identity theft protection plans only offer basic packages. If options are missing, you may need to upgrade to a premium plan to get features. However, you will receive the upgrade with a discount in most cases.
Family or individual plans?
Unfortunately, you’re not the only member of your family who needs identity theft protection. Children, for example, are often targeted by scammers because they don’t yet have a credit history. In some cases, this makes it easier for criminals to open new accounts in their name. So, you may find that purchasing a family identity theft protection plan versus an individual plan is a better choice in your situation. And the price difference could be minimal.
Do You Need Identity Theft Insurance?
There are lots of things you can do to protect yourself against identity theft and clear recovery steps to follow when something happens. Other than the annual or monthly cost of identity theft protection itself, identity theft will not cost you any financial loss once it is proven that something criminal has happened. The biggest expense isn’t monetary, but rather the time and hassle it takes to clear your name of discrepancies. For this reason, there is no need to pay extra to add identity theft insurance to your plan.
In addition, most banks and credit card companies already offer free fraud protection guarantees. It’s one of the reasons credit card interest rates are so high, after all!
Be sure to review the eight surprising facts about identity theft.