Identity theft is no laughing matter. Millions upon millions of Americans are victims of it. Though the actual number is not known, it’s estimated that 14.4 million people in the United States had their identity stolen in 2018 alone. In the same year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received nearly 3 million identity theft complaints.
And it’s only expected to get worse.
In early 2004, President Bush signed into law the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act to attempt to curb its incessant rise. However, each year since, the number of people taking part in this crime has only grown and grown.
We could give many reasons for why it’s happening — the economy, lack of education, lack of opportunities. But regardless of why it’s happening, no one wants to be the victim of these crimes. To help protect yourself, consider enlisting the help of an identity theft protection service.
But how do you pick the right one?
We did a lot of research and found many companies that weren’t up to standard, but of course, we did find a few gems. So here are the top four identity theft protection services that deserve your business.
Best Identity Theft Protection Services
Identity Guard has more than 20 years of identity theft protection experience. They have three identity protection plans ranging from $19.99 to $24.99 per month.
The company uses IBM® Watson™ artificial intelligence to monitor, process, and analyze billions of data points. This sophisticated service is excellent for anyone who wants the best identity theft protection at a low price. With their data breach services, you’ll be better prepared to respond to data breaches in a matter of minutes.
Known for their excellent customer service, their U.S.-based dedicated case managers are available to answer your questions Monday through Saturday. They also offer $1 million in identity theft insurance.
Below are some of the features they offer from their recommended Premier Plan.
- Dark Web Monitoring
- Risk Management Report
- Safe Browsing Tools
- Anti Phishing Mobile App
- Monthly Credit Score
- Address Monitoring
- 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring
- Tax Refund Alerts
- Credit Score and Report
- Social Insight Report
If you’re one of the lucky ones and haven’t had your identity stolen yet, Identity Force is a solid company.
They provide all the following identity theft protection services if you opt for the UltraSecure+Credit plan:
- Change of address monitoring
- Court records monitoring
- Sex offender monitoring
- Payday loan monitoring
- Court records monitoring
- Bank and credit card activity alerts
- Social Security tracker
- Medical ID fraud protection
- PC protection
- Identity theft insurance
- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion credit monitoring
- Analyze your credit reports four times a year
- Analyze your credit score four times a year
You get all of this for only $18.95 a month, but if you pay in yearly installments, it’s only $189.50 (as opposed to $227.40). If $18.95 is a bit too much for you, you can instead opt out of the credit report monitoring part and only pay $12.95.
However, it’s not that much more money to go with the credit plan, too. When you consider that most thefts occur in the credit card realm, it’s kind of a no-brainer which one you should go with.
Though this plan is the most cost-effective, it’s also the best plan if you have not yet been a victim of identity theft.
IdentityIQ has been offering comprehensive identity theft protection since 2009. The company strives to protect its customers from identity theft by providing educational resources and monitoring their personal information.
When you sign up with IdentityIQ, the company will closely monitor your social security number and alert you to any changes or threats. In addition, they scan billions of public records to notify you of certain suspicious activity. IdentityIQ also offers enhanced change of address monitoring.
Since identity thieves often commit criminal acts in their victims’ names, IdentityIQ closely monitors all criminal databases for your information. And the company will scour the dark web for any of your personal information.
But one of the most valuable services IdentityIQ offers is its identity theft protection. If you’re ever a victim of identity theft, IdentityIQ will ensure your identity is completely restored.
And if you enroll in the company’s Max Plan, you’ll receive up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and up to $25,000 for your children. This will cover any out-of-pocket expenses related to identity theft.
Here is a brief overview of each plan:
Secure Plan: $6.99/month
This plan includes daily credit monitoring from one bureau, dark web monitoring, and social security number monitoring.
Secure Plus: $9.99/month
You can receive annual credit monitoring from all three bureaus with this plan. It also includes social security number monitoring, dark web monitoring, and ID restoration services.
Secure Pro: $19.99/month
With the Secure Pro plan, you’ll receive bi-annual credit monitoring from the three major bureaus. This plan will also alert you to changes in your credit score and monitor your personal information.
Secure Max: $29.99/month
This is the most comprehensive identity theft protection plan IdentityIQ offers. It provides monthly credit monitoring from the three major credit bureaus so you can detect threats immediately. And it provides a credit score tracker and simulator, and a family identity theft protection plan.
LifeLock has some pretty comprehensive alert options. Sign up with them, and you can get identity monitoring alerts and data breach notifications via SMS (aka phone texts), their mobile app, or your email.
Or, if you want, you can even sign up for call alerts, and a representative will discuss with you what’s happening and what can be done about it.
For an identity theft protection service like this to be effective, it’s got to be 24 hours a day and seven days a week. LifeLock knows that, and this is exactly the kind of service they give to their customers.
Even more awesome? You can have a 60-day free trial before you commit.
Though LifeLock has had some issues in the past (a court ruling had them pay a $1 million fee for not securing data well enough), they seem to have cleaned up their ways. They have nothing but glowing reviews online.
LifeLock has three identity theft protection plans available, which all vary in price.
Plan A — Standard: $9.99 per month
You get Social Security and credit alerts, plus if your identity is stolen while you are enrolled in the plan, you get up to $25,000 in reimbursements. Not too shabby at all.
Plan B — Advantage: $19.99 per month
With this plan, you get SSN, credit, bank account, and credit card activity alerts. On top of all this, you’ll also be notified of any crimes that were committed in your name. For this plan, you can be reimbursed up to $100,000 for any stolen funds.
Plan C — Ultimate Plus: $29.99 per month
For this plan, you get everything that comes with the Advantage plan, but you also get updates on your credit reports, and 401(k) investment activity alert. For this plan, you can be reimbursed for any stolen funds up to $1,000,000.
It’s not the cheapest plan you will find out there, but it’s probably one of the most comprehensive. Plus, you can’t beat those reimbursement rates. So if you’re looking for a solid bang for your buck, LifeLock is one of the best identity theft protection services available.
How can you prevent identity theft?
Our list of the best identity theft protection services can help you guard your identity. However, you can do a few things to protect your identity without paying for identity theft protection. To remain off the list of victims, follow these tips as often as possible — if not every day!
#1: Freeze your credit reports.
Whether you think your financial information has already been compromised or you’re just worried about the potential for identity theft, consider freezing your credit file. It’s not a complete solution, but it can be a significant barrier to someone else opening an account in your name.
Here’s how it works.
You pay the credit bureaus a small fee, and they’ll essentially put your accounts on lockdown. When someone goes to apply for a loan or credit card in your name, the creditor won’t be able to run a credit check, and the application should be denied.
Intrigued? Find out more about how and when a credit freeze might be right for you.
#2: Use intricate passwords, and never use a password more than once.
We can hear you from over here: “That’s crazy! How am I going to remember all of my passwords if I can’t reuse any of them?”
That’s where a password manager like LastPass comes in. They remember all of your passwords for you, so you don’t have to. All you have to do is remember your master password, and LastPass remembers the rest.
Create a Strong Password
Make sure your passwords are at least eight characters long and contain symbols, numbers, and both uppercase and lowercase letters. Many people get in the habit of having one great password and countless mediocre passwords.
They use their strong password for important sites and their mediocre password for inconsequential sites. If you want to keep your identity safe, you need to vary it up a bit because all it takes is one time for someone to use keystroke software on you. They get one password from you, and then they’re able to run amok to all of your highly frequented websites.
#3: Don’t click on links that take you to random websites.
This should be a no-brainer, but even the best of us fall prey to clickbait at times. Other than getting you to go to a website where you buy something, often, its purpose is far more nefarious. In fact, it could be quietly collecting information off of your computer. Just don’t click unknown websites, and you should be fine.
Another thing to keep in mind is that sometimes fake bank emails are sent out in the hopes that you’ll re-enter personal information, such as your social security number, to verify that you are, indeed, you. Of course, your bank will never do this.
There are far more sophisticated ways to verify someone’s identity, and even if it does need you to re-enter personal information, it will only ever do so on its main site.
#4: Learn the ins and outs of your smartphone.
Cell phones are not just phones anymore. They are traveling computers and storage devices. And not just any kind of storage device, but a storage device that has nothing but your personal data on it.
So, it makes sense that you should protect it, right? In addition to not clicking on crazy links on your phone, you should:
- Opt for remote data wiping should you ever lose your phone. This enables you to erase all of your phone’s data from afar if and when you should ever lose it or have it stolen.
- Have a PIN to log in that you change regularly.
- Consider getting a phone with biometric authentication. What does that mean? It’s a fancy term for using part of your body to unlock your phone. The most common version is fingerprint recognition.
#5: Check your statements.
Most of the time, cybercriminals take out a new card in your name, but sometimes criminals can get their hands on your existing accounts. So what you need to look for weekly, if not daily, are small charges.
These small charges are often only a dollar or a few cents. These kinds of charges are used to see if your bank or lender’s main computer will let the charge go through.
If it works, then they know it’s time to go on a quick spending spree before you cancel the card. Call your bank immediately if and when you ever see these kinds of charges. Call them just to be safe even if you’re unsure and think it might be something you did. The earlier you can spot these things, the better.
Should you still pay for identity theft protection?
It’s ultimately a personal decision, but definitely, a wise choice considering the world we live in right now. Unfortunately, identity theft is a very real threat in the world.
Not only that, often trying to prove that someone stole your identity can take months on end. So having someone willing to fight that battle for you is very worth it. Just be careful you choose a reputable company.
Often, identity theft protection services are nothing more than a credit monitoring service. Use your best judgment, do your research, and look at the kind of services they offer. If you need a place to start, consider one of our top picks.