Identity theft is no laughing matter. Millions upon millions of Americans are victims of it. In 2021, the FTC received 5.7 million reports of fraud and identity theft from people in the United States.
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
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.
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.
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.
Typically, 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.