Updated 7-10-2017 by Jenn Price

This year, 1 in 4 Americans will be a victim of identity theft. Alerts from Credit monitoring services allow you to find out your identity was stolen within hours…not days or even weeks. It’s not a matter of if, but when, all of us will have our identities stolen and used fraudulently.  It’s time for everyone to start thinking proactively and get prepared! I reviewed over 20 monitoring plans that feature multiple plan options, comprehensive credit report monitoring + identity theft protection, credit score access, and theft insurance. These are the 5 that made the list.

The 5 Best Credit Monitoring Services

  1. IdentityGuard.com

  2. IdentityForce.com

  3. LifeLock.com

  4. TransUnion

  5. Experian.com


#1. IdentityGuard The Best Consumer Credit Monitoring Service In 2017

IdentityGuard is hands down the number one credit & identity monitoring service available to consumers. You get three plan options which are extremely affordable, even for tight budgets. With all of the plans, you receive access to your three credit scores and reports plus daily three bureau monitoring. They monitor your credit cards, bank accounts, social security number and public records for any signs of unauthorized or fraudulent activity. In the event suspicious activity is detected, you will promptly be alerted via Text, Phone or email. The fast alert times are one of the absolute best features of their monitoring plans. This lets you investigate the activity and take action before it grows into a larger problem.

Another nice bonus is their mobile app which you can download to your iPhone or Android smartphone. This gives you on-the-go access to monitoring alerts, credit scores and other account benefits.

If you do have an incident of identity theft as an IdentityGuard subscriber, you can be eligible for up to 1 million dollars in identity theft coverage and have access to a personal recovery assistant to help you get in contact with creditors.

Combine this with lost wallet protection, plus computer protection software including password protection, anti virus and keystroke encryption, and you have a monitoring & protection plan that is above and beyond what you will find with other monitoring companies. If you want to seriously start protecting your identity, you can’t go wrong with any of the IdentityGuard plans, however their Total Protection® Plan is the best value.

Service Features

  • My Top Pick for comprehensive credit monitoring plans, value & customer service
  • Voted #1 Identity Protection 2015 by Kiplinger Magazines
  • A+ Better Business Bureau rating
  • Daily 3 bureau monitoring
  • Social security number monitoring
  • Public record monitoring
  • 3 affordable subscription plan levels
  • Text, email & phone fraud alerting
  • 1 million dollars id theft insurance
  • Free mobile app for iPhone & Android

Click Here to Visit IdentityGuard.com & Start Your Free 30 Day Trial


#2 IdentityForce.com – Top Pick for 2017

IdentityForce.com is ranked #1 as our top pick for 2017. With a 3 level approach to identity theft protection; Monitor, Alert & Control, IdentityForce.com provides the extra set of eyes keeping watch over your identity & privacy. IdentityForce uses innovative technology which allows them to take a more proactive approach to id theft detection. This broad spectrum coverage encompasses change of address alerts, court record detection, credit report change alerts, identity protection, sex offender list watch and even payday loan detection. If any suspicious activities are detected on these accounts, immediate alerts are sent to your phone or email. All plans include daily 3 bureau monitoring, credit score tracker, identity health score, junk mail opt-out and medical id fraud alerting.

IdentityForce also helps you take full control of your credit, by letting you know who, where and how your personal information is being used at any given time. As with the previous services you can be eligible for up to 1 million dollars in id theft insurance if your identity is stolen and personal credit restoration assistance support. You also receive free anti-phishing and anti-keylogging software to help keep your identity safe while shopping and browsing online. This can proactively protect your usernames, passwords, pin numbers, bank account details and much more. IdentityForce.com is a trusted and respected company and we were very impressed with the level of  protection and the affordability of their two packages.

Service Features

  • Trusted service from a major credit bureau
  • 3 bureau  monitoring
  • Transunion report access
  • Lost wallet protection
  • Credit file change alerting
  • Personalized finance analysis tools
  • 1 million dollars id theft insurance
  • 4.5/5 stars
  • $1.00 7 Day Trial / $19.95 Monthly Subscription Price

 

Click Here to Visit IdentityForce.com & Start Your 7 Day Trial



#3 Lifelock.com

 LifeLock is a trusted identity protection company who utilizes a 5 point protection plan to monitor over one million data points on your three bureaus,  scores, social security number, investment accounts and public records. This is what makes LifeLock one of the most complete protection & alerting solutions available with highly proactive identity protection. The moment you sign up for a LifeLock account, they immediately begin scanning your identity for threats against your personal information. If threats are detected, you will be alerted quickly via text, email or phone. Again, quick alerting is of the utmost importance. LifeLock gives you the upper hand so you can stop id theft threats before major damage is done. LifeLock also offers LifeLock Jr. which is an add on service that lets you monitor your child’s credit reports. Child identity theft is actually becoming more common that adult identity theft.

You receive up to 1 million dollars in identity theft loss insurance, 24/7 customer service and a personal recovery assistant to work with you should your identity be compromised. The only thing I don’t like about the LifeLock service is that you only get access to your 3 bureau reports and scores when you sign up for the most expensive, Ultimate Plus plan. Definitely not a deal breaker by any means because LifeLock.com features 3 plan levels which work with all budgets.

Service Features

  • 5 point protection plan that monitors 1 million data points
  • Score, report & social security number observation
  • Monthly 3 bureau report access
  • Fast fraud alerting
  • Deep web identity surveillance
  • LifeLock Jr. child id protection add-on
  • 1 million dollars id theft insurance**
  • 4/5 stars
  • Free 30 Day Trial / 10% Off Monthly Subscription Price

Click Here to Visit LifeLock.com & Get Protected!


#4 Experian CreditWorks

Experian CrediWorks gives you complete access to your Experian credit reports & FICO score, along with change of address alerting,internet scanning & surveillance alerts and daily report monitoring.

The Experian plans also offer pro­grams that help to pro­tect the iden­ti­ties of your chil­dren and advice on how to pro­tect loved ones that may have passed away. Though Experian may not give you access to free credit scores, they do give you ben­e­fits in other ways with pro­tec­tion of your iden­ti­fi­ca­tion mate­ri­als that other orga­ni­za­tions do not. With the Exper­ian rela­tion­ship, you also have a direct link to your Experian report so that you have an imme­di­ate knowl­edge of any poten­tial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion theft events.

$1 million identity theft insurance and rapid theft resolution are just part of the Experian this quality service. The biggest benefit of this plan is that you have a plan with a national credit bureau that’s been in business for nearly 60 years and serves nearly 220 U.S. consumers annually. Stop identity theft in its tracks – start your 7-day trial by purchasing a $1 credit report with enrollment in Experian CreditWorks.

Service Features

  • Run by the trusted Experian bureau
  • 3 bureau report & score alerts
  • Experian  report & FICO Score access
  • Report change alerts
  • Internet scanning & id surveillance alerts
  • 60+ years experience & 220 million customers
  • 1 million dollars id theft insurance
  • 4/5 stars
  • $1.00 7 Day Trial / $21.95 Monthly Subscription Price

 

Click Here to Visit Experian CreditWorks & Start Your 7 Day Trial


#5 TransUnion

TransUnion is one of the major reporting bureaus and also offers quality 3 bureau report alerting.  Their protection plans include public record detection, lost wallet protection, full credit report access an ID restoration assistance.  You will receive instant email alerts if someone applies for loans or lines of credit in your name plus you receive a personalized debt analysis and credit trend report, so you can keep on top of your spending and credit rating.  Add in a $1 million dollar ID theft insurance plan and this is an excellent identity monitoring option from a trusted company.

The TransUnion monthly subscription costs $17.95, which is about the average price for most plans. However, for that price I think there are better options that will include more detailed detection, alerting and finance tools. With no access to Experian or Equifax reports as well as no FICO score availability, we would recommend this service only to those are are concerned solely with their TransUnion specific reports & information.

You can start your 7 day TransUnion trial plan for only $1.00. Monthly cost is $17.95 after the trial period.

Service Features

  • Service from trusted, major credit bureau
  • 3 bureau reporting alerts
  • Transunion report access
  • Lost wallet protection
  • Account file change alerting
  • Personalized finance analysis tools
  • 1 million dollars id theft insurance
  • 4/5 stars
  • $1.00 7 Day Trial / $19.95 Monthly Subscription Price

 

Click Here to Visit TransUnion.com & Start Your 7 Day Trial


What About Protecting The Entire Family?

If you have a household of 2 adults and 3 children, purchasing an individual plan for each will run you well over $100/month.  This just isn’t feasible for most families who want some peace of mind with a good, comprehensive  credit monitoring service.  Now you can protect your entire family for less than $30 per month.  With child identity theft becoming more prevalent than adult ID theft, it’s crucial that even young children have identity protection & fraud alerts in place.  One incident of identity theft can ruin their credit for years to come.

Family Protection Plan

Right now, the most affordable family 3 bureau plan is offered by IdentityGuard. The price is $27.99/month.  Some of the features included with the family plan are:

  • Social Security Watch
  • Online “Black Market” Surveillance
  • ID Verification Alerts
  • 3-Bureau Monitoring
  • Identity Theft Victim Assistance
  • $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance**
  • Child identity protection (kidSure®)

Couples Protection Plan

If you don’t necessarily need a plan that covers multiple children, but just yourself your significant other, IdentityGuard has a couples plan as well.  This plan is $26.99/month and monitors the following list of items;

  • Social Security Watch
  • Online “Black Market” Surveillance
  • ID Verification Alerts
  • 3-Bureau Monitoring
  • Identity Theft Victim Assistance
  • $1 Million Identity Theft Insurance**

I’ve reviewed all of the IdentityGuard services and compared them to other top plans from companies such as LifeLock, TransUnion, Experian and many more.  IdentityGuard is hands down the most comprehensive provider on the market.  They offer excellent value, highest customer satisfaction ratings, top BBB ratings and numerous awards for their protection plans.  If you need a simple, affordable solution for guarding multiple social security numbers, you’re not going to go wrong with the 2 IdentityGuard plans.


What Is Credit Monitoring?

It’s very likely that you’re here researching credit monitoring services and trying to determine which is the best option for you. This is an extremely smart decision. You’ve undoubtedly worked extremely hard to build solid finances and a good financial rating. Identity theft can make all of your efforts disappear very quickly. This is exactly why I’m such a huge advocate of everyone signing up for some level of protection. If price is a concern, you should know that you’ll realistically be looking at about $20/month for most services. When you consider that you probably waste $20 each month on something much less important than the security of your identity, getting a  service plan seems like a pretty good idea. Alerts only help if you have them in place BEFORE your identity is stolen. If you really want to protect your fiscal future, take a proactive approach and sign up for a  plan today. It’s going to be the best $20 you’ve ever spent.

If still you’re on the fence about whether or not to sign up for a plan, consider these questions.

If your identity was stolen today and fraudulent accounts opened in your name, how long would it take you to find out?

The reality is that it can take days or weeks before you find out that you have been a victim of identity theft. By this time, the damage has been done. Credit monitoring will alert you almost immediately when suspicious activity appears on your  reports or other monitored accounts. This allows you to quickly investigate and stop the fraud before it gets worse. It’s frightening to think that a criminal could be using your sensitive information and you have no idea it’s happening.

Do you worry about using charge cards for online purchases or even at retail stores, because you fear your credit card information may fall into the wrong hands?

This is not an uncommon concern. Identity theft is a serious, ongoing threat for anyone who makes purchases online, uses online banking or makes in store purchases with cards.. Even secure websites can be compromised and your information can quickly end up in the wrong hands. A quality protection plan will let you confidently shop online again. Knowing that in the event that your information is part of a hacking scheme or data breach, you would be alerted quickly. In most cases, you will likely find out about the breach BEFORE the online store or retailer alerts potential victims. This allows you to be proactive and gives you the power to stop the fraud quickly.

Do you have the time to spend on the phone with creditors & businesses trying to repair the damage done by an identity theft incident?

The Federal Trade Commission estimates that it takes an average of 6 months and 200 hours of work for an individual to recover from identity theft. This is time spend contacting businesses, creditors and the 3 reporting bureaus, attempting to have fraudulent accounts closed and reconciled so you are not liable for the debts. Nearly all id theft protection companies include identity theft recovery assistance as part of their service plans. They will help you through the steps to repair the damage. This will save you time, money and frustration. Plus you may be eligible for up to 1 million dollars of identity theft insurance in some cases.

Are your children protected from identity theft?

Most people are unaware that child identity theft is becoming even more commonplace than adult id theft. Criminals are targeting the social security numbers of children & teenagers because they usually have no financial history. This gives the thieves a clean slate to open accounts, apply for home & auto loans and much more. Safeguarding your child’s reports, as well as your own, helps protect them from irreparable damage that they won’t discover for years to come. You can add your child’s social security number as an add-on feature for many plans. We highly suggest you take advantage of this. Start protecting your good credit and your children’s future credit.

What Does Credit Monitoring Cost?

You should be concerned about the cost of NOT having monthly credit monitoring. The average monetary loss suffered by an identity theft victim is approximately $1500. If a criminal were to obtain your debit card number and pin, you could lose considerably more. For around $20/month you can mitigate some of this threat. Plus, all of the services I’ve reviewed below have a free trial period. You can sign up, try the service for yourself and then determine if it’s right for you. No risk. No money out of your pocket.  There are other free services, like Credit Karma, Mint.com & Credit Sesame, but they don’t have the same features as the paid plans.


Why is Monitoring Important?

1. Catch Scammers Quickly

If people do not check their reports regularly, it is extremely easy for a scammer to open new accounts in a person’s name and rack up thousands of dollars of debt without the person even knowing. One year is more than enough time for a scammer to completely destroy a person’s financial standing and rob them of all of their assets. With the victim unaware, the scammer can go on endless spending sprees without ever paying a dime. This illegal behavior then ends up costing the victim hundreds if not thousands of dollars in losses and legal fees to fix the situation. The sooner the scammers are caught, the less damage they have time to do.

2. Protect Your  Score

Maintaining a good credit score is vital to people’s financial health as it is what helps people get approved for loans and credit cards and help people receive good interest and insurance rates. Scammers and identity thieves ruin people’s financial well-being by racking up large amounts of debt in people’s names and opening up accounts which are never paid off because the person does not know the accounts exist. Both large debts and missed payments can completely ruin a person’s misinformation on your credit report.

3. Detect Reporting Errors

Sometimes suspicious information on people’s reports is not the result of a scammer or identity thief, but the result of an error. Errors cause all the same negative effects as identity thieves, only without a malicious person to blame. Credit monitoring services allow people you respond to misinformation or fraud quickly, before feeling the negative effects.

4. Identity Theft Detection

Identity thieves do not just rack up expenses with stolen cards or fake loans. Identity thieves also use others’ names to seek medical care or to give a false identity when arrested. They use others’ identities to seek employment or to obtain official paperwork. They can also drain people’s bank accounts and steal their tax returns.

What Do These Services Actually Monitor?

Sources

Most commonly they monitor people’s reports with one, two or three reporting bureaus. More comprehensive services also monitor sources such as public records, medical records and black market websites. Some services even monitor all bank accounts nationwide, watching for accounts opened in customers’ names.

Information

The most comprehensive plans look for information such as newly opened accounts and inquiries, as well as sudden and significant changes to people’s scores & 3 bureau reports. Some more comprehensive companies may also alert customers about changes to their mailing address or to new public record or medical record information.

Who Should Use Credit Monitoring?

While there is no real downside to signing up with a reputable credit score monitoring company, some people may not need to bother with the extra expense. People who have never been the victim of identity theft, who have no reason to suspect they will be the victim in the future and who regularly check their  reports themselves on a regular basis probably do not need to bother signing up with one of these services.
However, there are many people who would benefit greatly from these services, including those who have been the victim of identity theft in the past, those who have had personal information lost or stolen and those who have dealt with dishonest companies in the past. Also, people who have dishonest friends and family member with their personal information may want to sign up as well.


An Overlooked Part of Identity Protection

Report & score monitoring services work by looking for changes in your credit files maintained at the three credit reporting agencies. If something changes that you should know about you will hear about it right away. This is a good way to detect if an identity thief is trying to open an account with your personal information. These services track your credit report for the changes such as:

  • opening new accounts or lines of credit
  • new report inquiries
  • employment changes
  • changes in address

Credit Monitoring vs Identity Theft Protection

A lot of people are still confused by the similarities between credit monitoring and identity theft protection plans. Many identity theft protection plans include report monitoring as part of their services or as the main part of their service. Other identity protection companies stress that it is more important to protect your actual identity instead. Which one is correct? Or is protecting both something that you should consider doing?

Protecting your identity means protecting the source materials that make up your actual identity… and that is not your financial history. Your identity means your Social Security number, your driver’s license, your public records, and anything besides your credit history that is tied to your identity. That could mean benefits to which you are entitled from your job, a settlement you may have won, or unsecured lines of debt that are not associated with your credit history unless they become delinquent to the point of being sent to a collection agency because of default.

Monitoring does exactly what the name implies – it monitors your credit. To be able to access your it, an identity thief must first be able to source some sort of identification materials to be able to pose as you – generally your Social Security number.

Only you can decide if you need to protect your identity, protect your credit, or to protect both of them. The good news is that any step that you take to protect yourself is a step in the right direction.

Checking Your Reports Yourself

Did you know that you can check your reports & history for free? That’s right! If you are concerned about your credit being compromised, you can write to request a free credit report every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You can request all three at the same time to compare the information, of you can request one at a time and space them out every four months so that you have a review done all year. You can write them your own with the correct contact information to request this information, or you can choose a company from our list of the best credit report sites for 2017 and obtain your reports & scores that way.


**Service Guarantee benefits for State of Washington members are provided under a Master Insurance Policy issued by United Specialty Insurance Company. Benefits for all other members are provided under a Master Insurance Policy underwritten by State National Insurance Company. Under the Service Guarantee LifeLock will spend up to $1 million to hire experts to help your recovery. Please see the policy for terms, conditions and exclusions at LifeLock.com/legal.

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