If you have read any of my other articles here on SIF, you know how serious I take the crime of identity theft and I am a firm believer in taking proactive steps to secure your identity, before you become a victim. You’ve likely read a lot of information on other websites discussing identity theft protection and many experts will say that monitoring & protecting your identity is a task that anyone can easily do on their own. In reality, they couldn’t be more wrong. There is absolutely no feasible way for the average person to monitor their credit reports, bank accounts, & social security number activity on a daily basis. At least not with any amount of accuracy This is exactly what an identity theft protection service does and it is THE MOST RELIABLE WAY TO MONITOR & PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY. This year alone, nearly 1 in 4 Americans will be the victim of some form of identity theft. Major retail data breaches are also increasing annually. The security of your identity should be a top priority now, more than ever.
The Top 5
I researched over a dozen protection services. I looked at the level of proactive protection each plan offered. The monitoring & alerting features. Access to credit reports & credit scores. Customer service ratings and their identity theft resolution /assistance protocol. Out of 15 identity protection services, only 5 companies made my list. These are my picks for the best identity theft protection services on the market
IdentityGuard – #1 Identity Protection Service
IdentityGuard offers comprehensive identity monitoring and protection, along with standard social security number and credit report monitoring. They give you proactive tools to help protect against identity theft before it happens. With Identity Guard® Total Protection® you receive ZoneAlarm anti-virus protection, PrivacyProtect keystroke encryption plus ID Vault password protection. These tools have been developed to help protect your sensitive information from id thieves. Features like this put Identity Guard a step above their competition. If specific activity is detected on your Equifax®®, Experian®, or Transunion® credit file, Identity Guard will send a prompt alert via email, text or phone, plus they have a mobile app so you can access your account while on the go. There are 3 plan levels & price points from which you can choose. The best value being the Total Protection® plan. If you want a complete protection package at an affordable monthly price, I recommend you try IdentityGuard for yourself.
Service Plan Options
Individual Plans – Monitors 1 social security number for all of the features below. $16.99/month + free 30 day trial
Couples Plan – Monitors 2 adult social security numbers (within same household). $26.99/month. No free trial
Family Plan – Monitors 2 adult social security numbers + up to 15 children SSN’s. $27.99/month. No Free Trial
Best Service Features
- 2015 Best ID Protection Service by Kiplinger Magazines
- Daily 3 Bureau Credit Monitoring & Threat Analysis + Fast Alerts
- Bank, Credit Account, & SSN Fraud Monitoring
- Three Affordable Monthly Subscription Plans
- Option KidSafe Child Identity Protection
- Free Mobile Application for Android & iPhone
- ZoneAlarm Anti-Virus & Privacy Protect Keystroke Encryption Software
- 1 Million Dollars Identity Theft Insurance
- Free 30 Day Trial. $16.99/Monthly Subscription (Best Value)
Plans & Pricing
When you sign up for IdentityGuard today, you pay nothing! You get 30 days of FREE Total Protection. And you will save 20% off the monthly subscription price, if you choose to keep the service after the trial. No risk. No obligation.
IdentityForce – Top Pick For Complete Identity Protection
I chose IdentityForce as my top pick for a total identity theft protection & credit monitoring solution. IdentityForce takes a 3 tiered approach to identity protection. Monitor, Alert & Control. All of your important account sources are monitored daily with IdentityForce’s full spectrum monitoring technology. This allows them to be proactive in the detection of the illegal selling of your credit, personal & financial information. If they detect that your personal information is at risk, you will receive an instant notification from their early warning system. Alerts can be sent to your smart phone, computer or tablet. By having fast alert times, you can quickly react to the threat before it becomes a larger problem. IdentityForce believes in taking control of your credit. By knowing where and when your information is being used, you can protect sensitive information through technology. Keystroke encryption protection software, included with IdentityForce theft protection plans, can shield your pin numbers, credit card numbers and banking information from prying eyes. Combine all of this with 1 million dollars in theft insurance and 24/7 credit restoration services in the event your identity is stolen and you have an quality theft protection service you can trust.
Best Service Features
- Full Spectrum Daily Account Monitoring Technology
- ProActive Threat & ID Risk Alerting
- Free KeyStroke Computer Encryption Software
- 27/7 Credit Restoration Assistance
- 1 Million Dollars Identity Theft Insurance
Plans & Pricing
IdentityForce credit & identity monitoring plans start at $14.95/month after the free 14 day trial. The Ultra Secure plan runs $19.95/month and includes several additional benefits above the standard plan.
LifeLock comes in a close second and is one of the most popular options for identity protection. I think a lot of people have a poor opinion of Lifelock, because of some unfair billing practices the company was caught up in many years ago. That’s all been corrected and Lifelock has had a stellar customer service reputation since. With all LifeLock plans you receive 3 bureau credit and social security number monitoring, which are scanned daily for threats and fraudulent activity. They also monitor black market websites used by identity thieves to buy & sell your personal information. If your data appears on any of these sites, you receive an immediate alert. By working with the credit reporting agencies,LifeLock also helps to eliminate pre-approved credit card offers, which are a perfect target for identity thieves.
One of the features we like best is their additional child I.D. theft protection feature, LifeLock Jr. Children have become a popular target for ID theft. LifeLock Jr. monitors your child’s identity for the same fraudulent activity that your LifeLock Ultimate plan provides. Add in the Lost Wallet Protection and up to 1 Million in ID Theft insurance and LifeLock is an excellent option for protection and credit monitoring.
Best Service Features
- 3 Bureau ID Theft Monitoring
- Bank, Credit Account, & SSN Fraud Monitoring
- Black Market Website Monitoring
- LifeLock Jr. Child ID Protection & Monitoring
- 1 Million Dollars Identity Theft Insurance⊥
- Free 30 Day Trial & 10% Off Your Subscription Purchase
Plans & Pricing
LifeLock protection plans start at $8.95/month to $26.99/month for the Ultimate Plus plan. You can try LifeLock free for 30 days and receive 10% off your membership purchase.
The TransUnion identity protection plans also received a 4 star rating and ranked #4 on our list. The best part about using the TransUnion service is that you know you’re getting a quality id protection plan from a trusted company. TransUnion is one of the 3 major credit reporting bureaus and have been serving customers since 1968. You get fast email alerting if your identity is compromised plus you have access to additional credit tools to help you monitor your credit & spending. The one downside to the TransUnion identity protection plans is the lack of access to Experian & Equifax credit reports.
Best Service Features
- Daily ID Monitoring + Fraud & Data Breach Alerts
- Unlimited updates to your TransUnion credit score
- Email alerting of credit changes
- Free debt analysis software
- TransUnion Credit Scores Only.
- Up to $1,000,000 in Identity Theft Insurance
- $1.00 for 7 Day Trial / $19.99 Monthly Subscription Price
Plans & Pricing
TransUnion knows the credit business. They’re one of the 3 major credit bureaus. They offer a high level of customer service and their identity protection services are priced competitively. The monthly membership is $19.95/month after buy your credit report & score for $1.00.
Experian Credit Works
Experian Credit Works is the identity theft protection portion of Experian. As another of the 3 major credit reporting bureaus, you’re getting a high level of id theft protection along with peace of mind knowing that you with a company that has been in the credit and protection business since 1996. They have an A+ BBB rating and high customer service reviews.
Best Service Features
- Owned & Operated By Experian Credit Bureau
- Credit, Debit & ATM Card Monitoring & Protection
- Identity Theft Resolution Agent Assistance
- Credit report change alerts
- Over 60 Years Experience & 200 Million Customers
- 1 Million Dollars Identity Theft Insurance sp
Plans & Pricing
ProtectMyID is backed by Experian and is a solid credit monitoring service. Their comprehensive id protection plan costs $19.95/month after the $1.00 7 Day trial.
More About Identity Theft and What To Expect
We realize you’re here doing research on identity theft protection services & plans, but we want to take just a minute to discuss a bit more about identity theft. If you can just take a moment and read this, you will have a better understanding of real world identity theft and the unfortunate aftermath that is causes. Obviously you’re starting to take the protection of your identity seriously if you’re looking into signing up for a protection plan. This is a wise decision, because even though an identity theft protection plan ultimately won’t stop a determined identity thief, it will allow you to find out about the crimes quickly and take action to stop a bad situation from becoming a complete nightmare.
The Worst Part of Identity Theft Is Not Knowing It Has Happened
When we talk to clients who have been victims of identity theft, we always ask them the same question. How many days had the fraud been going on before you found out? The normal response is about a week or more. This is too long. By that point, a manageable problem is now completely out of control. The most damage is done within the first few days after your information is stolen. Identity thieves will attempt to open as many lines of credit as they possibly can before it is detected as fraud. Retail credit cards, bank credit cards, wireless phone plans, auto loans, home loans, fraudulent tax refunds. These are the main types of fraud you will encounter if you ever have your identity is stolen. The longer it takes for you to find out, the longer the criminals are out their trying to use your address, birth date & social security to secure lines of credit, purchase goods and generally ruin your good credit rating. This isn’t a hypothetical situation. IT’S 100% FACT. Ask anyone who’s had their identity stolen!
Identity Theft Causes An Instant Credit Score Drop
This happens because the criminals are submitting applications for credit cards & other lines of credit with your social security number. These credit inquiries are costing you several points each time and can add up quickly. By the time you find out and check your credit report, your score could have already dropped 60+ points. Plus, these inquiries stay on your report for 2 years. You can request that the creditor alert the credit bureau and have the inquiries removed, but this is a time consuming process. Almost all identity protection services will take care of this for you when you are signed up with a plan. It’s why you’re paying them in the first place.
Prepare For Hours Of Damage Control
If you’re lucky enough to figure out your identity has been stolen after just a day or two, you’ should still be prepared to spend hours calling each of the companies where the criminals applied for credit. In many cases they will have filled out multiple online credit applications in your name, which are usually set to ‘pending’ status with the creditor. In order to make sure these applications don’t get approved, you will need to contact the fraud department of these companies and explain that your identity has been stolen in order to have the applications removed. This is a tedious process that takes a lot of time to complete. Identity monitoring services will handle this for you. It can take years or months to repair your credit. Identity theft protection companies will work with the credit bureaus to remove any negative items that were caused by the fraud.
The Reality of Identity Theft
We’re not trying to scare you. But the fact is that identity theft IS scary. You feel violated and even helpless that someone is out there with your information, and there is little you can do about it. Unfortunately, most people rarely give identity theft a second thought. It’s one of those things in life that that most believe “won’t ever happen to them”. Did you know that this year alone, over 12 million Americans will have their identity stolen. 4 million of those victims will have their social security number stolen1, which is the most damaging form of identity theft. Identity theft costs consumers and businesses nearly 20 billion dollars annually, as well as endless amounts of time spent trying to repair the damage done by these crimes. Unfortunately, reported cases of identity theft have been on the rise in the past 5 years.
There are a lot of ways to help safeguard your identity, but we strongly recommend consumers sign up for identity protection services, with one of the major companies. There are more than a dozen companies that provide these id theft and credit monitoring services, however not not all provide the same level of protection. We have put together a list of what we believe are the best identity theft protection services currently available. If you do one thing today to help prevent an identity theft disaster, we suggest signing up with one of the following companies.
Identity Theft & Credit Monitoring
Identity theft is one of the most egregious non-violent crimes that can be committed against a person. This occurs when someone decides to take your personal information without your given permission or knowledge. In reality, this crime is more than a minor inconvenience. It is an all-out assault on your finances and credit history and it can take a considerable of time to restore both if you’re not careful. These unscrupulous thieves can deflate your bank account, inflate charges on your credit cards, file tax returns in your name and even go as far as giving your name, address and other false information during their arrest. Sadly, even children are not safe from this despicable act, so it may be wise to every now and then check to see if your child has a credit report in their name. Having a the best protection plan in place is a must if you want to help prevent your identity from falling into the wrong hands.Fortunately, there are a several things you can do to when considering your which service to use. Educating yourself on the signs of a possible or attempted theft is vital these days. The Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA) and The Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA) provides protection if your ATM, credit or debit cards are lost or stolen. Aside from specific credit protection companies, many banks also offer these same types of services. Be mindful to never give out your Social Security number to strangers and/or organizations unless you are positively certain of their authenticity. If you do become a victim, following the proper steps to get your life back on track is of the utmost importance.
Ways People Can Protect Against Identity Theft
As far as identity theft is concerned, it takes place when another person obtains someone else’s personal information, like your Social Security number or credit card data to commit fraud as well as other crimes. The authorities estimate that there are millions of people from different parts of the world who are becoming victims of identity theft every year.
In response to the concerns regarding identity theft, there are numerous financial institutions and companies that have introduced products and services that can help in monitoring your credit, reimburse you for the funds or wages you lost and protect your identity. There are some employers that also offer their identity theft insurance that can help in reducing the amount of money and time spent in resolving the crime so it is best that you check with the benefits specialist of your company about your eligibility.
But as an individual, there are many things that you can do to safeguard yourself from cases of identity theft. Some of these ways include the following:
Guard Your Online Information
Today, many people do most of their banking and shopping online. With all the passwords and account numbers that float around, it is easy that someone will nab your personal information and use it to go on a shopping spree without your knowledge.
- Clear your passwords and logins. It is particularly important if you are using a public computer. Change your passwords and logins every month.
- Pay your online purchases using your credit card that has better guarantees under the federal law as compared to online payment services or using your debit card.
- Stay alert for phishing, a kind of trick wherein pop ups or spam mimic legitimate businesses and banks to obtain your personal information that they can use to gain access to your accounts. See to it that you are on a familiar website that has security controls before you enter your personal data.
Monitor Credit Card and Bank Statements
Have a regular checking of all your accounts so that you know if something goes awry. Purchases that you did not make must be obvious, such as the purchase of a branded high end bag that you never made yourself.
Mailing Address Verification
Verify your mailing address with financial institutions and the post office. The identity bandits can fill out forms on change of address so that the delinquent credit notices will stay off your paper billing radar.
Credit Report Monitoring
By law, you are entitled to a free credit report annually from any of the three primary bureaus. Request for one every quarter and change bureaus every time you do so. You can also order this report directly through every agency.
Shred the Sensitive Documents
You may also want to buy yourself a shredder that you can use for regularly shredding any outdated bank statement, bills, credit card applications or anything that contains your personal information before you toss it to recycling or the trash bin. Most of the time, junk bin usually contains some personal details.
Will it make sense if you pay a plan if you have taken all the necessary precautions? Well, it will depend on your personal spending habits as well as your overall level of care and caution. You might also choose to invest in a reliable identity theft protection service when you:
- Conduct lots of online shopping or banking;
- Lack the time to monitor your personal information on your own;
- Sickened by the thought of investing money and time for recovery from identity theft.
Know what’s in your wallet.
Do you really know all the cards in your wallet? Do you know the numbers to call to cancel these cards if your wallet is lost? The easiest way to remember all this is to simply put all your cards on a photocopier at once, and copy them. Then copy the back side. Keep these two sheets of paper in a secure location, and if the worst happens and you do lose your wallet and need to cancel your cards, the info is right there.
Cancel inactive credit card accounts.
Don’t take the risk of someone using your card on an account that you never check
Safeguard your personal information.
If you are comfortable with it, get electronic statements rather than paper ones which can be stolen from your physical mailbox. Keep your Social Security Card, bank information, credit card statements and so on, in a safe place, preferably one that can be locked.
Buy a decent shredder
Shred all documents that contain personal information. Buy one that can also shred credit cards, as sometimes these come unsolicited in the mail, as do “fake” cards that are an offer for credit. Shred them all with a quality, cross-cut shredder.
Beware of spoof emails.
Never ever click a link in an email that requests you to confirm personal information like your PIN number, your PayPal log in etc. These are spoofs, and the criminals create a website that looks very much like the genuine article, and as you submit your information, boom, they can then log into your genuine account and make withdrawals or payments to themselves. Only ever go to the website from your own browser favorites link, or by typing in the address yourself (not the one in the email). Never click the link in an email, but instead, forward the email to [email protected][name of organization].com e.g.: [email protected]
Retrieve your mail from your mailbox as promptly as possible. If you are going on vacation, get the post office to put a Vacation Mail Hold, so that it doesn’t pile up and overflow your box. Not only is that an invitation to steal your mail, it also advises burglars that no one is at home.
Use Strong Passwords
Avoid passwords that are easily guessed. Use a combination of letters and numbers and make it as random as you can. Never ever use the name of your spouse, pet, mother’s maiden name or anything like that, which a dedicated thief could probably find out in some way. Memorize your passwords or keep them in a (strong) password protected file on your computer. Don’t write them down.
If you ever sell or donate your computer, make sure the hard drive is wiped absolutely clean. Just trashing your files does not do it. Ideally, re-format the hard drive.
Check Your Statements.
It’s a pain, but check all bank and credit card statements to see if all the purchases were authorized. Often times all a website will ask of you is name, credit card #, expiry date, and sometimes the three digit authorization code on the back of the card. This is information that the waiter or waitress at the last restaurant you visited can easily have captured. Check, and dispute any unknown charges immediately.
Identity theft is a growing problem, not just in the USA, but worldwide. Every week it seems there is a new story about some corporation that has lost a laptop containing important client information including Social Security Numbers. If it happens to you, it’s a disaster than can take years to put right, and cost thousands of dollars. This article is designed to save you from identity theft in the first place, and then give you some brief advice on what to do if you are a victim. Identity theft can be avoided if you will be vigilant enough as far as your finances and personal information as concerned. Once you have detected any sign of fraudulent activity, make sure that you notify the financial institution where this fraudulent activity has taken place first so that your account will be safeguarded right away. Depending on the particular situation, you will need to file a complaint with the concerned authority as well as the local police department. See to it that you also investigate the rest of your accounts. Being proactive instead of reactive is important to protect yourself from the fraudulent activities of people who are only after your money.
1 Based on projections from a 2013 Identity Fraud Report from Javelin Strategy & Research. https://www.identitytheftassistance.org/pageview.php?cateid=47
Credit scores are provided by CreditXpert based on data from the credit reporting bureaus.
**Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group‚ Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms‚ conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms‚ conditions‚ and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.
⊥ **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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