You’ve changed your passwords twice in the past six months, avoided banking while using public Wi-Fi and locked down your Facebook account with a privacy checkup. But is it enough to stay safe online?
No. It’s not even close.
According to the New York Times, there were a record 791 data breaches in the U.S. in the first half of 2017, up 29 percent from the same period last year. In the digital age, privacy and security are often sacrificed for convenience and connectedness. You may have learned how to keep your devices secure and your online information safe, but there’s always more you can do.
Identity theft protection services can help monitor your personal information and even have the ability to use power of attorney to help restore your identity. But what service is right for you?
What Are Identity Theft Protection Services?
In the past five years, computer hackers gained access to the personal and financial details of over 110 million Target customers. They attacked Yahoo, compromising over 3 billion Yahoo user accounts. And in the latest high profile cyber-attack, 143 million Equifax consumers had sensitive information compromised. Even if you’re not a victim of a large-scale data breach, phishing and card skimming are popular methods of identity theft.
Once crooks have your personal information, they can ruin your credit rating, open accounts in your name, acquire store credit cards (store credit cards are easy to obtain and a favorite of identity thieves) and use your social security number to fraudulently file taxes. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2016, 15.2 million American victims of identity theft lost $16 billion. The consequences of identity theft can be devastating and take years to recover from.
So how do you make your personal information less vulnerable? Identity theft protection services can’t guarantee your identity and personal data won’t be compromised – in the digital age, total cyber security is wishful thinking. But what identity theft protection services can do is provide recommendations, safeguards and monitoring tools that help protect your sensitive data – both credit and personal.
Identity theft protection services alert you to any suspicious activity: for example, if an unusual transaction appears on your credit card or someone tries to open a Macy’s card in your name, you’ll be notified. If you’re the victim of a data breach, identity theft protection services will help you untangle the mess. In fact, many companies assume power of attorney, saving you from the hassle and headache of calling federal agencies and filing affidavits. In 2014, Federal Trade Commission estimated the average identity theft victim spent more than 200 hours across 18 months resolving their issues.
Identity theft protection services might not be able to completely solve the problem of cyber security, but they do provide an extra level of vigilance in an age when personal information and sensitive data are Big Business. The following companies will help protect your tech and keep your information safe from hackers.
Lifelock has over 4 million members. The company offers three protection plans – Standard, Advantage and Ultimate Plus – all of which have varying degrees of SSN and credit card alerts as well as stolen funds reimbursement plans. For example, only the highest priced plan offers three bureau monitoring. LifeLock scans for threats to your identity and alerts you of suspicious activity via phone, email or text. If your identity is stolen, a Restoration Specialist helps you recover. LifeLock then reimburses stolen funds up to the limit of your plan. Lifelock provides 24/7 customer support.
- What it’s best for: Most customized alerts.
- Cost: $8.99 per month (Standard) to $26.99 per month (Ultimate Plus).
IdentityForce combines advanced identity detection technology, real time alerts and recovery services to help protect you against identity theft. The company offers full spectrum monitoring, 24/7 support and a nationwide $1 million identity theft insurance policy. In 2017, IdentityForce was recognized with a Gold Stevie Award for best new product. The company has almost 40 years of experience in the field of cyber security.
- What it’s best for: Most affordable family protection (child protection is just $3 a month). IdentityForce also has a clean, easy-to-use dashboard, which is perfect for those people who aren’t tech savvy but want identity protection.
- Cost: $12.95 or $19.95 per month.
ID Watchdog is the only identity theft service company that offers rehabilitation for pre-existing thefts. In other words, while other identity theft services only take action for theft during your membership, ID Watchdog has you covered if the theft occurred before your membership. While you can sign up for ID Watchdog mid-crisis and still receive power of attorney, it’s important to note that you’ll also pay additional fees to take advantage of the company’s “ID Rehab for Previously Existing Conditions” service. ID Watchdog provides proactive monitoring of traditional and non-traditional credit, high-risk transaction and internet black market monitoring, fully managed resolution services and reimbursement insurance up to $1 million.
- What it’s best for: Recovering pre-existing thefts. Also, plans are consistently cheaper than its competitors.
- Cost: $14.95 or $19.95 per month.
Launched in 2010, Credit Sesame has helped millions of people improve their credit score and navigate their financial goals. The company’s $19.95 per month Platinum Protection plan provides three bureau credit monitoring, ID monitoring and power of attorney.
- What it’s best for: If you lose your wallet, Credit Sesame handles the entire credit card canceling process.
- Cost: Free, $9.95, $15.95 and $19.95.
What is Identity Theft Insurance?
Unlike identity theft services, identity theft insurance won’t prevent or alert you to suspicious activity but it will reimburse you for losses and expenses (most insurers will reimburse you up to $25,000). Major insurers like Allstate, Liberty Mutual, State Farm, and Travelers offer identity theft insurance, and it typically costs between $25 and $50 a year. However, before you buy identity theft insurance, be sure to read the fine print and know what it covers. Most identity theft insurance provides help and assistance in sorting out the aftermath of identity theft. You can also set up fraud alerts or freezes on stolen/lost cards with a credit reporting company. In the end, they’re additional layers of protection that prevent thieves from getting your sensitive information.
Identity theft protection services can’t decrease your chances of becoming a victim of theft. However, they can make the recovery and reimbursement of your identity easier, and that’s the peace of mind you need in the digital age. When it comes to protecting your tech (and your bank account), these services will help you stay alert and remain vigilant.