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While identity protection coverage is essential, your service should also provide good customer service.
While anyone can benefit from identity protection, prior victims are especially at risk of identity theft.
Choose identity theft protection services that offer preventive measures and recovery features.
You can protect your own identity by requesting free weekly credit reports from the credit bureaus.
With the threat of fraud looming, it’s important to find ways to reduce the risk of identity theft. While you can take small steps to limit the amount of your personal information that’s publicly available, you can also sign up for an identity theft protection service. These services will protect your identity with cybersecurity measures, monitor your identity for signs of fraud, and help you recover your identity if it’s stolen.
Choosing the best identity theft protection service for your needs can be a daunting but necessary task. Here’s how to get identity protection and what to look for in an identity protection service.
When to sign up for an identity protection service
Just by existing in today’s day and age, you hold some sort of valuable information.
“Anyone who has something in cyberspace worth taking should consider identity theft protection, and everyone should think of what’s ‘worth taking’ expansively,” says Kurt Sanger, a cybersecurity expert at Batten Safe and the former deputy general counsel for US Cyber Command.
While bank accounts, credit cards, and other obvious targets are important to protect, you should also be cognizant of parts of your identity that aren’t as clearly monetizable. “Stealing passwords to withdraw money has tangible results, but an impostor’s use of someone’s cyber persona to post or send messages can impact personal and professional reputations,” Sanger says.
While everyone can benefit from extra layers of identity protection, certain people are at a higher risk. If you’ve ever been the victim of identity theft in the past, you’re far more likely to be targeted than someone who hasn’t. If you have children, an identity theft protection service with a family plan or additional features to prevent child identity theft can be useful.
How to get identity theft protection
There are numerous factors that go into choosing an identity service. One of the big factors is cost. Michael Scheumack, a security expert and chief innovation officer of IdentityIQ, recommends looking for discounts or deals if you set up autopay or pay annually instead of monthly. In some cases, you might even be able to sign up for a low-cost or free trial and test out the service for yourself.
The amount of protection you need can vary depending on how much you have to protect. If you’re a likely target of identity theft due to your job or assets, then you might want to consider something more substantial (and much more expensive) that offers bespoke services, explains Sanger. Otherwise, you might want more basic — though still robust — protection.
With that in mind, here’s what you need to know when comparing identity theft protection services.
Signs of a good identity theft protection service
What you need from an identity theft protection service will vary based on your assets and needs, but the basics are relatively uniform. Here are the factors to consider when choosing an identity theft protection service.
Clear, comprehensive services: You want to know what the company will do, how it will help you, and how quickly you’ll find out if something goes wrong. Dr. Rebecca Morris, founder of the online magazine “Safe Not Scammed” and a cybersecurity educator with a PhD in logic, computation, and methodology, recommends choosing a service that monitors the following services:
Social Security numberCourt recordsSex offender registriesThe dark web
“Ensure the plan provides timely alerts and notifications regarding possible suspicious activity,” adds Scheumack.
Responds in real-time: Just like you want immediate alerts, you also want an actual person available if one of those alerts is problematic. “Real-time responses by actual representatives — not preprogrammed responses or chatbot — is a great sign because that’s what you’ll want if you suspect your identity has been stolen,” Sanger says. Ideally, you’ll have an expert who is specifically dedicated to your case, as opposed to a general hotline for your questions.
Offers prevention tools: Identity theft protection services often highlight what they’ll do to alert or help you if there’s an incident, but what about stopping it in the first place? “The goal of identity theft prevention is to avoid the need for restoration support, so understanding prevention tools is critical,” says Sanger. At the very least, they should give you guidance on securing your assets and internet presence — though actionable steps are even better.
Monitors all three major credit bureaus: Three main credit bureaus are responsible for keeping a record of your credit history and documenting any changes, but they don’t alert you to those changes. “Some companies only monitor one credit bureau in real-time,” says Scheumack. “Fraud may not show up on all of your credit reports right away, so an option that monitors all three of the major bureaus can be essential.”
If you’re regularly checking your credit reports, skipping this will make your identity theft protection cheaper, explains Morris. However, without immediate alerts, the information could go unnoticed for extended periods of time.
Red flags in identity theft protection services
There’s no clear outline of solutions: The last thing you want from the company you’re paying for identity theft protection is a lot of talking in circles. You’ll want to look for concrete information on services within the fine print of a company’s website, looking for details on support in the case of identity theft and costs.
“Are the explanations clear? What do you do first, and who do you contact first if you suspect an incident? Will the service pay in advance to help restore your identity or reimburse you after you have paid? Can coverage extend to family or other household members,” Sanger says. If it doesn’t answer these questions, then it’s time to look elsewhere.
They’re unreachable: The last thing you want to do when your identity gets stolen is wait on hold for three hours listening to jazz music — or worse, have to wait for an email response. As Sanger explains, if you struggle to get in touch with the company from the get-go, it’s not going to be any better when you really need the company’s help.
Your service only monitors one credit bureau: If you’re really checking your credit reports regularly, then you can ignore this. But getting real-time alerts that someone has taken a loan in your name or signed up for a credit card can help you stop identity theft in its tracks. Similarly, you want to be getting these notifications.
The company has few or mostly negative reviews: You don’t want to be the guinea pig for an identity theft protection service or spend lots of money only to find out that they’re widely hated. Take the time to look at the reviews (and that there’s a good amount) before signing up, says Morris. Look out for services with a slew of reviews instead.
Getting identity theft protection frequently asked questions
What is the best identity theft protection service?
Of companies listed in our guide on the best identity theft protection services, IdentityForce UltraSecure is rated the highest, with comprehensive cybersecurity measures, family plans, and tri-bureau monitoring. See how we rate identity theft protection services here.
How much does identity theft protection cost?
Monthly prices among our choices for the best identity theft protection services range between $8.99 to $29.99.
How do I get free identity protection?
Consumers can access a free credit report every week from each of the three credit bureaus. You can also find some free identity theft resources among the services included our guide on the best credit monitoring services.