The Case For Identity Theft Protection

There are many identity theft protection services that can be beneficial to most individuals to protect themselves from identity theft.
Amanda Scheldt, Author
Steph Trejos, Editor
Last updated Nov 17, 2022

Identity theft is a consistent and growing issue globally. Criminals have evolved from person-to-person theft to identity theft and are likely never crossing paths with their victims in person. According to the National Council on Identity Theft, the losses from identity theft issues cost Americans $5.8 billion in 2021.

Identity theft is a common problem that can happen to anyone. Nearly one in 20 people have been a victim of identity theft. Identities can be stolen in many ways, such as through phishing scams or by hackers who access your personal information. Unfortunately, once your identity has been stolen, it can be challenging to recover from the damage it causes.

Luckily, you can take steps to avoid becoming a victim of this crime. However, if you find yourself at a significantly higher risk for identity theft or you have been victimized by this crime in the past, getting an identity theft protection service could be beneficial to you.

Continue reading to learn more about if identity theft protection is worth it, the benefits of it, and the available options to better protect yourself from this type of theft.

In this article
What happens when your identity is stolen?
How to monitor for identity theft
1. Regularly monitor your credit report
2. Review your bank account information or statements often
3. Research your digital footprint periodically
4. Monitor email activity
Free identity theft protection tools
Benefits of identity theft protection
Best identity theft protection services
Do I need identity theft protection?
FAQs
Bottom line

What happens when your identity is stolen?

Identity theft is a serious crime that can cause significant stress, financial loss, and reputational damage to its victims. The consequences can be severe if identity thieves steal your information and use it to open new credit accounts or take out loans in your name. Even worse, criminals could use the personal information they have obtained to steal money from your bank accounts or to commit further crimes with your personal information.

Criminals are mostly interested in stealing your information either in person or online. They can obtain your information when it has been stolen on the internet or dark web from data breaches. Criminals will also conduct phishing scams to trick victims into voluntarily providing their information.

The impact on your financial situation and credit file can take a great deal of time and effort to correct with the credit bureaus and other financial institutions. Many victims may also need to deal with collections agencies as they call about debts the scammer has charged to their name, including medical debt. In some cases, the criminal may even use these stolen identities to apply for a driver’s license in another state so they can avoid being caught by law enforcement.

On top of the added stress regarding the damage to your credit and personal accounts, identity theft can also be a time-consuming scenario. Most victims spend substantial time contacting credit bureaus, banks, and other organizations where their information may have been impacted. Even if you already have identity theft protection, time is needed to file a police report and handle any insurance claim forms or documentation.

How to monitor for identity theft

As demand for all things digital continues to increase, the prevalence of identity theft will also grow. It may seem almost impossible to ensure that you can protect yourself from identity theft, but it is important to remember that regular identity monitoring can mitigate that.

With so much of our daily lives tied to our devices, it can seem challenging to be able to monitor and maintain everything effectively. However, regular monitoring of your online activity, social media accounts, and wherever else your information can be found could be key to stopping identity theft. Here are four ways to easily monitor your accounts and information.

1. Regularly monitor your credit report

Regularly monitoring your credit report provides two critical benefits for most consumers. It allows you to stay on top of your credit goals and it can help you stop identity theft in its tracks. Free resource websites, such as AnnualCreditReport.com, or credit-monitoring services (like Credit Karma) allow you to keep tabs on your credit report to ensure there is no suspicious activity.

Whether you decide to monitor your credit report monthly, quarterly, or annually, you should make reviewing your credit report a regular part of your routine. It allows you to see your credit file and personally identifiable information (PII) to ensure that everything looks as it’s supposed to, with no fraudulent activity.

2. Review your bank account information or statements often

Cybercriminals have become savvy over the past few years by selling consumer information obtained through data breaches and the dark web. This information can include your name, Social Security number (SSN), date of birth, and even your credit card or debit card number. Once obtained, the fraudsters can create fake credit or debit cards with your information to purchase items or steal money directly from your bank account.

Regularly reviewing your bank account, bank statements, and information on file can mitigate this fraud before it can cause more damage. If you ever see any suspicious charges or activity, report them to your financial institution immediately. Also, ensure you follow their guidance in terms of whether or not you need to file a police report and how to mitigate other suspicious activity.

3. Research your digital footprint periodically

Our digital footprint can reach many different areas on the internet. It’s important to research where your digital footprint may lie and any publicly accessible information about you. There are public search engine websites on the internet that do post PII about individuals. Although it is legal, you can remove your information from websites by requesting removal from the website host.

4. Monitor email activity

Email communication has been an important avenue for us to connect and communicate with one another for decades. However, cybercriminals have found ways to trick email users into providing their information in order to steal directly from them. One of the ways that they do this is by phishing email addresses, hoping to lure an unsuspecting user into providing their PII or infecting their device with malware.

Email service providers have become savvy with how these hackers steal data from individuals and have included spam filters, as well as blocking and reporting of emails and email addresses that attempt to spam or phish a user.

While these free resources provide better protection in today’s email-friendly world, reviewing emails for legitimacy is still key. If an email seems suspicious, report it to your provider and refrain from clicking any attachments or links embedded in the email.

Free identity theft protection tools

Since identity theft has become a growing problem globally, there are many resources available for consumers that can help protect their identity. While there are many options for paid identity theft protection tools on the market, the following are free resources to provide protection from ID theft:

  • Annual Credit Report: This federally authorized resource provides one free credit report annually from all three major credit bureaus.
  • IDStrong Tools: This website helps you check passwords for strength, generates them for you, and conducts a dark web scan for any of your information.
  • FTC Identity Report: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides help and resources in the event of identity theft.
  • Utilize a free credit freeze: If you believe your information or accounts have been compromised, consider implementing a credit freeze on an account level and with the credit bureaus on your file for free. Credit card companies allow you to freeze your card if you believe your account has been compromised.
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit file: All three bureaus allow consumers to place fraud alerts on their credit file in the event of identity theft. It stops anyone that is trying to use your information to obtain credit from opening any new accounts.
  • Credit dispute: The credit bureaus also allow consumers to dispute any inquiries or accounts for free and they handle the dispute and removal process for you.
  • Free credit monitoring: If you sign up for a free account on Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, each of these bureaus offers free credit score and file monitoring. They will also send you notifications on any changes on your credit file.
  • Password managers: There are several free options available to users for a password manager that will store and secure multiple passwords in one application. Google Password Manager and LastPass secure and store multiple passwords in one area and they help create more diverse passwords that are harder to crack with a keylogger.

Benefits of identity theft protection

There are various benefits to identity theft protection. Firstly, you can use the service to prevent identity theft. When a service monitors your credit, they will notify you if there is any suspicious activity on your accounts. With this knowledge, you can take proactive steps to stop the thief and minimize the damage caused. This service is also highly valuable for those who have already been a victim of this crime.

Many services also offer monitoring for other sensitive information, like health insurance records, financial accounts, and change of address, to help detect problems early on. Additionally, these programs offer more in-depth SSN and ID monitoring because lenders often only ask for an SSN and ID to approve loans for relatively easy-to-get unsecured debts, such as payday loans.

If a hacker gains access to these types of information through some means other than stealing credit card numbers (such as accessing your PII through a data breach), then being able to monitor them will be extremely beneficial in stopping potential attacks before they do serious damage.

Another benefit of having identity theft protection is getting access to identity recovery services once it happens. Most services will work with law enforcement agencies and financial institutions as needed when recovering stolen assets or repairing damaged credit report information caused by fraudulent activity on stolen cards or accounts.

Best identity theft protection services

Among the free resources available, there are several paid identity theft protection services available for consumers on the market. Many of the identity theft protection services listed below offer a free trial or free service feature option for individuals. In addition, most of the services listed below have a monthly option for under $40.

ID Protection Service Vendor Free Option Features Paid Option Cost (Monthly) Paid Option Features
Experian IdentityWorks
  • Credit monitoring and alerts
  • FICO score tracker
  • FICO monitoring
$24.99 for one individual
  • Three-bureau credit monitoring and alerts
  • Monthly privacy scans and removal
  • Advanced identity theft monitoring
  • Dark web surveillance alerts
Equifax ID Watchdog No free option is available $12.50 to $21.95
  • Multiple bureau credit lock
  • Up to $1 million for identity theft insurance coverage
  • Fully managed identity resolution
  • Credit report monitoring
  • Subprime loan monitoring
  • High-risk transaction monitoring
Norton LifeLock No free option is available, only offers a 30-day free trial $7.50 to $34.99
  • Up to $1 million in attorney and court fees
  • Up to $25,000 in stolen funds reimbursement
  • Identity and SSN alerts
  • Credit monitoring for up to three bureaus depending on the package
Aura Identity Guard No free option is available, only offers a 30-day free trial $12 to $15
  • $1 million identity theft insurance policy
  • Online and device security for devices
  • Financial fraud protection
  • Identity theft protection

Do I need identity theft protection?

Many people wonder if identity theft protection is worth the cost. However, it is something to consider because it can help in cases of fraud or identity theft, risks that are constantly growing. There are many free resources available that can help those more on a budget or that cannot afford it.

It is critical to note that these free resources can be highly beneficial, but they may not fully protect you from the potential risks of identity theft. There may be instances when you will not receive ID theft protection from your bank or credit card issuer. Victims are essentially left to mitigate the issue and damage by themselves when this happens. This can be stressful, costly, and time-consuming to do on your own.

Investing in an independent service to assist with identity theft protection can also ensure that your information is safe. Identity theft protection companies monitor your credit reports for fraudulent activity, provide identity theft insurance, and help mitigate if your identity is compromised. They also offer other services like credit monitoring and data breach alerts so that when something does happen, they can help you address it quickly.

FAQs


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How much does identity theft protection cost?

Most identity theft protection costs under $40 per month for one individual. The average cost of identity theft protection is less than $20 per month. If you want to spend the money on a family plan to protect all the members of your household, plans go as high as $80 per month for two adults and up to five kids depending on the level of the protection package.


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What can’t identity theft protection do?

Most identity theft protection cannot protect against data leaks of your information when companies are hacked. It also cannot protect against physical identity theft issues, such as stolen wallets, bags, or digital devices.


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How much does the average person lose from identity theft?

The average per-victim loss from traditional identity fraud is said to be $1,551 as recently as 2021, an increase of $201 from the previous year.

Bottom line

If you’re looking for identity theft protection, many options are designed to better protect your PII. You can get free tools to monitor your credit and even contact companies on your behalf if something looks suspicious.

For those who want more peace of mind and protection, paid identity theft protection services offer additional security features for consumers. These paid protection options include features such as credit monitoring alerts and identity restoration costs should anything happen to your identity. Learn more about how you can protect your kids from identity theft as well.

Author Details
Amanda Scheldt
Amanda is a technical content writer based in Illinois, USA. She has a Master of Science in Cybersecurity. After years of working in the tech and cybersec field, she pivoted her career to content marketing and writing within these industries.