Every year, millions of people become victims to identity theft and credit fraud. The unfortunate part is that many of these crimes could have been prevented with the help of an ID theft protection service. Although there are numerous companies that offer these fraud prevention services, not all of them are created equal. When it comes to protecting yourself against credit and identity fraud, you need the best. And that’s where we can help.
Our team has analyzed the best ID protection services on a wide range of factors to determine which companies had the highest level of protection and offered the best overall value for consumers. The factors we’ve taken into consideration include customer reviews, protection features, service guarantees, and pricing.
Top 10 Identity Theft Protection Services of 2016
Identity Guard has redefined the standard for identity theft protection and prevention. Instant fraud alerts, proactive credit monitoring, and a $1,000,000 insurance policy are just a few of many features that make Identity Guard stand above its competitors.
IdentityForce is ranked as one of the best identity theft protection services, and for good reason. Bank and credit card activity alerts, identity theft recovery assistance, and child identity theft protection are just a few of the features that make IdentityForce popular among consumers. With 3-bureau credit monitoring and a free 14-day trial, this service should be heavily considered.
TrustedID is a service by Equifax that offers both family and individual ID theft protection. Social security and public record monitoring are a couple of the main benefits of this service, as well as monitoring of Equifax credit reports and scores. This service offers free 14-day trials, followed by $12.99 per month for individual plans and $24.99 for family plans. Overall, a pretty well-rounded service, but not the cream of the crop.
Equifax Credit Monitoring
Lost wallet assistance, automatic fraud alerts, and $1Million identity theft insurance policy are the main selling points of Equifax ID Patrol. The downside is that their credit score and report monitoring only includes Equifax, rather than all 3 credit bureaus. Overall, a decent service, but not the best.
Lifelock is the most recognizable brand in the identity theft industry, with 1000's of reviews and millions of customers to date. Lifelock has a pretty comprehensive set of features that includes the scanning of millions of transactions every second for identity threats. They also offer identity theft recovery assistance and a $1 Million in ID theft insurance. The basic plan starts at just $9.99 per month. Unfortunately, Lifelock has also been investigated by the FTC for false claims about the protection they are providing. We can't endorse Lifelock of this time as a result.
PrivacyGuard promises fast and secure access to your 3-bureau credit reports and scores. This service costs $1 for a 14-day trial, and then $19.99 per month thereafter. PrivacyGuard is more of a standard "credit monitoring" service than a comprehensive identity theft protection program. It's missing important features such as SSN monitoring, lost wallet assistance, black market web site surveillance, and other key features that are available with other providers.
IDShield has the biggest identity theft insurance policy in the industry, at $5 Million. This means that if your identity is stolen, they'll spend up to $5 Million to restore your identity. Although IDShield offers quarterly credit score updates, it's unclear if that includes just a single credit bureau or all three.
Costco Identity Protection
Although Costco's identity protection has an array of impressive features, it only provides users with credit reports from Transunion, rather than all 3 credit bureaus like other identity protection companies. In addition, we are alarmed by the amount of negative reviews online, with many customers citing bad customer service and difficulty in plan cancellation.
AllClear ID is a credit monitoring and identity theft repair service, wrapped into one. However, they seem to be changing their business model to cater to businesses that want to protect their customers rather than individuals looking for personal protection. Unfortunately, their web site is not very clear in terms of the pricing and plans they offer.
ProtectMyID is a service by Experian that offers identity theft detection, protection, and resolution. But as you may have guessed, this service only monitors your Experian credit score and report, and neglects the other 2 major credit bureaus. Although this level of protection is better than nothing, it also leaves a lot to be desired.
How Do Identity Theft Companies Prevent Fraud?
Recovering your stolen identity involves several services that companies provide when their customers are the victims of identity theft and fraud. Many companies keep fraud specialists on alert to immediately help customers begin repairing the damage the identity thieves have caused. Protection for a lost wallet is a key component of this service – this is very helpful when you need to cancel stolen or lost debit and credit cards.
Credit monitoring companies that do their job well also include identity theft insurance as part of their service. This insurance helps pay for the cost of reclaiming your identity. It also enables you to add fraud notifications to your accounts that will let the major credit bureaus know the situation. This is a key category to consider when you are choosing a company to protect your identity because these tools are important in getting your normal life back after your identity has been stolen.
What’s Included In A Identity Monitoring Service?
- Reminders of Fraud Alert Expirations — Your company reminds you of the expiration dates on your fraud alerts, which gives you a chance to renew them on your accounts
- Fraud Specialists — Provided by the company, they provide assistance so you can get through your fraud case from the minute you report your stolen identity
- Identity Theft Insurance — Offered by the company in order to pay you back for the cost of bringing back your stolen identity
- Lost Wallet Protection — Your company provides help to cancel and replace your stolen or lost debit and credit cards
How To Protect Yourself From ID Theft
Protecting your personal information is a vital category that includes the kinds of personal information monitored by the company as they protect your identity. The best identity theft services obviously monitor the basics such as your name, credit and debit cards, address and Social Security number.
Other companies go above and beyond to keep track of public records information and any loans that include the name of their clients. Protecting your information provides a basis for all other credit protection services.
How Fraud Protection Companies Can Help You
- Address — Prevention of unauthorized use of your physical address.
- Bank Accounts — You are protected against anyone who might try to use your bank account in an unauthorized or illegal manner
- Debit and Credit Cards — Monitor your credit and debit cards to protect you from any unauthorized use.
- Loans — Keeps unauthorized loans from being made with your name attached.
- Name — Anyone trying to use your full name without authorization is prevented.
- Public Records — Any information in public records that refers to you is monitored.
- Social Security Number — Your company keeps illegal use of your Social Security number from occurring.
This broad category covers additional products and services that an ID protection plan may offer. These services often include monitoring your credit score and reports, along with alerts sent whenever suspicious activity is detected with your information. Child identity protection may be of interest to families since those who will steal your identity don’t limit themselves to adults – they also try to steal information and identities belonging to your children.
Medical identity theft, where thieves steal your health insurance information and use it for their own medical services, is another common issue that requires extra services which may be essential for some who need identity protection.
Key Features of Extra Services
- Child Identity Protection — You are protected against your children’s personal information being used in an unauthorized manner.
- Credit Monitoring — The company provides monitoring services of your credit reports to catch any activity that may not be normal.
- Credit Reports — You can easily see your own credit reports.
- Early Warning Messages — You get early warning messages from the company when they detect questionable behavior connected to your account.
- Mailing List Protection – Your company will take your name off mailing lists to keep your personal data private.
- Medical Identity Theft Protection — Your company will keep track of your medical benefits to check for any questionable behavior.
Support includes the ways customers can reach their identity theft insurance provider. The options that most customers use include phone and email access to support specialists. Some fraud protection agencies also have built a strong following on social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter so their customers can quickly and easily contact them there. Being able to reach someone who can help quickly is highly important when you have a case of identity theft.
Key Support Features
- Email — Your company offers an email or some type of ticket contact system for support.
- Live Chat — Your company provides live chat for customers.
- Phone — You can reach your company on the phone to get help for your issue.
- Social Media — You can reach your company through their social media accounts if you need a question answered or have information for the company.
Your credit monitoring company should provide resources on its website that will assist people in understanding how to best use the company’s services and features. These resources could include a large knowledge base of articles explaining how functions work, or it may include a stash of video tutorials explaining some of the same features.
Some businesses have created an blog specific to their industry that provides tips and information on how people can best protect their identities and what they should do if their identities are stolen. The learning materials category is not a huge part of the decision-making process, but can still be helpful, especially for newcomers to the world of identity protection.
Most Important Resource Features
- Written Material — The company writes and produces blogs or articles that provide information on identity theft issues.
- FAQs — You can easily find a compilation of responses Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).
- Knowledge Base — Your company has produced a repository of detailed pieces for when you need assistance.
Mobile functions have to do with whether your fraud prevention has a mobile app for its customers. In today’s mobile society, the top ID monitoring services have created apps that are available on several platforms, including websites optimized for mobile devices. These apps usually let users gain access to their accounts, including alerts having to do with any kind of questionable activity.
Mobile is not an overriding factor in selecting an ID theft protection service to use, but mobile features do play an important role, especially for those who are constantly on the go.
Key Mobile Features
- Account Access — Get into your account with your phone, tablet or other mobile device.
- Messages — You can see your identity theft and fraud messages on your phone, tablet or other mobile device.
- Android App — Your company has built an app specifically for Android phones.
- Good Reviews — The company’s iPhone and Android apps have should have a rating of 3.5 stars or higher in their reviews.
- iPhone App — Your company has built an app specifically for iPhones.
- Mobile Website — Your company includes a website that is optimized for mobile devices.
- Tablet — Your company has built an app specifically for tablets.
Why Should You Use Identity Theft Protection Services?
Identity theft is a hot topic in the news and a real, actual risk in our lives, but it’s one that we tend to gloss over with a glib, “Oh, that’ll never happen to me.” That’s only spoken by someone who has never been a victim. Talk to someone whose credit has been completely destroyed or whose personal information has been used for illegal acts and you might feel differently. Identity theft can cost thousands of dollars to resolve in funds lost and in hiring attorneys or private investigators to clean up the mess.
The first step to protecting your identity is keeping good track of your financial records. Be aware of transactions, check them regularly, and if something seems out of place, you’ll notice quickly. If, however, you want more protection, many reliable identity protection services will monitor your information for you, alert you to potential fraud and help you recover your identity if it is ever stolen. This includes not only financial information, but also medical information, Social Security information, your address and more. Some companies monitor your credit record to keep you informed of any immediate changes there as well.
The best services not only monitor your data, they adapt to new strategies that criminals use to steal your identity. You want aggressive protection, not just passive awareness.