Nowadays, dozens of people find themselves victims of identity theft every single day. In 2014 alone, one billion personal records were leaked, and over $5.8 billion dollars were given to identity thieves by the IRS due to fraudulent returns. Most people who find themselves the unfortunate victim of identity theft can expect to spend hundreds of dollars and hours of their lives in resolving the harm done and recovery from the theft itself.
This is why it's more important now than ever before to consider an identity theft protection service to protect your personal and financial well-being. For just a small monthly fee, these companies can help spot abnormal activity with your credit cards, bank accounts, and look for other indicators that your personal or financial information has been stolen.
Our Picks For The Best ID Theft Protection Companies
#1 - Identity Guard
Identity Guard provides extensive personal monitoring services that combine credit monitoring as well as in-depth privacy protection. One of the industry’s leading innovators, always devising new means by which to protect customers, Identity Guard also offers a free trial for thirty days to allow prospective clients the opportunity to experience the range of services offered.
3-Bureau Credit Monitoring
Instead of just tracking your credit history from a single credit bureau (like other companies), Identity Guard tracks your credit files from all 3 major credit bureaus. In addition, they also are constantly scanning credit applications in your name, including credit cards, cell phone plans, as well as new mortgages and loans.
Internet Scanning For Personal Information Theft
Identity Guard offers constant surveillance of black market web sites known to sell personal and financial information online by thieves. Their patented technology helps detect if your personal information has been compromised and alert you if your SSN, credit card, or bank account numbers are found online in un-secure locations.
Complete Suite of Computer Protection Software
For customers of Identity Guard, a complete suite of Internet security tools is made available. This includes computer protection and password encryption software, and keylogger applications which assist in protecting your interests online by hiding your personal information from entities that would attempt to access it. Personal computer protection also assists in keeping your computer free of vicious malware and viruses that could mine your information in the background, without you ever noticing.
Instant Fraud Alerts and Lost Wallet Assistance
In the unfortunate event that your wallet is lost or stolen, one call to Identity Guard and they'll help you cancel your credit cards and give you up to $2,000 worth of emergency cash from your account. You'll also get instant notifications sent directly to your cell phone if they detect certain changes to your credit files or public records personal data.
$1 Million in Identity Theft Insurance
And should these safeguards not be enough, Identity Guard backs up all their claims and services with one-million dollars in identity theft insurance. This insurance is to assist customers who find themselves taken advantage of by identity theft, in recovering from the damages caused by it including credit repair, lawsuits, court costs and much more.
The Bottom Line
In a crowded field of identity theft protection companies, Identity Guard stands above the rest. With a wide range of features designed to protect your financial and personal information, as well as a 30-day free trial, there's a lot to like about Identity Guard.
#2 - IdentityForce
IdentityForce leverages decades of experience to offer plans and services specially tailored to suit your needs. Many of the plans offered are particularly of interest to families, and include services such as change of address, court records and payday loan monitoring.
Black Market Web Site Surveillance
IdentityForce offers services that scour black market web sites, looking for the potential sale of your personal information by thieves. A growing online black market has become a major threat, a hot bed of activity where identity thieves buy and sell identities to the highest bidder.
3-Bureau Credit Monitoring
Credit monitoring and reports are also available, including reports from the top three bureaus. Credit monitoring is often one of the first early warning signs that a person’s personal information is being tampered with, that their online identity is under threat, and by monitoring the nation’s top agencies a more effective means of combatting potential identity theft is ensured.
Protection Against Medical ID Fraud
IdentityForce also offers protection against the growing threat of medical ID fraud, which has become a growing and serious concern in recent years. Medical ID fraud occurs whenever someone attempts to steal your personal information, your social security or Medicare number, in order to obtain medical care, buy drugs, or submit fake billings. This, obviously, can greatly damage your credit rating as well as disrupt your life.
Junk Mail Opt-Out Service
IdentityForce also offers active junk mail opt-out services, freeing you up from the hassle of constantly tracking your inbox for potential phishing scams and other fraudulent services out to steal your sensitive information.
The Bottom Line
With packages and services specially tailored for families as well as businesses, IdentityForce looks to assisting you in protecting what matters most: your identity and your peace of mind. By constantly tracking emerging threats to your identity, IdentityForce assists in the early recognition of threats. Bank and credit card activity are also monitored, often creating an early warning system to potential suspicious activity, allowing for notifications and custom alerts.
How Did We Review The Best ID Theft Companies?
You may be wondering how we came up with these comparisons and made our reviews. We followed simple guidelines, keeping in mind the most necessary services available from each company in regards to their effectiveness and benefit to the customer.
Do they monitor a client’s credit at a single bureau, or are all three of the leading credit bureaus kept under observation for potential abuse? With credit tampering often the first sign of identity theft, this is a key factor to keep in mind.
Are instantaneous notifications and fraud alerts available, at the first sign of suspicious activity? These are things that are absolutely critical when searching for an identity theft protection service, as the speed at which identity theft occurs is staggering. In some cases, without proper protection, a victim’s identity can be stolen overnight causing severe hardships, loss of finances and the absolute destruction of personal credit.
Identity Theft Recovery Assistance
Also important to consider is the type of identity theft recovery assistance being offered. In the case of identity theft, are there specialists standing by at a moment’s notice to help you recover and at what level customer service is the assistance offered? This is important. Going through identity theft is a stressful and sometimes confusing experience and having someone there who is knowledgeable and available to walk you through it all can make all the difference in the world.
Additional Protection Features
Other things to keep in mind are the types of features offered, such as public record and change of address monitoring, suites of privacy software made available and more immediate concerns like lost wallet assistance. The world of identity theft is ever changing and always growing, always devising new ways to steal from you your identity, your personal interests and much more. Having an identity theft agency that can change at a moment’s notice to react to such threats is vastly important.
Some of the most important things to consider when seeking and comparing identity theft protection services is what is being immediately offered to protect you, and protect your interests. Personalized service is paramount, as is the speed and efficiency at which services are rendered. Is customer service round the clock, does the company offer a suite of applications to assist in personalized monitoring of your interests?
Reviews From Past Customers
We also made sure to take into consideration the reviews of past customers, testimonials of service by people with first-hand experience. These are some of the most powerful tools we have in reaching a conclusion as to the efficiency and ability of an identity theft protection service, as they’re based on the experiences and opinions of people who have used the services, as well as sometimes experienced the trials and hardships of identity theft itself.
Ranking The Top 10 Identity Theft Protection Services
Here's a full ranking of the top 10 companies that we reviewed, with a brief description of each service.
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.
What Is Identity Theft Insurance and Do You Need It?
Most companies on the market today offering identity theft protection also offer some form of identity theft insurance, typically in the range of one-million dollars. This money is what the company will use in the effort to assist with helping you, the customer, in recovering from identity theft in the even that your identity is stolen.
The money itself covers a range of services and purposes. Legal costs, which can in some cases be staggering, court fees and lawyers are covered are covered by this money. Stolen fund reimbursement, in the case of identity thieves using your personal finances to make expenses, and the cost of paying experts to fix any damages that might have occurred are also covered by identity theft insurance. This includes services such as repairing your credit score, as well as others.
Considering identity theft has been the number one complaint by consumers for over a decade, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and continues to grow at an exponential rate it is absolutely something that should be kept in mind. More and more options are available every day for identity theft insurance, from private contractors to larger protection agencies, and most of them tend to cost an inexpensive annual fee. That said, it definitely pays to consider acquiring some form of identity theft insurance, if not for the real benefits but for the peace of mind.
Is Credit Monitoring and Identity Theft Protection The Same Thing?
Not by a long shot, no. Credit monitoring could be considered base line protection, as it only involves tracking your credit report and scores. Actual identity theft protection is much more comprehensive.
By itself, credit monitoring can be helpful and is worth keeping in mind. There are numerous entities out there today offering a wide variety of credit monitoring services, for a variety of prices and a variety of means. That being said, there are many things that credit monitoring can and can’t do, compared to real-time identity theft protection.
While credit monitoring can, in fact, alert you to changes made to your credit score and allow you to keep track of your information and where it appears online, it cannot actually prevent you from being made the target of identity thieves. It also cannot prevent you from being made the victim of online scams or any other steps in preventing you from becoming a victim of fraud.
That being said, the best services out there combine both credit monitoring as well as more extensive protection measures such as the monitoring of public records and address changes. Additional services to ideally be included are surveillance of black market web sites used in the buying and selling of personal identities, lost wallet assistance and identity theft recovery assistance.
The best identity theft prevention agencies out there combine all of these services, and offer them in suites personalized to your needs.
Is LifeLock Worth Considering?
Lifelock is the biggest brand currently available on the market in the identity theft industry, offering numerous, expansive services to clients and ensuring the safety of their identities. That being said, we naturally receive a lot of questions in regards to whether or not their services are worth paying for and acquiring. Their list of features offered is impressive, covering every kind of service a person could feasibly want in regards to ensure the safety of their identity, and their plans are generally very affordable.
That being said, unfortunately, they’ve lately been under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for soliciting false advertising claims. We have also recently uncovered some red flag, in the form of numerous negative reviews, from past customers. In light of these things, we cannot endorse Lifelock as an agency to procure identity theft protection services from.
10 Tips To Help Protect Yourself From Identity Theft
- Always remember to shred bank statements, personal documents and other important documents. Proper disposal of sensitive information can go a long way in safeguarding your identity.
- Be sure when online to create strong passwords, typically consisting of more than just simple dictionary words or those you personally relate to. This makes it harder for identity thieves to guess or discover your password. And make sure to update and change your passwords frequently.
- Take advantage of sites like annualcreditreport.com to monitor your credit score, and be mindful of suspicious activity and fluctuations in your score. This can be your first line of defense in noticing potential identity theft.
- Be mindful of how you dispose of personal and important documents. Shredding such documents is key, but so too is how they are disposed of afterwards. Many services are available that assist in this.
- Before getting rid of your personal computer, be sure to remove and thoroughly destroy the hard drive. Sensitive information is readily available to be retrieved by potential identity thieves on hard drives. Either physically destroy the drive itself, or procure software capable of wiping it clean.
- Be mindful of online phishing scams and other fraudulent opportunities. As time goes by these kinds of scam are getting more elaborate, and easier to fall for. If something you receive online looks suspicious, assume it is dangerous and delete it.
- Your social security number and credit card information are the easiest means by which an identity thief can take advantage of you. Never give out this information over the phone.
- Take steps towards acquiring licensed computer protection software, to better protect your Internet privacy. There are dozens of options available these days; spend time perusing reviews to discover which are best suited to your needs. Some require monthly or annual subscriptions, but often the expense is worth it.
- Take the time to remove yourself from any and all promotional lists online. This includes going through junk mail, which is often a haven for phishing scams, as well as monitoring for and deleting pre-approved credit card offers as many of these are scams as well, designed to acquire your personal information.
- Don't ever carry your SSN card in your wallet.
The Bottom Line
These days, identity theft is far more common than you think. It has affected more than half a million people in 2014 alone, and more are harmed by it every year. Perpetrators of identity theft devise new means by which to assault your personal interests every day, becoming smarter, more effective and harder to catch and stop. Becoming a victim of identity theft can be absolutely devastating to your life, both financially and personally. It can ruin your credit, leave you penniless and potentially the victim of further exploitation and the most terrifying part of all is that it can happen at a moment’s notice, with no warning.
While there are definitely steps you can personally take to prevent identity theft and safeguard your identity, we highly recommend subscribing to one of the services we recommend in order to get you the full protection you require. A professional protection agency, with years of experience in combating and preventing identity theft, is far more efficient and effective than spending hours of your own time attempting to do it yourself. It always pays to be safe, rather than sorry.