Identity theft protection is not a cash grab.
It’s simple, you cannot protect yourself from identity theft. No matter what you do, an attacker will be able to outsmart you. That is why it makes sense to invest in protection services. Instead of throwing in the towel, your automated security will put up a fight.
And that’s what it takes to prevent identity theft. You have to take as many preventative measures as you can. With the help of an identity theft protection company, all that is done for you.
What is Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft protection is a type of coverage that works to protect you from the damaging effects of identity theft. These plans come with many different protection features, but there are a few common ones that stand out. This includes address change verification, an alerts system, black market website surveillance, and lost wallet protection.
This is different from what credit monitoring services offer. The primary intent of credit monitoring is to keep track of the personś credit report and score. The ability to observe changes to your credit score just helps for working towards excellent credit status. But, getting alerts as things change on your credit report can help you detect red flags that suggest an identity theft attempt was made.
That said, most identity theft protection plans are able to detect whenever fraudulent accounts are opened in a victim’s name. The company then notifies the user, and then the creditor gets informed. You can then request a credit freeze from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to stop any further attacks. If it’s just a suspected attack, a fraud alert could get placed on the account instead. By doing so, you would be able to verify any changes in your name before they are official and this would last for 90 days.
How Can Identity Theft Protection Help You?
First, an identity theft protection plan will negate almost all the risks involved with getting targeted by an identity thief. If you do become a victim, you will not be liable for any costs relating to the identity restoration process. Further, the company will take charge and do everything necessary to restore your identity for you. In total, this can save on average of well over 300 hours of time.
Aside from that, identity theft protection services will keep an eye out for any new uses of your name. If a driver’s license, passport, or even a utility service is attached to your name, you will find out. The second anything faulty is there, the company will put your identity on lockdown and get to the bottom of it.
In short, identity theft protection services help you to cover any angles an identity thief could use. This does not mean you will be free of risks. An identity thief can always find a new way in, but having coverage means you don’t have to worry so much. If you do get targeted, all the responsibility is thrown on your identity theft protection service provider.
How Can Credit Monitoring Help You?
Credit monitoring relates to identity theft protection in a way. The two are both used to monitor private accounts of the service user. Except, in the case of credit monitoring there is more focus on your credit-related accounts. Further, credit monitoring is designed for people looking to track their credit score and the identity theft proponents are not a main focus.
That doesn’t mean credit monitoring won’t help keep your identity safe. In fact, some identity theft protection services include credit monitoring features.For instance, in 2014, LifeLock started offering a credit monitoring service that covers your, “…credit cards, checking, savings and investment accounts.”
This is an important piece of security to have in place. If a potentially fraudulent account gets opened in your name, you will get a verification request. From there, it’s a simple approval to authorize the action and the account will be usable. But, if it wasn’t you, saying so will prevent the illicit actor from being able to defraud your identity any further.
While you shouldn’t double your costs to also have credit monitoring, it is a good idea to look for an identity theft protection plan that includes it.
How Can You Protect Yourself from Identity Theft?
Identity theft protection will lower the odds of you getting attacked. It also reduces the amount of damage faced if you do become a victim. That said, there are still some things you can do on your own to further decrease the chances of it happening to you.
Here’s a look at some ways of prevention that money can’t buy:
- Computer security. Hackers can compromise your device and steal your files. If any of them contain personal identifying information, this could help them steal your identity. You need to put up a barrier against that. Keep sensitive data hidden in a separate external hard drive and make sure to always use a quality antivirus program.
- Credit freezes & fraud alerts. It’s not necessary to have credit monitoring services when you put a credit freeze or fraud alert on your file. A credit freeze is a full lockdown of your credit report, dismissing access from fraudsters until the issue clears. A fraud alert is for those that suspect they are getting targeted, and serves as two-factor authentication for credit and identity actions.
- Educate yourself. There are many things you could do to make yourself vulnerable to identity theft, without even knowing it. Read up on the subject across the Web to know all the little steps to take. A list of 100 prevention tips is a good place to start.
- Internet safety. Where you browse and shop on the Web impacts how exposed you are to identity theft. Stick to the trusted retailers (ex. Amazon, Wal-Mart) or pay through PayPal instead of off our credit card. Also, stay safe from malicious phishing attacks; OpenDNS’s is a great resource for phishing protection information.
- Mail security. It’s important to not underestimate the seriousness of having your mail stolen. In the United States alone, over $5.2 billion in tax returns were stolen last year. You can get a post office box to mitigate these risks, otherwise, follow the advice given by the U.S. Postal Service.
This is just a scratch at the surface of what you could do to stay safe.
Yet, it’s important to know that you cannot always protect yourself enough. There are countless news reports about identity theft attacks surfacing as a result of compromises within government agencies. The most notable is through each of the state’s health departments, where many millions of Americans have had their information compromised.
Even if you do everything the Internet tells you to do, it’s possible that it just won’t be enough. In the end, you could still find yourself spending all your weekends trying to fix your name. That’s why so many decide to bite the bullet and throw a little cash at identity theft protection companies. It mitigates most of the risks and automates a lot of the prevention process. All in the while, doubling as a form of ‘identity theft insurance’ through the plan’s service guarantee or victim insurance feature.
What Does Identity Theft Protection Cost?
Identity theft protection plans are not expensive. Most run for $9.99 to $29.99 per month, depending on the included features. The higher price-point often consists of plans that combine credit monitoring with identity theft protection. Meanwhile, the lower cost plans will just offer identity theft prevention help.
Regardless, you will find that these services offer a lot of the same features. The wording might differ, but what you get behind the scenes is almost identical. The biggest difference is that the top players (such as Identity Guard and LifeLock) are able to provide better ‘bang for your buck’ overall. They tend to have the most extensive coverage, the highest level of guarantee or insurance, and so on.
If you are one of the estimated 64-million Costco cardholders in the U.S., you should consider yourself lucky. This will grant you access to a steep discount on Identity Guard’s Total Protection plan. As an Executive Member of Costco, you would qualify for a discount of $15 per month. As a Gold Star or Business Member of Costco, you would save $11.50 per month.
That said, you should take the time to compare services between the top companies in the industry. It is important to find one that works well for you. This boils down to details like their alerts system, whether they have an app, and what terms apply to cover related expenses if victimized. You can find reviews for each of the companies, and their services, on the Web. It’s also possible to check their Better Business Bureau page for any serious or obscene problems that consumers had with them in the past.
How Does an Identity Theft Victim Recover?
Once your identity gets stolen, it seems like it’s game over. You cannot reverse the damage, and you find yourself praying it won’t happen again. In fear of it just being wishful thinking, you start to take steps to protect yourself that you never took before.
But, is it too late?
If an identity thief has your information, it’s possible you could get attacked over and over. This could go on for many years to come. It’s comparable to them having a key to your house. The only way to keep the intruders at bay is to lock them out.
This means locking them out of your credit report, which is why there’s an extended fraud alert for victims that runs for seven years. With this alert, victims also receive two free reports within a year of the attack from all three credit bureaus and their names get removed from the pre-screened offer mailing list for five years.
In the end, you cannot stop an attacker from hitting your name many times again. This is why such strong security measures are taken when someone gets attacked. It’s also the reason why you do not want to deal with this at any point in your life. With all the wrong circumstances, an identity theft attack against you could sabotage your credit score and send you straight to bankruptcy court.
Why Do People Bash Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft protection services have gotten a lot of heat from the general public. This seems to come from the common thought that, “I shouldn’t have to pay to keep my identity safe.”
Yet, that’s nothing more than wishful thinking as no one individual can control how the world has evolved. It is now easy for a smart criminal to defraud an innocent, unsuspecting person. It’s to the point where no one is safe, and even minors and the deceased are getting targeted.
As Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve said, “Identity theft is a serious crime that affects millions of Americans each year.” That’s not going to change any time soon. Identity thieves are only getting smarter.
As a consumer, you pretty well have two choices:
- Wait for your name to get defrauded and take advantage of the free identity theft protection services you get as a result. If you are lucky, such as those that were victims of the Target data breach, your free protection will have extensive features.
- Invest in identity theft protection and block out many of the possible ways an attacker could target you. Meanwhile, enjoy the freedom of knowing that you are not financially liable for any potential expenses if you do get targeted.
That said, the second choice sounds a lot better. If not just for financial reasons, also because it means you won’t have to worry about the, on average. This is not something you want to handle yourself. It could take years to repair the damage and start building your identity back up. This means your credit report and score could also get held back.
Conclusion: Identity Theft Protection Makes Sense!
You cannot deny the serious risks of identity theft. As these threats are real, you should be trying to mitigate your risk exposure. The use of a protection service will help you with that. Even better, it will assist you in identifying an attack whenever it happens. This means you don’t have to worry about finding a pile of damage years down the road. As a result, it’s easy to resolve the issue and restore your identity.
Not all identity theft protection companies are deserving of your money; those that offer quality services are worth their weight in gold. It should be seen as a piece of insurance and nothing more. The cool features you can play with are nice, but the point is to have a defense in play if an attacker turns your way.
You have little in your corner to stop a turn from bad to worst. If your information gets in the wrong hands, it’s just a matter of time before things go sour. That is why it’s important to take action right away. Save yourself the stress, and trust in a reputable identity theft protection service to swat off identity theft attempts and keep your identity safe.