If you’re worried about your details such as your social security number and other important data being stolen by nefarious sources, it’s important to have identity theft protection. After all, in 2016 alone, there were more than 15 million US identity fraud cases and that number has grown steadily each year since.
It’s important that you have the best identity theft protection service. For one thing, it can keep you safe from a data breach and ID theft. For another, an inferior service can put your information at risk. For instance, Equifax, one of the big three credit monitoring agencies, suffered five major data breaches in 2017 and did very little to help customers affected by the issues, leaving many of them out of pocket.
It’s important to use a service that is reliable and detects any issues early on, much like how good anti-virus software catches a problem before it actually becomes an issue.
We’ve researched dozens of options, read through numerous customer reviews and ratings, all in a bid to find the best identity theft protection for every situation. For a premium solution, we believe that LifeLock is the best out there thanks to being simple to use and well priced. There are other great options too like McAfeee Identity Theft Protection Standard, for those users on a budget, or Credit Karma for when you want a free solution.
Those aren’t the only choices though. Here’s a look at our picks of what we believe are the best, no matter what your situation or budget, as well as a look at key information you need to consider before taking the plunge.
Why we picked LifeLock
LifeLock had a rocky time a few years back but since becoming a subsidiary of Symantec (best known for its Norton anti-virus software), it’s gone from strength to strength. In particular, it has a great form of family plan with the option to extend your identity theft protection to your children via LifeLock Junior and an additional fee of $66 per year. The basic LifeLock package starts at $120 per year and keeps an eye on any time your personal information shows up on credit agreements or on the dark web. It also spots USPS address changes and any fake information connected to your identity.
Upgrade to the Advantage package at a somewhat pricier $240 and you’ll also be informed if your name shows up on court booking records, when there are any large purchases based on your accounts, or if there are any large-scale breaches such as at your insurance company or employer.
There’s only credit monitoring for one bureau unless you upgrade further still to the Ultimate Plus membership (working out at $360 per year) but if you appreciate the peace of mind that comes with using a service that’s also owned by everyone’s favorite security software, it’s a good price. There’s also increased stolen funds reimbursement or compensation up to $1 million, compared to the most inexpensive package offering only $25,000.
Why we picked IdentityForce
IdentityForce monitors a lot of information, regardless of which plan you go with. Its basic UltraSecure plan works out at $180 per year, and keeps an eye out for fraud monitoring, change of address, whether any court records have your details on them, pay day loan checks, and even if any people listed on the sex offenders registry move near you. There’s also social media identity monitoring so you’ll know immediately if someone is trying to pretend to be you online.
In addition, there’s also social security number tracking, bank and credit card activity, medical ID fraud protection, and alerts for everything possible. It’s easy yet secure to use too thanks to a convenient mobile app and two-factor authentication so you never have to worry about someone else accessing your account. Its app is a key reason why we think it’s the best for mobile use as it’s super convenient for when you’re not in front of your PC.
Upgrade to UltraSecure+Credit for $240 per year, and you also gain three-bureau credit monitoring, extensive credit reports, and scores, along with a credit score simulator.
Learn More at Identity Force
McAfee Identity Theft Protection
Why we picked McAfee Identity Theft Protection
Kind of like how McAfee offers a simple and straight forward anti-virus software, McAfee Identity Theft Protection is similarly ideal for those that want something that just works and that they don’t have to negotiate complex websites to use. It’s priced keenly with the standard package only costing $70 for the first year. For the price, McAfee will scan online black markets such as the Dark Web and give you a heads up if your information has been exposed. It’ll also track social media posts that could affect your reputation. Along with that, there’s social security number monitoring, credit reports, and change of address tracking so you know what’s going on at all times.
Upgrade to Identity Theft Protection Plus for $140 per year, and you also get an annual credit report, monitoring of court and criminal records, along with payday loan tracking which isn’t always done via credit checks. Upgrade further still to the Premium package for $210 per year, and it’ll also spot if your details show up on credit card applications, someone is trying to take over your bank account, and if any new sex offenders have registered in your area.
The flexibility of the different account packages makes it appealing, and the lowest priced one should be ideal for the majority of users.
Why we picked PrivacyGuard
PrivacyGuard might initially seem a little off-putting as it requires you to pay $1 to use its 14-day trial, but get past that minor barrier, and you’ll enjoy a fairly comprehensive service. For the price of between $10 and $25 per month, you get identity monitoring services along with monthly credit reports. The latter requires you to use one of the higher-end plans, rather than the $10 service that solely monitors for signs of identity theft, but that means it’s still a well-priced service.
Whichever plan you go with, you get public and dark web scanning so the moment your social security number or bank details show up somewhere, you’re informed. Other data like your passport or driver’s license are also protected, plus mostly anything else you can imagine linked to you. You’ll get email and text alerts any time something shows up.
Upgrade to the $25 per month Total Protection package, and there’s monthly triple-bureau credit score tracking, as well as monitoring of your children’s social security number. It even offers pre-approved credit card offers and credit score simulators.
Learn More at Privacy Guard
Credit Karma Homepage
Why we picked Credit Karma
If it’s solely your credit report that you want to keep an eye on then Credit Karma is the ideal option for you. It’s entirely free and doesn’t even require you to enter any credit card details. Through the service, you can monitor your TransUnion and Equifax credit report score with updates every week. You’ll also receive alerts any time unusual activity is spotted on either of your credit reports.
The downside? The information provided is a little limited and you’re mostly restricted to receiving your VantageScore 3.0 rather than full details. You also can’t monitor your credit report from Experian, plus there are no other forms of identity theft protection.
Still, for free, there’s really no reason why you wouldn’t at least use Credit Karma to get you started with credit monitoring.
Why we picked Intelius
Intelius isn’t the cheapest of identity theft protection services at $240 per year, but it also kind of is thanks to the fact that it allows you to monitor more than just one of everything. Via its service, you can track changes associated with two addresses, two phone numbers, three credit or debit cards, along with two bank account numbers. That makes it an ideal service for people with multiple accounts or couples who want to keep track of their identities together.
As well as that, Intelius allows its customers to pull a new credit report every 31 days which is more than many other services. You’re only getting details via one credit bureau, but you can opt to purchase additional bureaus. Finally, there’s also a junk mail opt-out service which is sure to appeal to mostly everyone. It might lack some finer details like sex offender registry information and court records, but when it comes to the core basics, Intelius has it covered.
Learn More at Intelius
Who offers the best identity theft protection?
It’s a tough one to call in terms of the ultimate identity theft protection service. It really depends on you. It’s worth considering your budget and what you need the service to do most, so you know exactly what’s best for you. The services listed above are the best we’ve discovered and researched. Like antivirus software and VPNs, they all come with their own pros and cons.
Which identity theft protection really works?
The thing to remember about identity theft protection is that they don’t actually protect your identity from being stolen. Instead, they protect you from being too badly affected by stolen details. The key is to protect your own information to your best ability but to have a back up via identity theft protection for those times when a company lets you down such as via a significant data breach.
How good is identity theft protection?
Very good, providing you pick the right service. Being informed instantly of an issue gives you plenty of time to stop things from getting worse.
Are identity theft protection services worth it?
Yes. You can survive without it but it’s like using your PC without antivirus software. It’s simply safer to know that someone else has your back, such as an identity theft protection service.
Do banks offer identity theft protection?
They do to an extent. Your bank will often give you a heads up if there’s a potentially fraudulent transaction on your account or they detect unusual activity. It’s not as extensive as full identity theft protection though as your bank won’t be able to monitor your social security number or your address.
How do I protect my identity for free?
There are a few key steps you can take to be extra careful. These include checking your financial accounts regularly for errors or suspicious activity, ensuring you use strong passwords at all times so it’s tricky for hackers to access your accounts, and making sure you cancel any credit cards that you no longer use. Shredding and destroying important documents once they’re no longer useful is also wise.
What is identity theft protection insurance?
Identity theft protection insurance is typically included in many identity theft protection services. It means you’re reimbursed for any financial losses that are incurred if someone uses your information nefariously. Many companies offer up to $1m but you need to check the terms and conditions. Some may only offer up to $25,000 and different rates apply in New York State.
How do I protect my social security number from identity theft?
Where possible, offer an alternative form of ID when asked. Provide your driver’s license number or your passport. Make sure you know exactly how your number will be used if you do hand it over, and always leave your card at home in a safe place. Shred any documents that contain it and never use it as a password. Also, never hand it out to anyone unless you’re absolutely certain it’s safe and they definitely need it.