Are identity theft protection services necessary?
Identity theft is a tragedy that can have long-lasting effects on a person’s life. Imagine discovering that thousands of dollars in debt have been accrued in your name. This scenario can make anyone shiver, as it directly threatens one’s livelihood. The reality is that a distressing amount of information is available about each of us online. And while the data-rich world encourages you to protect yourself, the ‘how’ remains unanswered.
Thus, we all must face the music, and signing up for identity theft protection services is one possible solution. Let’s discuss the best tools in the business and what benefits they bring to the table.
The threat of identity theft
Identity theft might need no introduction. It refers to someone using a victim’s details to perform specific actions in their name. This crime has been around for years, and some deem it worse than death. Generally, it is not only a violation of your privacy and rights. Identity theft can damage you directly, and resolving it can be expensive.
As per statistics, the prognosis does not look reassuring:
- According to the 2021 Identity Fraud Study, identity fraud losses reached $56 billion in 2020. However, the enormous losses do not come exclusively from traditional identity theft.
- Identity theft scams remain to be a pressing problem worldwide. One scenario, which accounted for $43 billion of total losses, indicates that victims can specify the reason behind identity theft. For instance, they might have provided specific personal details via a deceptive phone call or email transaction. Thus, this identity fraud means that criminals contact targets directly.
- Traditional identity fraud accounts for $13 billion of losses and means that victims have no idea how the crime occurred. For instance, users rely on various services like streaming providers, digital commerce, and payment platforms. It might be that hackers manage to intercept such communications and steal specific data.
What are identity theft protection services?
Identity theft is an ever-evolving phenomenon, and attackers find new opportunities and loopholes to exploit. The identity theft protection services offer their help to secure and defend your identity.
Of course, even the most sophisticated providers cannot state that identity theft is entirely preventable. Many variables have a role, and you still carry the responsibility of playing it safe with your data. But how do these services work precisely?
Identity theft protection services become your assistants, continuously assessing the security of your data. They do all the legwork related to scanning the dark web, various databases, and social media. Thus, these services detect information like social security numbers, medical IDs, bank account details, and other data. For instance, here are some of the things these services look for:
- Attempts to change your official address listed on various services.
- Court records of crimes allegedly reported in your name.
- Attempts to take out loans in your name.
- Your personal information posted or sold on the dark web.
- Requests to take over certain bank accounts.
If the tests come back as positive, providers will send notifications urging you to take action. They might also assist in finding consultants and minimizing the legal fees and other expenses.
Please note that identity theft protection and credit card monitoring might relate to two different services. Of course, some providers do offer packages containing both.
Will they be everything you hoped for?
Various platforms emphasize the necessity of identity theft services. However, not all support the alleged indispensability of such providers. According to ConsumerReports, users might not fully understand the product they purchase. Loud and bold claims from companies can be inaccurate. Thus, misinterpretation can lead to users feeling safer and more confident than they should.
After all, some might treat identity theft protection services as entities that will secure their data from misuse. However, it is one of the false assumptions that clients make. They believe that by subscribing to an identity theft service, they become immune to such crimes. Sadly, it is not that simple.
What identity theft services cannot do
Here are some of the shortcomings and truths about identity theft protection:
- Identity theft protection services cannot prevent data misuse and theft. Instead, they help mitigate the risks and perform damage control. Thus, they deal with the aftermath and aim to inform you of the danger as soon as possible.
- It is nearly impossible to monitor all possible ways hackers can use to steal your identity. Even the most advanced technologies struggle to cover all the ways someone abuses your information. The lack of uniformity in software and electronic databases is one of the obstacles.
- Remove the information about you available on the dark web. Identity theft protection services will detect and notify if they find personal details on the mysterious dark web. However, they do not have the power to remove it.
- Assistance in recovering after an identity theft depends on the product. Identity theft services can provide restoration services to glue your identity back together. Sadly, the helpfulness of such efforts differs. Some companies will help you through the whole process. Others might send you guidelines and specialists’ contact information. In more unfortunate cases, services might claim not to cover certain identity theft instances.
Why choose it then?
Besides their weaknesses, identity theft protection can be a valuable addition to your cybersecurity arsenal. The main requirement for clients should be to gather as much information about the services provided.
For instance, consult the companies about certain exceptions that might be a part of the contract. Additionally, find out whether the service will work to resolve medical and criminal identity theft. The bottom line is to find the limitations of the service. Also, it is essential to distinguish between truthful promises and clever marketing tricks.
Lastly, identity theft takes a toll emotionally and physically. Thus, victims might feel overwhelmed and struggle to find necessary resources. Identity theft protection services can help you focus and understand the damage control options.
Best identity theft protection services
Here we introduce some of the best providers of identity theft protection services. These are mentioned in no particular order and might be more suitable for specific clients.
LifeLock has a daunting history, ranging from Federal Trade Commission investigations to lawsuits from its clients. The good news is that the company has a firm grip on its niche market, and its services are entirely reliable.
LifeLock offers impressive protection. For instance, it monitors various types of information. You can assign it to keep a close eye on investment and retirement accounts, people-search websites, payday lenders, and credit cards.
It also supplies stolen wallet protection, meaning that the service will arrange new documents you need to replace. It also includes the SSN and credit alert, dark web monitoring, and other data monitoring perks.
There are three types of membership offers. The Standard plan, which covers up to $25,000 stolen fund reimbursement, costs approximately $9 a month. The LifeLock Advantage is available for $18 a month.
Finally, the LifeLock Ultimate Plus charges $27 every month. You can find the benefits of each plan, with Ultimate Plus offering the most extensive protection. However, this service is more costly than some of its competitors.
Identity Guard uses IBM Watson artificial intelligence platform. It is responsible for scanning the internet for any indications of stolen identities. In the past, this service had a clear disadvantage when compared to its competitors.
Why? Well, it offered no credit card monitoring. Identity Guard has yielded excellent results in introducing credit card, bank, and investment accounts protection. However, credit reports come only once per year, which can seem insufficient.
The service also does what you expect from an identity theft protection service. It stands to guard against fraudulent use of medical records, property-title changes, and even tax return security. If someone tries to file a tax return in your name, Identity Guard should report it back to you.
Identity Guard is also a more affordable option with plans ranging from $7 to $17 a month.
IdentityForce is an industry leader that clients typically cannot go wrong with. It includes all the necessary features, like credit card monitoring and extensive scanning. The service also runs through public record changes, address changes, payday loan applications, and court arrest records.
Furthermore, it even checks whether your name appears on sex offender registries. It also watches the use of SSNs and attempts to use them with new names.
The service will also look at various forums known for distributing or selling stolen data. Thus, you can get instant notifications if your data appears on such platforms. Finally, it also includes a credit score simulator that can depict how financial transactions influence your credit score. The credit reports will come quarterly.
When it comes to price, IdentityForce offers several plans. You can sign up for this service for $18, $10, $15, or $21 a month.
MyFICO focuses on providing credit-monitoring services. Thus, it specializes in supplying complete credit reports and credit scores from all three major credit bureaus. Also, the reports come monthly, which exceeds the report delivery time on other providers. Furthermore, the service also supplies FICO scores, an indicator of how likely you are to repay a loan.
However, MyFICO does not offer many of the features present in other identity theft protection products. It will monitor court records, credit cards, bank accounts, and the dark web. Unfortunately, it won’t extend its search to medical records, address changes, or investment accounts.
MyFICO is a rather costly service. You will pay $20 a month for the basic plan, and others are available for $30 or $40 a month. Thus, MyFICO should be an option if your focus is credit card reports and improving your credit score.
IDShield is similar to the lines of LifeLock. On paper, their services do sound similar with only slight differences. The company states to monitor credit card and bank accounts, social media accounts, and sex offender registries. However, its shortcoming is that the service does not provide credit reports, which might be a turnoff for many potential clients.
However, IDShield does stand out with its private consultations with experts. It will also alert you about suspicious activities on the dark web, public records, and court records. Thus, it supplies decent identity theft protection, although you might miss the regular credit reports.
Clients can choose between two plans. The individual membership costs $14, while the family version is available for $27.
Do you need an identity theft protection service?
Getting an identity theft protection service cannot hurt you. In the worst-case scenario, the service might even compensate for your losses or genuinely consult you. In the face of panic, talking to professionals will help you determine the best course of action. However, be sure to know what you pay for. Read all the policies and documents provided to you.
Overall, data breaches and identity theft can affect anyone. Thus, it is more important than ever to safeguard your data. While services like identity theft protection help, you are still in the driver’s seat. Your activities and habits might be the reason you become a victim.
Atlas VPN understands the dangers our clients face daily. Thus, we have included an excellent feature: Data Breach Monitor. Its operation is similar to identity theft protection services but not as extensive. Our data breach scanner tries to find out whether your details had been compromised online. It is a seamless feature, but it can further bolster the security you can achieve with just one product.
Former chef and the head of Atlas VPN blog team. He's an experienced cybersecurity expert with a background of technical content writing.