Identity theft is a dangerous situation. While identity theft complaints have decreased by 3 %, it is still a pervasive crime that is estimated to affect over 9 million Americans per year. It can happen to anyone and everyone and can gravely impact your future. To better understand this concept, let’s answer a few questions.
What Precisely Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft otherwise called Identity fraud is when your personal information is stolen and used without your consent for financial gain. Typically, your identity or rather personal identification information consists of things such as your full name, credit card numbers, social security number, home address, date of birth, and more.
Recovering your lost identity can be a long and grueling process. So, to reduce your chances of falling victim to an identity thief, it’s vital to arm yourself with preventive and proactive measures such as credit monitoring or identity theft protection services. The identity theft protection services are in high demand, and everyone needs to sign up for these services.
Can Identity Theft Protection Services Protect You?
Identity theft protection services cannot protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft. Proactive identity theft protection is difficult, and no service can adequately protect you from having your personal information stolen. It is essential to take some preventive or precautionary measures to reduce identity theft cases.
So What Do Identity Theft Protection Services Do?
Why you need Identity Theft Protection Services
Identity theft protection services help monitor your credit and identity.
The two basic categories of monitoring services that identity theft protection services offer are credit monitoring and identity monitoring.
1. Credit Monitoring
Identity theft protection services provide credit monitoring which tracks activity on your credit reports at one, two, or all the three of the major credit bureaus that is, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The identity theft services providers alert you if:
- A new debt or loan application or credit card account is opened in your name
- A company checks your credit history and or asks for your credit report.
- A creditor or debt collector claims your payment is late.
- Your credit limits change.
- Public records indicate that you’ve filed for bankruptcy.
- There is a legal ruling against you.
- Your personal information, like your name, phone number, addresses changes and more.
The credit monitoring main aim is to warn you about an activity that shows up on your credit report, but often cases of identity theft may go unnoticed.
2. Financials Monitoring
Identity theft and fraud may go undetected even through monitoring of your credit details but any unusual activity on your credit report can a good indicator of potential identity theft. Most identity theft protection services also monitor your other financials, including credit cards and bank accounts, and search for loan or credit applications that are being filed in your name.
3. Personal information Monitoring
Good identity theft protection services will also offer to monitor your social security number to make sure that nobody is using it without your consent. Some other providers also monitor public records and medical records, driver’s license number or look for address changes that you may have never authorized.
4. Provide security software for your computer
Hacking is one way of stealing personal information. A number of the top identity theft protection services will offer you antivirus software for your PC to help safeguard against hacking. The software usually includes features such as encrypted logins for banking sites and anti-keylogging software to protect you.
1. Identity recovery services
Identity recovery services can help you regain control of your identity and finances after an identity fraud occur. Professional counselors or case managers take you through the process of addressing your identity theft problems. They can help you draft letters to creditors and debt collectors, place a freeze on your credit report to prevent an identity thief from opening new accounts in your name or guide you through documents that you have to review. Some services will also represent you in dealing you’re your creditors or other institutions if you formally grant them the authority to act on your behalf.
2. Identity theft insurance
A majority of identity theft protection services offer identity theft insurance services as well. The insurance covers only out-of-pocket expenses that are directly associated with reclaiming your identities such as postage, copying, and notary costs. In a few cases, the payments might also include lost wages or legal fees. The insurance generally doesn’t compensate you for any stolen money or financial loss that you may have incurred from the identity theft situation.
Deductibles, as well as limitation and exclusions, may apply as with any insurance policy. Its also good to note that most insurance policies don’t reimburse you if your loss is otherwise covered by your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance. It is essential to ask for a copy of the company’s terms and conditions.
How Can You Protect Yourself From Identity Theft?
Alternatives to commercial identity theft protection services include taking personal measures and utilizing other free resources like the government resources.
Here are some of the proactive measures that you can take to prevent identity theft:
- Consider subscribing to an identity theft protection service. There are several companies offer identity protection services to help you if you fall victim to identity theft.
- Keep all your sensitive documents in a safe place and make a few copies of your credit cards, ID cards, and all other personal documents that you keep in your wallet.
- Unsubscribe from junk emails with open credit card offers or prescreened offers of credit and insurance.
- While using online services, use passwords that are difficult for anyone to guess like a random combination of letters unique character and numbers work best.
- Protect your computer with anti-spyware and anti-virus software and ensure they are up to date.
- Do not reveal any personal information to unverified sources or insecure websites.
- Monitor your credit frequently even up to 4 times a year to check for suspicious or incorrect information like a substantial or unexplained change in credit score and place fraud alerts on your account for greater protection.
- Shred personal documents before throwing them away including mail, credit card, bank statements, and even receipts.
- Freeze and lock your credit account with all three major reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion as it restricts access to your records so new credit files cannot be opened unless you unfreeze your account. There’s generally a small fee for freezing your credit, which varies by state.
- Have a limit to the amount of information you share in social media personal profile pages
- Consider a U.S. Postal Service-approved lockable mailbox and also sign up for Informed Delivery through the USPS, which gives you a preview of your mail so you can tell if anything is missing.
- Exercise caution when shopping in stores and hide your debit or credit card.
- Protect your mobile devices with passwords with hard-to-guess passwords and two-factor identification when available. Turn off Bluetooth unless you are using it. When you use public Wi-Fi, others may be able to see your data and be cautious in downloading free apps, which can contain malware.
- Monitor and read health insurance claims, credit card, and bank statements.
- Visit the IdentityTheft.gov website if you believe you have been the victim of identity theft, or if your personal information has been lost or exposed.
What is IdentityTheft.gov?
IdentityTheft.gov is the free government’s one-stop resource for reporting and recovering from identity fraud and theft. The website offers you a personal, interactive recovery plan customized to your individual identity theft needs. IdentityTheft.gov has a collection of recovery plans for more than 30 types of identity theft, including tax-related identity theft and identity theft involving a child’s information. It guides you in recovery steps such as:
- Generate pre-filled letters, affidavits, and forms for you to send to debt collectors, credit bureaus, businesses, and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
- Adapt to your dynamic needs, offer you with follow-up reminders, and help you track your progress.
- Provides advice about what to do if you’re affected by specific data breaches.
Where Can You Get Identity Theft Protection Services
4 Examples of Identity Theft Protection services and their features
Some of the Best Identity Theft Protection Services include:
- Lifelock – It’s the only service that allows for monthly updates on your credit score. Lifelock offer essential identity theft protection monitoring, unsubscribe you from all junk mail lists and monitor a wide range of your information that includes your driver’s license number and address changes. Lifelock offers a 30-day free trial.
- IdentityForce – IdentityForce provides the most affordable and comprehensive family identity theft programs with their Child Watch add-on. It charges only $18/month for protection for both you and your children and is ideal for those with large households. IdentityForce monitors all of your financial information, including social security number and all financial accounts. It offers a 14-day free trial.
- Identity Guard – Identity Guard offers a robust identity theft protection services including protection, credit monitoring for all three of your credit reports, computer protection software, and encryption software as well as public record monitoring and online financial tools. It charges almost the same rate as Lifelock.
- Credit Sesame – Credit Sesame is an excellent provider to those who are reluctant to give up their credit card information to get identity theft protection. It’s 100% free. It updates your credit score every month and monitors your credit report for suspicious activity. Credit Sesame is a perfect choice if you are looking for simple identity theft protection for free.