Identity theft is one of the modern age’s most pervasive and expensive financial problems.
According to the 2018 Identity Fraud study released by Javelin Strategy & Research, $16.8 billion was stolen from 13.1 million American consumers in 2017. That’s up from the $15 billion frauders stole in 2015.
The credit card and banking industries are working to thwart identity thieves. They’ve instituted chip-and-pin technology on credit and debit cards. And use transaction monitoring and email alerts to consumers. However, ID thieves are learning how to work around such precautions.
In particular, there has been an uptick in new account fraud as a result of these sorts of protections. New account fraud occurs when a thief opens an account using a victim’s name and personal information. Such fraud can be more difficult to detect and stop.
We are all at risk of identity theft. But there are excellent protection services and most companies have plans for less than $10 per month. It’s a small price to pay to protect yourself from this modern threat.
Identity theft may be a fact of modern life, but it does not have to ruin your credit, your finances, or even your day. You can protect yourself from identity theft and its aftermath. Here is what you need to know about staying safe from identity theft.
Identity Theft Protection Services
There are several programs available to help protect them from identity theft and help them clean up the aftermath of a security breach. Here are five of the major players and what they offer:
Identity Guard® was a founding member in the creation of the identity theft protection industry and has remained at the forefront. With their deeply rooted experience and a partnership with IBM® Watson™ Artificial Intelligence (A.I.,) Identity Guard® offers identity theft protection for individuals, families, and businesses.
For individual customers wanting A.I. continuous scanning, quick alerts, and easy recovery, there are three pricing tiers to choose from:
Value: $7.50 per month for an individual when billed annually, $12.50 per month (family)
- Dark Web Monitoring
- Risk Management Report
- Safe Browsing Tools
- Anti-Phishing Mobile App
Total: $16.57 per month for an individual when billed annually, $25.00 per month (family)–Customers will receive everything included in Value tier, plus:
- Monthly Credit Score*
- Address Monitoring
- 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring
Premier: $20.83 per month for an individual when billed annually, $29.17 per month (family)–Customers will receive everything included in Value and Total tiers, plus:
- Credit Score and Report
- Social Insight Report
All plans offer comprehensive identity protection and the latest in online protection. The Premier plan is recommended for those wanting more credit information.
Identity Guard processes millions of pieces of data, helping to protect your financial information, personal data, computer, privacy, and more. In the event of a theft, you won’t be left to pick up the pieces. Customers receive a personal case manager that will follow you from beginning to end and are covered by their $1 million insurance policy** with stolen fund reimbursement.
* The score you receive with Identity Guard is provided for educational purposes to help you understand your credit. It is calculated using the information contained in your TransUnion credit file. Lenders use many different credit scoring systems, and the score you receive with Identity Guard is not the same score used by lenders to evaluate your credit.
** Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group‚ Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms‚ conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms‚ conditions‚ and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.
IdentityWorks is available in two pricing tiers: Plus and Premium.
For $99 per year, consumers who choose IdentityWorks Plus will receive:
- daily access and monitoring of their Experian Credit Report and FICO Scores
- exclusive control over who sees their Experian Credit Report
- added security of online identity monitoring
- personalized fraud resolution services
- identity theft insurance to protect their valuable personal data
- up to $500,000 in identity theft insurance
If you feel the need for more comprehensive identity protection they can sign up for IdentityWorks Premium, for $199 per year. Customers will receive the same benefits you receive with Plus and:
- 3-Bureau credit monitoring and alerts
- comprehensive identity theft monitoring that detects and alerts you to threats to your identity
- personalized identity restoration services
- up to $1M identity theft insurance
Both IdentityWorks Plus and Premium allow a user to instantly lock or unlock their Experian credit file, with the click of a mouse or the tap of a mobile icon. This can help your peace of mind if there is suspicious activity.
Both tiers have monthly and annual membership options. IdentityWorks Plus also has a completely FREE 30-day trial, and the annual membership options are heavily discounted. Plus costs $9.99 per month after the 30-day free trial, and Premium costs 19.99 per month after the trial.
See our full review of IdentityWorks.
With detection, LifeLock monitors over a trillion data points on a daily basis to help pinpoint any suspicious usage of your identity to get loans, credit, or services in your name.
The company then uses its patented LifeLock Identity Alert system to notify you of the usage of your information via text, phone call, or email. You will either verify the transaction as legitimate or flag it as fraudulent.
Finally, if your information has been compromised, LifeLock will help you restore your identity. You have access to U.S.-based Identity Protection Agents and Restoration Specialists 24/7 to help you recover your identity. The company offers a $1 million guarantee. If you become a victim of identity theft, LifeLock will spend up to $1 million to hire experts to help your recovery.
LifeLock offers three coverage tiers.
Standard membership costs $8.99 per month in the first year. It offers the three layers of protection above, as well as a $25,000 stolen funds reimbursement amount.
Advantage membership costs $17.99 per month in the first year. It includes $100,000 stolen funds reimbursement. And LifeLock will monitor bank and credit card activity alerts, as well as alerts on crimes in your name.
Ultimate plus membership costs $26.99 per month in the first year. It offers $1 million in stolen funds reimbursement and includes all three credit institution reports. Additional online monitoring of investments and credit inquiry alerts is also available.
One major downside to LifeLock is that it does not offer any family plans. So if you have multiple family members under one roof that you would like to sign up, you will have to pay a separate monthly fee for each one.
Zander Insurance Identity Theft Protection
Promoted by Dave Ramsey, the Identity Theft Protection from Zander Insurance offers one of the most comprehensive protection services for consumers worried about fraud. Zander covers financial fraud, Social Security fraud, tax fraud, benefits fraud, employment fraud, medical ID theft, criminal activity, and ID theft of a child.
Specifically, the program will monitor and alert you when your personal information is at risk. You will receive instant notification via email or text alert if your sensitive information is at risk.
The program will also provide you complete and unlimited restoration of your loss should your information become compromised. This means that Certified Identity Theft Specialists are available 24/7/365 to work on restoring your identity and fixing any problems caused by a thief.
Finally, Zander offers customers up to $1 million in reimbursement and stolen funds protection. That reimbursement coverage includes out-of-pocket costs you might incur in the wake of a loss, such as postage, gas mileage, lost wages, and travel expenses.
Zander’s Identity Theft Protection costs $6.75 per month or $75 per year for an individual, and $12.90 per month or $145 per year for a family, which includes you, your spouse and/or your dependents.
Costco Complete ID
This program offers you annual credit reports, monthly credit score updates, internet surveillance of suspicious activity, Social Security and non-credit identity monitoring, payday loan monitoring, full identity restoration, and 24/7 member service support. In addition, Costco Complete ID offers $1 million in identity theft insurance.
If the program detects any suspicious activities, it notifies you and provides you with clear explanations of what you need to do next in order to fight any fraudulent activity.
Costco Complete ID is available to Costco Executive members for $8.99 per month. Executive members may also add child protection to their plan for an additional $2.99 per month. Costco Gold Star members can access Complete ID for $13.99 per month and add child protection for $3.99 per month.
Understanding the Types of Identity Theft
We have a tendency to focus on credit card and banking fraud when we think about identity theft. But thieves are interested in more than just your good credit or your bank account. They will also use other aspects of your identity to profit or protect themselves in many different situations:
- Social Security Fraud: If a thief steals your Social Security number, they can use it to fraudulently obtain various types of benefits in your name. Benefits such as disability, worker’s compensation, or health benefits. In addition, a thief could use your Social Security number to conceal income, file for tax refunds, obtain student loans, or obtain food stamps.
- Medical Identity Theft: Thieves can use your identity to access medical services or products, such as prescription drugs.
- Employment Fraud: An identity thief who is either not a legal U.S. resident or who has a criminal history might use a fake or stolen ID in order to obtain a job under your name. Often, victims of this type of identity theft find out about it when they receive a W-2 from an unknown employer. Or worse, years later when the IRS starts collecting unpaid taxes.
- Criminal Identity Theft: Someone holding your identification could commit a crime using your name. If the crime is not serious enough to warrant the police jailing and fingerprinting the thief, then you may receive a notice to appear in court for violations you are not responsible for.
- Financial Identity Theft: This is the kind of identity theft and fraud we think of most often. This occurs when a thief either uses your existing accounts or opens a new account under your name.
DIY Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft protection programs offer peace of mind, as well as the services of experts who can help you recover in the event of identity theft. However, much of what these programs do are things you can do on your own. Specifically, the Federal Trade Commission suggests that consumers protect themselves by doing the following:
- Increase your online identity protections by using a service like privacy.com. Its payments product keeps your personal information private, while being even more convenient than using a regular credit card online.
- Monitor your credit reports. You can get a free credit report once per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. If you want to space out your monitoring, you can plan on getting one report every four months.
- Review your financial statements at least once a month. You will see fraudulent activity before it can hit your credit report.
- Review the explanation of benefits statements that you receive from your health insurer to make sure that no one received treatments in your name.
- You may place a credit freeze on your credit with the three credit bureaus, which means you will have to “thaw” your credit any time you need to use it.
- If you believe your identity has been compromised or is at risk of being compromised, you can place a free 90-day fraud alert on your credit report. This will tell potential creditors and lenders to contact you directly and verify your identity before opening any new accounts in your name. Such fraud alerts can be renewed after the 90 days have elapsed, and you may remove it at any time.
It’s also important to realize that the federal government offers resources for victims of identity theft. IdentityTheft.gov provides consumers with personal and interactive recovery plans. These plans will walk you through each necessary step. It will generate the pre-filled letters, affidavits, and forms you will need to send to the various companies and agencies to clear your name. It will also provide you with advice on what to do if you’re affected by specific breaches of data.
Protect Your Identity and Rest Easy
Identity theft can cause major headaches for any victim, so it’s smart to protect yourself before you’re faced with compromised data. Whether you use an identity protection program or simply take intelligent precautions on your own, keeping an eye on your data is a necessary part of being financially responsible in the 21st century.
*Identity Theft Insurance is underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group‚ Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms‚ conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms‚ conditions‚ and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.