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There are many ways you can be a victim of identity theft, whether it’s a stolen social security number or your credit card information. And it can be a big headache to resolve — especially if you don’t discover the theft until weeks or months later.
Signing up for an identity theft protection service can help you spot potential fraud early and assist you in restoring your identity. Most of these services also come with insurance, which helps you recoup expenses associated with resolving identity theft.
While identity theft services can alert you if your personal information appears on the dark web or is misused, it’s important to understand that these services can’t prevent fraud from happening. You’ll need to be proactive and safeguard your personal information to reduce your exposure to identity theft.
Below, Select reviews the top identity theft services that can alert you of potential breaches to your personal information. (See our methodology for more information on how we chose the best services.)
Best identity theft services
Identity theft services FAQs
On Identity Force’s secure site
For a limited time, 40% off all plans – offer ends 8/9. UltraSecure+Credit Individual starts at $139.90/yr and UltraSecure+Credit Family at $209/yr. Click “Learn More” for details.
Identity theft insurance
Yes, $1 million for all plans
The UltraSecure+Credit monitors your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit reports; UltraSecure doesn’t offer credit monitoring.
See our methodology, terms apply. To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website or call 855-979-1118.
Information about the PrivacyGuard® plans have been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the company prior to publication.
$9.99 to $24.99 per month
Identity theft insurance
Up to $1 million for Identity Protection and Total Protection plans; none for Credit Protection plan
Total Protection and Credit Protection plans both monitor your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit reports; Identity Protection doesn’t offer credit monitoring.
Best for credit monitoring
On Experian’s secure site
$9.99 to $29.99 per month
Identity theft insurance
Up to $500,000 for Plus plan and up to $1 million for Premium plan*
Premium plan monitors your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit reports; the Plus plan only monitors Experian.
Best for identity theft insurance
On Identity Guard’s secure site
$7.20 to $23.99 per month
Identity theft insurance
The Total and Ultra plans monitor your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit reports; the Value plan doesn’t offer credit monitoring.
Best for computer and device protection
On LifeLock’s secure site
$8.99 to $34.99 per month
Identity theft insurance
Up to $1 million for lawyers and experts; up to $25,000 to $1 million each for stolen funds reimbursement and personal expense compensation
The Ultimate Plus plan monitors your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit reports; The Standard and Advantage plans monitor Equifax or TransUnion.
What do identity theft protection services do?
Identity theft protection services monitor various websites and databases for signs of your personal information, such as your social security, driver’s license, medical ID and bank account numbers. If your information appears on the dark web or someplace else it shouldn’t, these services will send you an alert.
Where these identity theft protection services check for your sensitive information differs between plans but generally includes:
- Dark web
- Social media
- USPS address change requests
- Court or arrest records
- Orders for new utility, cable, or wireless services
- Payday loan applications
- Check cashing requests
The higher cost identity theft insurance plans typically have more coverage than lower costs options. For instance, the Standard LifeLock® plan lacks some alerts, like bank account and credit card activity, that’s offered with the more expensive Advantage and Ultimate Plus plans.
If your identity is compromised, these services will help you restore it through a team of lawyers and experts. Plus all of the services mentioned above provide identity theft insurance on at least one of their plans, which can help you offset the cost of legal fees and sometimes stolen funds and lost wages. This insurance is one of the best perks of an identity theft protection service.
If the main reason you want to sign up for one of these services is for insurance, consider Identity Guard, which offers insurance on all of its plans and has the lowest cost option ($7.20 per month).
Identity theft protection vs. credit monitoring services
Identity theft protection services alert you when your personal information is being used in a wide range of fraudulent activities — whether that’s someone using your medical ID number to file a claim or your driver’s license appearing on the web. Credit monitoring service usually don’t look for these kind of actions, primarily because they don’t appear on your credit report.
Credit monitoring services do just what the name says — monitor your credit. They track the credit history shown on your credit report(s), then alert you of changes via email, text or phone. Granted, you can do this on your own, but these services provide an automated and faster way to track changes to your credit file in real-time.
The exact activity a credit monitoring service reviews varies, but it typically includes the following:
- Hard inquiries on your credit report, such as someone applying for credit in your name
- New accounts opened in your name
- Balances and payments on your credit products
- New address or name changes to your credit file
- Public records, such as bankruptcies
- Personal information on the dark web, such as your social security number, email address and passwords
Many services like IdentityForce®, PrivacyGuard
Check out our roundup of the best credit monitoring services, which includes two free options.
Can identity theft protection services prevent fraud?
No, an identity theft protection service won’t prevent fraud, but it can help you spot it early. While someone stealing your identity is never ideal, it’s even worse if you don’t realize it right away. Thankfully, these services can help you notice it quickly and take action before the damage gets worse.
Here are several things identity theft protection services don’t do:
- Prevent your personal information from appearing on the dark web or other resources
- Keep your information safe from data breaches
- Stop someone from applying for credit and opening new accounts in your name
- Prevent your bank account and credit card information from being stolen
- Tell you if someone withdraws money from your bank account
- Warn you if someone files a tax return in your name and collects your refund
- Prevent the selling of your personal information or use of it
How to prevent identity theft
Since identity theft protection services don’t prevent identity theft from happening, you’ll need to be proactive to protect your personal information from fraudsters. There are actions you can take to minimize your exposure to identity theft, but remember that some things, like data breaches, are out of your control.
Here are some tips to safeguard your information:
- Freeze your credit reports: If you want to ensure that your credit file is inaccessible to fraudsters and new accounts can’t be opened in your name, freeze your credit reports with each credit bureau. While identity theft protection services charge a fee for monitoring your information, freezing your credit is free.
- Monitor your credit: Even if you freeze your credit, you should still regularly check your credit reports. You can receive free weekly copies of your credit report from each of the three bureaus through April 2021. In addition, check your credit score and credit card accounts frequently for any unexpected information or transactions. If you notice anything out of sorts, dispute errors immediately.
- Be wary of advertisements, emails and spam phone calls: You may receive what seems like a great deal or a limited-time offer that require you to act fast, but you should verify they’re legitimate before clicking or sharing any personal information. If you don’t know the company or sender of an email or who’s calling on the phone, that can be a red flag. Look up the information online and make sure you only go to sites that are “https” — with the “s” representing secure.
- Secure your information: Make sure any personal information isn’t accessible to strangers. Consider storing passwords in a secure app like LastPass or 1Password versus writing them on a piece of paper. Also keep physical documents, such as your social security card and birth certificate, out of sight in a safe. Don’t carry these with you since there’s really no need to and it can make it easier for someone to steal your information.
To determine which identity theft protection services offer the most benefits to consumers, Select analyzed and compared over a dozen services that offer a variety of plans.
When ranking the best identity theft protection services, we focused on the following features:
- Cost: Typically, these services bill monthly but some have deals where you can pay annually.
- Identity theft insurance: We considered whether the services offered identity theft insurance and looked at the amount you’re covered up to. We found that the best services offer up to $1 million for eligible expenses associated with resolving and restoring your identity.
- Wide variety of identity monitoring: The more platforms the service checks for breaches to your personal information, the better.
- Credit monitoring: We ranked services that monitor your credit reports higher than those they don’t. The best plans offer triple-bureau monitoring.
- Family plans: If you can enroll your family members, that’s an added plus.
- Mobile app: The ability to access services from a smartphone was crucial.
Keep in mind that identity theft protection services can only alert you of breaches to your personal information, not prevent any fraud.
To learn more about IdentityForce®, visit their website or call 855-979-1118.
Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.