These Are 5 of the Best Services for Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft is an increasingly common concern for consumers worldwide. The FTC received more than 5.7 million reports of identity theft in 2022, and experts suggest instances of identity theft occur every 22 seconds.
While there are several precautionary measures individuals can take to protect their sensitive information, there's no guarantee that they won't be victims of identity theft and fraud.
Not only is it alarming and a major breach of privacy to have personal information stolen, but identity theft can also result in major financial loss, and plenty of anxiety and loss of time trying to correct the situation. In 2022 fraud victims suffered a median loss of $500, and the combined fraud loss for American consumers was nearly $6 billion.
Individuals can mitigate their risk of identity theft by restricting the amount of personal information they share online, using strong passwords, avoiding public Wi-Fi, and regularly checking their credit reports. However, since all of us have lots of our personal data out in the cloud these days, and since many entities that we interact with ( doctors’ offices/dentists/schools/motor vehicle agencies/other government agencies/employers/etc. etc. ) are out of our control, it is a mistake to think that any one of us can actually “prevent” identity theft. If a government agency, or hospital or large hotel or retailer suffers a breach, we cannot control that, and can and will therefore easily become one of the victims. When I did the research for my 2016 book
“What’s the Deal With Identity Theft” I discovered three important things—first, that there are over 100 “ID protection” plans on the market today ( most of which are worthless) and secondly, that there are really 6 major types of ID theft—Credit or financial/driver’s license/medical/Social Security Number/child ID theft/character or criminal ID theft—and thirdly, that the most important component in an ID Theft protection plan is RESTORATION.
Since it is not possible for any of us to truly protect against or prevent ID theft, the key really becomes the need to be restored, ideally to pre-breach status, as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there are very few services that even focus on this critical component, and of those that mention it, only one actually does the heavy lifting involved on that process for you.
By far and away, the top service in the identity theft protection arena is ID Shield, which is offered by parent company Legal Shield, headquartered in Oklahoma. In addition to three credit bureau monitoring, and other features that most good plans include, the 45 year old ID Shield plan is unique for its focus on restoration services provided by global security leader Kroll Inc. In the event of a breach, the ID Shield member calls a toll free number at any time to reach a Kroll licensed investigator. The member signs a limited power of attorney for the Kroll investigator and then the Kroll rep does the actual heavy lifting work involved, and guarantees to retore the victim to pre-breach status.
The individual plan is $19.95 per month, while the family plan, which includes protection for two adults and up to 10 children, is $34.95 per month. In addition to monitoring credit and bank accounts, it tracks and notifies users of data breaches on social media accounts, including LinkedIn and Facebook. Other key features include cyberbullying alerts and individual privacy consultations.
The following additional identity theft protection and recovery services can also provide protection and help consumers recover losses.
Aura All-in-One ID Theft Protection
Named the best overall identity theft service by Forbes, Aura All-in-One ID Theft Protection is cost-effective and offers more features than most of its competitors. Plans range from $9 to $25 per month with different options for individuals, couples, and families. The family plan, which includes features such as safe gaming with cyberbullying notifications and online parental controls, provides protection for five adults and an unlimited number of children. Other key features include VPN, safe browsing, and antivirus. Forbes misses the most important component of the ID theft protection process however, which is restoration. Unlike the excellent Kroll-linked restoration process that comes with ID Shield, Aura only offers a “team that helps you navigate” the process.
Aura All-in-One ID Theft Protection also regularly monitors the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax). However, these can only be accessed once per year and users can only lock credit files with Experian.
IdentityForce Ultra Secure+Credit
Forbes named IdentityForce Ultra Secure+Credit the best service for credit monitoring, while Tom's Guide, a popular technology blog, named it the best overall service. Identity Force offers “fully managed restoration” help, which while helpful, is by no means the same as having a professional investigator for Kroll, Inc. ( as found in the Legal Shield plan) do the often complicated restoration work on your behalf. As a brand of TransUnion, IdentityForce provides thorough credit protection services in addition to three-bureau credit monitoring. It also has a credit score simulator that allows users to see how their credit score is affected by different financial choices.
While the individual plan is a little more expensive than many competing services, the family plan, available for $36 per month, offers unlimited protection for children under 18. It also offers quarterly credit scores and reports and up to $1 million in identity theft coverage. Some of its other key features include a one-click credit freeze button, unlimited VPN, and alerts for when registered sex offenders relocate to your neighborhood. Moreover, IdentityForce scans cybercrime message boards and court records for mentions of users' names and Social Security numbers.
LifeLock Ultimate Plus
Norton 360's LifeLock Ultimate Plus is a little pricier than the aforementioned services, with plans ranging from $29.99 to $48.99 per month. However, Forbes named it the best for family protection. Its family plan stands out from others as it includes identity theft insurance for both adults and children. In addition to the $1 million base coverage, LifeLock Ultimate Plus offers personal expense compensation and stolen funds reimbursement.
Lifelock unfortunately has a long history of not delivering on their promises and being deceptive with customers and the public. Back in 2010 Lifelock paid $12 million to settle charges about false claims with 35 state attorneys general. About 5 ½ years later they paid another $100 million to consumers for violating the FTC’s 2010 order regarding deceptive advertising! The FTC Chairman, Jon Liebowitz, said, “While Lifelock promised consumers complete protection against all types of identity theft, in truth, the protection it actually provided left enough holes that you could drive a truck through it”.
Notably, the Lifelock CEO had his own identity stolen 13 times, according to a May of 2010 article in Wired. We advise everyone to steer clear of Lifelock.
ID Watchdog Premium
ID Watchdog Premium offers many of the same protections as the aforementioned services as well as $1 million in stolen funds reimbursement for health savings accounts, 401(k)s, and other retirement accounts. This is a particularly important benefit for individuals nearing retirement who perhaps have more of their money stored in these accounts than savings and checking accounts. ID Watchdog is an Equifax brand, so it also excels in credit monitoring with features such as multi-bureau credit report locking. Like IdentityForce, ID Watchdog Premium offers “fully managed resolution support”, which is by no means the same as having the work done FOR you by a licensed professional investigator such as is available with the ID Shield program.
Plans range from $21.95 to $34.95 and identity theft insurance maxes out at $1 million. Family plans feature Equifax Child Credit Lock. ID Watchdog Premium, however, does not include antivirus software and only provides credit reports from each of the three bureaus annually.