If you’re worried about identity theft, you may have considered signing up for protection services. Before you enroll, it’s important to weigh the costs and benefits of various types of services.
Do you need identity theft protection services?
Protection companies pledge to act as guardians of your personal information, for a monthly or annual fee. Generally, they start with credit monitoring and layer on additional services so they can alert you to potential problems. However, alerts flag you after the fact; they don’t prevent someone from stealing and misusing your information.
Consider paying for an identity theft protection service only if:
- You’re already a victim of identity theft or at high risk of it; for instance, if your Social Security number has already been disclosed in a data breach or you’ve lost your Social Security card.
- You don’t want to freeze your credit reports.
- You know you won’t go through the effort of actively monitoring your own credit.
Many basic services are free:
You can perform the basic services offered by these companies yourself, often with help from free software:
With SeaWest’s Credit Sense, you can track your credit scoreandkeep an eye on changes to your credit reports. Credit Sense is completely free and never shares your personal information with third parties.
You can also report identity theft and follow free recovery paths outlined by the federal government at IdentityTheft.gov.
What identity theft protection companies do:
Identity theft protection companies offer three main services:
- Monitoring: Identity theft protection firms monitor your credit files and alert you about activity, such as new accounts opened in your name and credit inquiries received, so you can react quickly.
- Alerts: These notify you of instances where your personal information has been used, e.g., someone tries to open a bank account or purchase something in your name. Many people don’t realize identity theft has happened until it’s too late.
- Recovery: If someone hacks your information and uses it maliciously, these companies can help you recover lost money and help undo the damage to your credit. Most offer insurance policies of up to $1 million.
Compare identity theft protection services
You may decide you want a full suite of safeguards and don’t mind paying for peace of mind.
If so, compare prices and coverage details to find a plan that fits. Make sure the product you choose monitors credit data at all three credit bureaus. Otherwise, you would be paying for incomplete protection.
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