The Best Identity Theft Protection Services
Proactive identity protection doesn’t exist: There’s no way to actually prevent your identity from being stolen. What the best identity theft protection services can do is ceaselessly monitor your credit and personal info, then exercise power of attorney to help restore your identity in the event it’s stolen. We signed up for a bunch of accounts and read their fine print to see which services perform best
How We Chose the Best Identity Theft Protection Services
Credit reports from all three bureaus
Credit reports are crucial to your financial reputation — they’re what lenders use to decide whether to offer you a loan. They’re also how many people first learn they’ve been scammed. There are three major credit-reporting agencies. Each uses a slightly different method to compile data for its credit reports, so it’s important to keep an eye on all. Details that show up in one agency’s report (a bogus account, debt collection, or legal judgment) might not show up in another. ID theft protection services that offer continuous, “real time” monitoring of all three credit bureaus give you the best odds of early fraud detection.
Services that monitor how your personal info is being used online
Not all types of fraud appear on your credit reports. If someone has access to your Social Security or driver’s license numbers, your bank details, or your medical insurance ID, they can steal from your existing accounts by masquerading as you — meaning there will be nothing to report to the bureaus. (A payday loan, for example, requires no credit check and will only appear on your credit reports after it goes to collection.) Good identity theft protection services go beyond credit reports, scanning online databases for your personal info and alerting you of active risk. We required companies monitor each of the following categories:
- Court records
- Payday loan sites
- “Black market” sites where thieves buy and sell identifying details
- The National Change of Address Database
Alerts via text, email, phone call
If your credit or identity monitoring service spots something fishy, how do they let you know? We eliminated providers that didn’t offer both email and text notifications, along with 24/7 phone availability. If we received an alert and had questions about what it means, we would want to know that we could quickly get ahold of a customer service rep to explain the issue and walk us through next steps. Credit protection services are only as good as their ability to communicate and act.
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Legal support toward reclaiming your identity
In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission estimated the average identity theft victim spent more than 200 hours across 18 months resolving their issues with credit-reporting agencies. Any ID protection service worth paying for can do the work of contacting creditors, employers, and law enforcement agencies on your behalf. This requires temporary power of attorney.