Identity Theft Services: How to Choose the Best Service
With more than 15 million cases a year, identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the world.
Statistics show that in the U.S. alone, 7 percent of all adults have had their identity misused, with each instance resulting in an average loss of $3,500.
As criminals' sophistication increases, it is becoming essential to protect against identity theft. While there are many things consumers can do to ensure their identity isn't being exploited, such as regular credit report checks, there are also services that do all the work for you.
What Are Identity Theft Services?
Professional services have quickly become an important tool for consumers wanting to ensure their identity is safe and secure. Identity theft services are designed to warn you when you personal information is being used for things such as payday loans, auto loans, mortgage loans, check orders, utilities, retail credit, wireless services and credit cards.
A report from the Consumer Federation of America found that identity theft services offer a wide range of offerings.
"Some monitor credit reports and alert consumers to activities such as new accounts opened in their names," the report stated. "Some monitor customers' personal information more broadly, in addition to or instead of monitoring credit reports – for instance, information in commercial and public databases, and in online chat rooms."
The report noted that some services also offer the ability to search "underground" websites that identity thieves use to trade stolen information.
In addition to protecting against identity theft, the services provide recovery help should the worst happen. They have the tools necessary to help recover the losses, and will walk consumers through each step of the process, including filing the necessary reports, notifying creditors and disputing any unauthorized transaction.
Choosing the Best Identity Theft Service
When searching for an identity theft service, there are a number of considerations.
First and foremost is the type of protection offered. Consumers want to make sure the identity theft service has the most up-to-date technology and practices and is able to place fraud alerts, conduct fraud monitoring and place credit freezes when necessary.
Consumers should also take into account the type of recovery assistance that is available. While everyone hopes it never happens, sometimes all of the security available can't protect you from a nefarious criminal. The identity theft service should help consumers reclaim their identity, clean up any damage caused by the incident and recover any losses.
The Consumer Federation of America's ID Theft Service Best Practice Working Group, which includes identity theft service providers and consumer advocates, recently put together a list of things to check for when shopping for identity theft services. They include:
- Do the claims on the identity theft service's website or in its advertisements make you think that the service will completely protect you against identity theft? If the answer is yes, stay away. No one can absolutely protect your personal information from being stolen or fraudulently used, and identity theft service providers that follow good practices won't imply that they can.
- If the service offers to monitor your personal information and alert you if someone may be fraudulently using it, is it clear what it monitors? Identity theft service providers that follow good practices will make it easy to find information on their websites and through their customer service representatives about which of the three major credit bureaus, if any, they monitor and whether they check other places such as commercial databases, public records and the Internet for clues that a customer might be a victim.
- Does the identity theft service use scare tactics to try to get you to enroll? Identity theft service providers that follow good practices won’t exaggerate the likelihood of becoming a victim or the harm that identity theft causes.
Other things to consider are the extra features available, such as removing your name from mailing lists, the ability to keep your information private and secure and the type of customer service.
Top Identity Theft Services
One of the most trusted identity theft services is LifeLock. The LifeLock Identity Alert System automatically sends consumers notifications whenever it detects that their personal information is being used in a financial situation, such as applying for a credit card or car loan. In addition, its Command Center plan has a specific payday loan alert and report system that will notify consumers of any payday loan activity with their Social Security number, date of birth and name.
LifeLock has another feature that browses address databases across the nation to find any new information associated with the customer, as well as a children’s service to address the problem of kids getting their identities stolen. Should a LifeLock customer have their identity stolen, the company will spend up to $1 million to hire trained experts in recovering their identity under its total service guarantee.
Another popular option is Identity Force. Preferred by several government agencies, including the FAA and the Department of Homeland Security, the service uses industrial-strength identity protection, including the ID Analytics engine, to power its search for potentially stolen information. It provides customers with a unique ID health score, similar to a credit score, making it simple to understand the health of their identity.
Identity Force offers ID theft insurance of $1 million. Even if a customer's identity is stolen and it is not the fault of Identity Force's service, the company will still cover damages of up to $1 million.
ProtectMyID is another reputable identity theft service. Their service has the ability to keep a consistent eye on sensitive information, quickly resolve any instances of identity theft and guarantee reimbursement of lost wages, legal fees and stolen funds. In addition, the service offers a number of extra features, including being able to know if and when someone tries to redirect a customer's mail to a different address.
Other top service include IDENTITY GUARD, which offers stolen wallet theft recovery assistance; Trusted ID, which offers a combination of features for preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft; and Identity Truth, which protects not only a customer's name, social security number and credit card numbers, but also any public records to which they are tied.