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By Ruben Ramos
Updated: August 3, 2020 3:37 PM ET | Originally published: May 28, 2020
Money; Getty Images

In 2018, some 450 thousand identity theft complaints were reported, accounting for $488 million in losses. In the evolving digital landscape, it seems like our identity is up for grabs. Identity theft protection services can help reduce the risk of theft or fraud and provide immediate assistance in the event that your information is compromised. Our guide will help you choose the service that best fits you. It is, quite literally, you who’s at stake.

What Do Identity Theft Protection Services Offer?

Identity theft protection services offer monitoring and recovery services for your personal information. These services scan the web for signs of unauthorized activity and help you recover your identity. Regardless of how much or how little you use the internet, you may be at risk for identity theft.

Of course, there are some best security practices that can improve your odds. You can keep personal documents locked away, subscribe to a password manager, and set up two-factor authentication on your personal devices. But, even if you’re taking all the necessary precautionary measures, a data breach can still occur.

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A good identity theft service actively monitors all your accounts and personal information and alerts you as soon as it encounters any unusual activity. When there’s a security breach, time is of the essence. It can mean the difference between a few minutes to secure your accounts, or lasting personal and financial damages.

Important Things to Know about Identity Theft Protection Services

  • Regular data surveillance is a preferred practice. Services that constantly monitor your information give you a better chance to stop a breach in a timely manner.
  • Select companies that are transparent about their identity restoration process, including their policies on reimbursement of stolen funds and legal expenses.
  • Whenever possible, choose a service that monitors your information for activities on all three major credit bureaus.

How To Find the Best Identity Theft Protection Service

Identity theft protection services can’t actually defend you from identity theft. What they do is track, alert, and ultimately assist you in the recovery process. Their real value comes from the ability to monitor your information against unauthorized changes, dark web activity, and known breaches. Identity theft protection provides alerts so you can take timely action and swiftly secure your accounts, while also receiving expert assistance to restore and secure your identity if you are breached.

For the Best Identity Theft Protection programs, here are our reviews:

  • Identity Guard® Identity Theft Protection — Best for Fast Alerts
  • ReliaShield Identity Theft Protection — Best Value
  • LifeLock Identity Theft Protection — Best Features
  • IDShield Identity Theft Protection — Best for Restoration

Best Identity Theft Protection Company Reviews

Identity Guard Review – Best for Fast Alerts

Identity Guard receives high praise from customers for sending them timely alerts of potentially suspicious activity—at times just seconds after a breach. Identity Guard has partnered with IBM and is now implementing advanced monitoring through IBM® Watson™ artificial intelligence. The service’s data and security practices are recognized by the Online Trust Alliance, an initiative of the Internet Society, a not-for-profit organization promoting security best practices for internet privacy.

The company’s services include an online identity dashboard from which you can manage a robust set of features that includes secure browsing extension, high-risk transactions, personal threats, and even an anti-phishing app that alerts you of any detected personal information on the dark web. In the case of identity breaches, the restoration process will be handled by a dedicated case manager.

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Plans are available in three tiers: Value, Total, and Premier. Prices are lower if you choose a one-time annual payment over a monthly billed option. For individuals, plans cost $6.67/mo, $13.33/mo, and $19.99, if billed annually. Month to month costs are $7.20, $15.99, and $23.99. For families, plans cost $10.00, $19.99, and $26.67, if billed annually. Month to month prices are $11.99, $23.99, and $31.99.

ReliaShield Review- Best Value

Out of all the services we examined, ReliaShield stands out as our best value identity theft protection service for both their competitive prices and wide range of features. The service also gets high marks on transparency for offering detailed information on its master agreement, privacy policy, and insurance policy, including its $1 Million Stolen Funds and Expense Reimbursement coverage.

Out of the services that comply with our criteria, the company’s ReliaShield Elite plan offers the best value for three-bureau monitoring. The plan features a comprehensive list of services, including personal information monitoring, change of address, dark web monitoring, data breach updates, wallet protection, court records monitoring, social media monitoring, and bank and credit card account application alerts, just to name a few.

ReliaShield offers plans in three tiers for both individuals and families: Essential, Prime, and Elite. For individuals prices are $7.99/mo ($87.99 yearly), $14.99/mo ($164.99 yearly), and $21.99/mo ($241.89 yearly). For families prices are $14.99/mo ($164.89 yearly), $24.99/mo ($274.89 yearly), and $34.99 ($384.89). All of ReliaShield’s family plans for two adults also offer free protection for all children under 18.

NortonLifeLock Review- Best Features

Since LifeLock’s integration into the Norton family of computer security products, the company has steadily increased the features offered. LifeLock’s Standard plan offers Social Security number and credit alerts, stolen wallet protection, USPS address change verification, dark web monitoring, a privacy monitor, one-bureau credit monitoring, and data breach notifications. On high-cost plans, LifeLock offers substantial added value based on the extra features.

LifeLock only offers individual plans. Service plans offer three tiers of coverage: Standard, Advantage, and Ultimate Plus for $8.99, $17.99, and $26.99. Payment is on a month to month basis and requires an annual subscription. It’s important to note that prices go up after the first year in the way of $11.99, $22.99, and $34.99. Children can be covered separately on a LifeLock Junior plan for $5.99/mo or $65.99 annually.

On the Ultimate, the company’s most expensive plan (going for $26.99/mo for the first year and $34.99/mo after) the service includes three-credit bureau monitoring, credit and bank account activity alerts, file-sharing network searches, and 401(k) and investment alerts. Not only this, but it also offers unique features such as home title monitoring, checking for fictitious identities based on yours, and searching for crimes committed using your identity.

Additionally, this plan gives you 500 GB of PC Cloud Backup, unlimited secure VPNs for use on all your devices, and comes with a 100% Virus Protection Promise. All of LifeLock’s plans also offer a protection package with compensation for stolen funds and personal expenses starting from $25,000 on the Standard plan and going all the way up to $1 million on the Ultimate plan. All of these include coverage for expenses related to hiring lawyers and experts, which the policy covers for up to $1 million on all plans.

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IDShield Review- Best for Restoration

Most identity theft protection services advise consumers on how to fix issues after they receive an alert. Rather than functioning as a preventative identity theft protection services, they work mostly towards monitoring and recovery. This is where IDShield shines. The company’s identity restoration service employs private investigators to scrutinize and resolve outstanding issues.

To this end, affected parties need to grant the company a limited power of attorney so it can go to work on the consumer’s behalf. IDShield also offers unlimited consulting and access to licensed PIs for concerns regarding identity theft or fraud. Finally, the service helps reduce unsolicited offers and assists in getting your personal information deleted from databases.

IDShield offers 24/7 credit monitoring, dark web surveillance, credit report disputes, financial account monitoring, personal information monitoring, and court records monitoring. Plan prices are separated into two tiers based on your preference for 1-Bureau or 3-Bureau monitoring. Monthly costs for individual plans are $13.95 and $17.95. Family plans cost $26.95 and $32.95. All plans include a 30 day free trial.

How to Find the Best Identity Theft Protection

The 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy and Research showed that in 2018, 14.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft. There’s only so much we can do to protect ourselves against fraud. Your best bet against identity theft is to constantly keep track of your personal information, and how it moves through the internet. When looking for the best identity theft protection, look for:

Monitoring

When we considered the services offered by each company, we gave preference to those with thorough monitoring, which included bank and credit accounts, 24/7 dark web surveillance, regular checking against known breaches and hacks, and daily credit checks. We also favored companies with proven results in informing any ID concerns as fast as possible.

Restoration

Experiencing identity theft leaves financial scars that can take a long time to recover. If a breach is not dealt with promptly, you might not know the extent of the damage until it’s too late. For this reason, we favored services that expedite communication with the corresponding authorities and guide consumers through the process of securing and retrieving their ID. We also preferred companies that clearly outline what they offer and to what extent.

Features

There are literally dozens of entry points a hacker can exploit to gain access to your accounts. We looked for services that regularly monitor for breaches and provide a variety of alerts to reduce any unattended vulnerabilities. The best services are those that offer more than just basic features, but also include surveillance of the dark web and personal information, as well as three-bureau credit monitoring. Only services offering extensive and useful features made it onto our list.

Common Identity Theft Strategies

Even though identity theft has spread exponentially in the digital age, the theft tricks of old are still very much alive. The very best practice, in this case, is to not respond to any information requests for activities you haven’t initiated. Don’t give out or confirm your personally identifiable information and be sure to report any fraudulent activity to the authorities.

Physical document theft is also still very common. Leaving a social security card unattended or losing your wallet are easy ways to expose yourself, so whenever possible, try not to carry all of your credit cards with you at once. Once you’re done with any documents containing identifying information, including correspondence, statements, and utility bills, make sure to dispose of these by shredding them.

Phishing

One of the most common tactics exploited by identity thieves is for you to directly provide them with your information through phishing scams, in which they send emails in the hopes of having you click on the links they’ve forwarded. These links then redirect you to web forms that request that you enter personally identifiable information. Once it’s completed, they have you. Some tell-tale signs that an email is fake are subject lines stressing urgency or negative consequences if you fail to respond.

Fraudsters use coercive language to convey a sense of false urgency in the hopes that you’ll react quickly, without thinking and first assessing what kind of request is being made. Even when an email might look official, stop, and evaluate the information that’s being requested of you. Authentic communications from financial and governmental authorities will never ask you to provide a full social security number or credit card and bank account information. For those who are more tech-savvy, a quick look at the email’s metadata can help you check who originated the request.

Formjacking

More complex scams involve online shopping scams and formjacking. When making payments online, always confirm that the website you’re trusting with your credit card information is secure. Addresses of secure sites will begin with ‘https:’ and include an image of a lock or say “secure,” depending on your browser. If you click on the lock icon, it should tell you if the website’s certificate is valid. That “s” in the URL indicates that it has a security certificate.

Formjacking works similarly to credit card skimming. Fraudsters insert malicious programming over a legitimate website’s forms so they can obtain your information from the site’s billing section. Hackers can even go so far as to collect information on your copy and paste tools to search for any personal information you’ve duplicated for convenience’s sake.

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Summary of the Best Identity Theft Protection

  • ReliaShield Identity Theft Protection Best Value
  • LifeLock Identity Theft Protection Best Features
  • Identity Guard® Identity Theft Protection Best for Fast Alerts
  • IDShield Identity Theft Protection Best for Restoration
Advertiser Disclosure

The purpose of this disclosure is to explain how we make money without charging you for our content.

Our mission is to help people at any stage of life make smart financial decisions through research, reporting, reviews, recommendations, and tools.

Earning your trust is essential to our success, and we believe transparency is critical to creating that trust. To that end, you should know that many or all of the companies featured here are partners who advertise with us.

Our content is free because our partners pay us a referral fee if you click on links or call any of the phone numbers on our site. If you choose to interact with the content on our site, we will likely receive compensation. If you don't, we will not be compensated. Ultimately the choice is yours.

Opinions are our own and our editors and staff writers are instructed to maintain editorial integrity, but compensation along with in-depth research will determine where, how, and in what order they appear on the page.

To find out more about our editorial process and how we make money, click here.

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