Identity Theft Protection Guide
Identity theft may seem scary, but with a few proactive actions, you can protect yourself and your family.
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. But what exactly is identity theft?
Identity theft is when a person steals someone else’s personal information and uses it without their permission for personal gain which is a crime.
Identity theft can strike anyone, anytime, anywhere—even your children. That’s why it’s so important to learn about the different ways’ identity theft can occur so you can proactively guard yourself against the unthinkable.
Why Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft is not something you should wait until it happens before you deal with it. If you do, it will be a lot harder to recover from because it could go on for years before you learn about it. Whereas, having identity theft protection, while it doesn’t completely prevent you from having your identity stolen, will help alert you to it just before, or as it is happening. This will enable you to stop it before it begins, or before it gets too far along.
Identity Theft Facts
There are many types of identity theft; however, social security identity theft is the most common because your social security number is required and used in many facets of your life. And the more your social security number is used, the more chances there are for it to fall into the wrong hands.
For example, company data breaches, dishonest employees, online, the dark web where social security numbers are commonly bought and sold. These are just a few of the ways your social security number could end up on the black market. And social security number theft is just one avenue of identity theft.
Identity Theft Repercussions
The repercussions of identity theft can be devastating, especially if you don’t have identity theft protection. There are so many ways your identity can be stolen and used without your consent. For example, there are account takeovers, stolen funds, medical/health insurance fraud, and tax fraud. Criminals also frequently scrape social media content, then use it to steal your identity which then makes it easy for the perpetrator to appear to be you. Identity theft is also frequently used by stealing your child’s social security number. This is especially devastating and is generally not realized for years. That means someone could steal your child’s social security number and use it undetected for years because a child won’t usually be using their credit until they are older.
Additionally, for someone who has had their identity stolen, it will mean proving you are who you say you are, loads of paperwork, hours of phone calls, time off work, financial difficulties, and emotional stress. And, once you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s not uncommon for you to be audited by the IRS because your social security number will have been flagged.
However, if you have identity theft protection, depending on the plan you choose, most of this will be handled by private investigators and other professionals who will take care of most of the legwork for you.
What Does Identity Theft Protection Cover?
The coverage for identity theft will depend on which company you chose as your identity theft protection provider. Some companies will monitor and assist with everything you could imagine and others might only monitor one or more of your credit reports. That’s why it’s best to learn all you can about the different kinds of identity theft. Doing so will help you choose the one that best suits your needs and budget. Here are some of the most common types of identity theft and what they cover.
Social Security Theft
Social security theft is when someone steals your social security number and uses it without your permission for personal gain and criminal activities.
When you have an identity theft protection service that monitors your social security number, your chosen company will monitor that number in multiple places. For example, your identity theft protection service might monitor the dark web, county records, DMV records, social media sites, online records, and other places for indications that your social security number is being used fraudulently. The service will then contact you for confirmation of whether it was actually you that made the suspicious transaction. If you don’t recognize the activity, the service will work with you to fix your identity and any damage that was done.
Financial Identity Theft
Financial identity theft is another form of identity theft and it occurs when someone uses your personal information to access your bank account or add their name to one of your existing financial accounts, etc. By accessing your financial institution, whether it’s done using a stolen debit card or by other means, that person could drain your bank account, retirement account(s), and even your investments if they are also connected to the compromised account.
This could easily happen because of a data breach, stolen debit card, through a computer virus, computer keystroke logger, etc. Then, the person who has your personal information could take measures to dig up more information about you by browsing the internet, looking at your social media pages for personal information, through phishing emails, and the like. A thief can easily get enough personal information about you using these methods that he/she could figure out the answers to your financial account security questions and even your two-factor authentication answers as well.
If you think about it, most people use factual answers about themselves for their security questions. And the answers to these questions can usually be found online fairly easily. For example, what is the name of your dog/child/favorite food, etc? A thief can then go to your social media pages (which are frequently hacked) and see you with pictures of your dog, talking about your child, pictures and content about the places you’ve eaten and if you took a picture of your meal—they will also know what you ate. Bingo! All the answers he/she needs to complete your financial institution’s security questions and the two-factor authentication questions as well.
The best way to protect yourself from this type of identity theft is to make up fake answers to your security questions. That will ensure you are the only one who will ever know the answers.
Criminal Identity Theft
Criminal identity theft occurs when someone commits a crime and is then pulled over by the police or arrested and they use someone else’s name and identifying information when they are cited. A criminal will often do this to avoid going to jail. This can happen when a criminal provides a law officer with your photo identification, whether it’s your real id that was stolen or a fake id.
This type of crime usually goes undetected until you are pulled over by the police or served with a warrant at your home or place of business. When this happens, the victim will be arrested and taken to jail for failure to appear or other crimes.
If you have an identity theft protection service that includes remediation services, they can help you with legal and other assistance to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
Tax Identity Theft
Tax identity theft happens when someone else has gotten a hold of your social security number and files a tax return under your name and has the refund sent to an alternative address. Then, when you go to file your tax return, it will be denied because it shows that it has already been filed. Or, if you haven’t filed your tax return, you could receive a letter from the IRS stating they have identified a suspicious return using your social security number.
Identity theft plan coverage is usually offered with a wide variety of options which means you can select the one that best suits your needs and budget. So let’s talk about the different types of plan coverages. And remember, even the most basic identity theft protection plan is better than no identity theft protection at all.
If you are single or only want coverage for yourself, then an individual plan is what you will need. The plan features are going to be the same as any other plan except you will be paying less for that coverage because you will only be covering yourself.
If you have a family, whether that be you and a spouse, or you, and/or a spouse/children, you will need a family plan if you want to cover everyone that lives in your household. Obviously, more coverage means you are going to have to pay more per month for that coverage. However, most identity theft protection services offer discounted rates for their family plans versus paying for a separate plan for each person. Additionally, many identity theft protection services also offer an individual plan and allow you to add on as many of their child plans as you need to your coverage for a small monthly fee.
Some identity theft protection services offer permission based plans that allow both you and your senior loved one to be able to monitor and respond to alerts of suspicious activity that is related to their identity. The features will depend on which coverage package you’ve chosen. For example, the plan could cover a credit report, social security number, financial, medical, tax, etc. monitoring or any variation thereof that you’ve selected.
Such services can also help a caregiver monitor any new accounts opened by a senior loved one. This will help ensure they aren’t being taken advantage of or opening an account they are mentally unable to manage.
If you have a senior loved one, this feature, along with a medical alert system, is just another layer of security to keep them safe from those who will unscrupulously take advantage of them.
Part of researching identity theft protection services is comparing features and costs. Everyone wants to get as many features as they can for the least amount of money. So let’s get into the various types of identity theft protection plans and their associated costs.
Identity theft protection plans come in several ways. There are identity theft protection plans that only offer identity theft protection and identity theft protection plans that also include daily, weekly, and/or monthly credit reporting.
Identity Theft Protection Plans
Identity theft protection plan costs for individual policies will vary greatly. On the low side, they run about $6.75/mo. But these low priced plans are very limited meaning they usually only cover one bureau credit report monitoring without having any other features included such as social security number monitoring, dark web monitoring, etc. On the high side, identity theft protection plans run about $25.99/mo. for services that cover almost every type of possible identity theft scenario out there. However, the most common costs you will find for individual identity theft service plans will usually range between $9.99/mo and $19.99/mo.
Identity theft protection costs for family plans will also vary greatly. On the low side, they run about $14.99/mo. for a basic family plan. On the high side, family identity theft protection plans run about $34.99/mo. However, the most common costs you will find for most identity theft family plans range between $14.99 and $29.99/mo.
Some identity theft service companies offer individual plans for each person then give you the option of adding a child plan for a small extra monthly fee. The child plan add-ons generally range between $2.99/mo. and $5.99/mo. However, most brands charge on the high side at $5.99/mo for their child plans. There are also a few identity theft protection services that have plans that include all children living in your household under one service plan. So it pays to do your homework about which plan best suits your situation.
Identity Theft Protection + Credit Reporting Plans
Credit monitoring is a different feature than credit reporting. Credit monitoring is when a company monitors your credit report(s) for suspicious activity. Credit reporting is a premium feature offered by identity theft protection companies. Credit reporting is when they provide you with periodic reports about changes to your credit reports and your credit score.
When shopping for identity theft protection plans, you might want to look for those that also include credit reporting with their service. These will give you more complete coverage because they not only monitor your credit report(s), but they also send you additional information about your credit reports that will help you proactively manage them. For example, an identity theft protection plan that includes credit reporting will not only notify you when they detect activity on your credit report(s), but they will also notify you of any changes, or if your credit score goes up or down.
If at any time your credit score goes up or down too drastically, that could be an indication that your personal information has been compromised. So while you might not think this is an important feature to have—it is!
As for the cost, most identity theft protection services these days offer the additional credit reporting features with their plans and it’s included in their prices, which are the same as we mentioned above ($8.99/mo. – $34.99/mo.). But, since most services now offer these features, it would be easy to assume they all have it—but they don’t. That’s why we wanted to point this out so you can double check that your chosen service does, in fact, include it with their services. And if they don’t, you might want to look for another one that does.
If you want to find the best possible identity theft protection service for your money and one that has a top-notch reputation, you should probably look at some third-party review websites. Why? Because a reputable third-party review website spends thousands of hours testing each product, then compiling their field research with their online research to present you with exhaustive unbiased reviews in an easy to read format including the pros and cons and side-by-side comparisons, etc.
If you were to try to do this kind of in-depth research yourself, it would cost you loads of money and a total amount of time most people can’t afford to lose.
How will you know if the reviews you are reading are factual?
Well, a reputable third-party review website will link to the official identity theft service company’s website so you can see for yourself that what they are saying is accurate and not just information that has been scraped and reposted from the internet.
OK, now let’s talk about company reviews posted by consumers.
As part of your overall research, you might have or are going to be looking for online consumer reviews on social media sites, forums, or user-filled review websites. When you do…please keep in mind that many of the reviews you are seeing could have been posted by any given company’s competitors or possibly by a disgruntled employee. This means you will generally see a wide variety of negative responses.
So how do you sort through all the noise to come to an educated conclusion about who is telling the truth and who isn’t?
You can do that by digging a little deeper and looking not at just one or two different review sites, but by reading a variety of consumer review websites. By doing so, you can note any positive and/or negative trends you see on each one. Then you can look at those trends to determine if you see any patterns. If you do, then there might be some merit to what’s being said. If you don’t, then there’s probably not. Either way, just take what you’ve read and use a little common sense about if what you’re reading makes sense, or not. Then decide for yourself what you believe to be true based on your conclusions.
The following are reviews from some of the best identity theft protection companies on the market:
Let’s take a minute to summarize what you’ve read.
Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America and is becoming more and more sophisticated every day. Therefore, identity theft protection is no longer optional. It truly is necessary if you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you can’t take care of your family because you have no way of accessing money due to drained and frozen bank accounts, canceled credit cards, and derogatory entries on your credit reports.
There are many types of identity theft, which include social security number, financial, criminal, and tax identity theft. Most identity theft protection plans offer individual plans that you can buy separately for each person. They also offer family plans that cover several or unlimited members of your family that live in the same household. There are also some identity theft services that offer child add-on plans where you have the option of adding a child plan to your existing plan for a small additional monthly fee. And don’t forget the senior plans that give you shared permissions to handle your loved one’s credit issues.
The costs of identity theft protection services range anywhere from $6.75/mo. to $34.99/mo. depending on which plan you select—individual, family, or other. And a child plan, in most cases, can be added on to an existing plan for about $5.99/mo.
You might also want to confirm that the identity theft protection plan you’ve chosen comes with credit reporting features included with it in addition to the identity theft protection services it offers. It’s important for you to be notified if your credit score goes up or down drastically or if there are any other changes to your credit report(s) as these could be a sign of identity theft.
And lastly, remember that any review you read online is probably going to contain disparaging remarks made by a company’s competitors and possibly disgruntled employees. Therefore, you should spend some time reading a wide variety of consumer review sites so you can draw your own conclusions by comparing trends. This will enable you to weed-out what doesn’t make sense and make your own decisions about what’s true and what’s not.
Remember, having identity theft protection is like having an extra layer of security added to your life. Security that could mean the difference between being able to live normally and to survive this harrowing ordeal…or not. The choice is yours!