If you’re looking for a firm layer of security to make you feel safer while online shopping, paying your bills online, sharing personal information on social media, and more, then yes—an ID protection service is definitely worth the investment. While some people may see these solutions as “nice-to-have” rather than “must-have,” they might be interested in learning that many of them offer free trial periods of up to 30 days, or discounts on your first annual subscription.
How Do These Tools Work?
The best ID theft protection services on the market utilize unique data and advanced technologies to monitor credit card transactions, the Dark Web, social media, and more. Their goal is to immediately detect when your information is stolen, offered for sale, or used fraudulently, in order to mitigate the damage of ID attacks as much as possible. Once you are alerted about an attack, these services will help restore your identity, reimburse you for stolen funds, and offer expert support around the clock.
Here are some features and capabilities offered by the best ID protection services on the market today:
Detect changes in your credit score
Identity restoration specialists
Be alerted when your information is stolen or offered for sale
Up to $1M reimbursement of stolen funds
Learn of social media activity using your name or photos
Coverage for lawyers and experts
Court recordings & bookings
Learn of crimes reported in your name
Know if your mail has been redirected
Find out about addresses associated with your Social Security number
Detect attempts to take over your account or loans taken in your name
Learn if an offender moves into your neighborhood
Learn if someone uses your driver’s license fraudulently
How Can Thieves Steal Your Identity?
The following are examples of some of the ways in which thieves can steal your personal information. Some of these methods are digital, others involve old-fashioned physical theft. All forms of theft put you at risk.
- Hacking: This is a broad term that refers to any unauthorized login to a computer or network. It can include large data breaches, like the one discovered by Marriott in 2018 that compromised 500 million customers. It can also include direct hacking of your computer by someone with either physical or remote access to it.
- Phishing: This is a common ploy where scammers send an unsolicited email offering you something that requires you to supply personal info and login credentials. The scammers then use your information to break into your accounts and steal your identity, credit cards, or money.
- Malware: Like phishing, this involves unsolicited messages with dubious links or attachments. If you click the link or open the attachment, malicious software gets installed on your computer and extracts your personal information.
- Phone scams: One of the older tricks in the book, it involves scammers pretending to represent a financial or a government institution like the IRS or a bank in order to convince a person to give over their personal information.
- Dumpster Diving: Criminals don’t always do things remotely; sometimes they might steal things from right under your nose. This ploy involves going through your trash for sensitive documents like bank statements.
What is Tax-Related ID Theft?
People who illegally obtain personal information such as a Social Security number can file fraudulent tax returns to the IRS. According to an IRS page dedicated to tax fraud, actions such as these can go undetected until an E-file attempt is made and rejected because of a previous (fraudulent) filing. The IRS may reach out if they’ve identified a suspicious return, though it’s best to stay on top of the problem.
As a result of increasing tax-related ID theft, the IRS partnered with representatives from tax firms, payroll processors, and state tax administrators to address the problem. Efforts include awareness campaigns to keep civilians informed and up-to-date with best practices. Americans are advised to keep their Social Security cards in safe locations, use security software and strong passwords when submitting sensitive personal information online, and always securing their tax records.
What is Medical ID Theft?
A less-common but no-less severe form of ID theft, medical ID theft occurs when your personal information is used to procure medical services or medication. Though information can be sold and acquired on the Dark Web to be used by complete strangers, other instances of medical theft have occurred with medical providers submitting excessive or even fabricated claims to insurance providers. For that reason, the standard practices of guarding your information and protecting your information online may not be enough, and experts also recommend checking your health insurance records once a year for possible discrepancies.
How to Choose the Right Identity Theft Protection Service
Identity theft protection is a bit like car insurance: everyone could do with a basic form of coverage, but beyond that our needs vary. If you use online banking, store sensitive information on your computer or mobile, or have children that use the internet—all these things put you at elevated risk of identity theft. If you do everything offline, you may be at lower risk, although in this day and age nobody is ever truly at zero risk.
Before deciding who to go to for identity theft protection, first think about your needs. Then compare the different service providers for things like price, features, and level of customer service. While customer service is important in all industries, it’s particularly important in this one because you may one day need dedicated assistance to help protect or restore your information.
Finally, be cautious about giving out your personal information. Don’t click on suspicious links, don’t leave your bank statements in the trash, and educate your children about the risks of identity theft. By taking the right personal steps, you decrease the risks of having your information stolen. Antivirus and monitoring services should only be there to fill in the gaps.