For all its benefits, online shopping carries one significant risk: identity theft. It goes without saying that you should only ever shop on trusted, secure websites. The lock signal in your browser’s address bar is the first sign that a website is secure and that it’s safe to enter sensitive information.
However, no website is completely impenetrable, and criminals routinely try to hack websites for their customers’ information.
According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2018 End-of-Year Data Breach Report, 446 million consumer records were exposed by data breaches in 2018, more than double the previous year’s figure. Criminals targeted online and offline shoppers. A breach at 3 Hudson Bay stores in Manhattan exposed payment card information for 5 million shoppers. A breach at Chegg, a popular online textbook seller, exposed the names, addresses, emails, and passwords of 40 million users.
Fortunately, there are ways to protect yourself when sensitive information is exposed: identity theft protection and monitoring services.
The 5 Best Identity Theft Protection Services for Online Shoppers
1. Norton LifeLock
- Combines antivirus and credit monitoring
- Takes minutes to set up and install
- Up to $1 million identity theft coverage
Norton LifeLock offers a combination of Norton’s industry-leading antivirus and anti-malware solutions with Lifelock, a credit monitoring solution. Norton Lifelock comes in 3 pricing plans, all of which include SSN and credit alerts and security protection for up to 5 devices. The cheapest plan, at $9.99 / month, includes $25,000 reimbursement for stolen funds. The priciest plan, at $29.99 / month, includes $1 million insurance.
Norton Security protects users from viruses, phishing, spyware, ransomware, and online scams. Put together, this service does as good a job as any cybersecurity software at blocking and removing threats to your computers and mobile devices.
Lifelock covers all the most important monitoring services. It includes credit file monitoring, alerts when someone applies for an online loan or payday loan in your name, alerts about any unauthorized USPS address change, and alerts when your information is traded or sold on the Dark Web.
2. Experian IdentityWorks
- Backed by one of 3 major credit bureaus
- Full-feature credit monitoring
- 30-day trial membership
Experian, one of the 3 major credit reporting bureaus, also offers to protect consumers through its IdentityWorks service. Users can choose from two services: IdentityWorks Plus, with basic features for $9.99 / month, and IdentityWorks Premium, the full-features service, for $19.99 / month. Both plans include a 30-day trial period and 17% discount for paying annually.
The premium version includes the following monitoring and alerts: Social Security number, address change, bank account and credit card takeovers, payday loans, file-sharing, social networks. Both packages give you full credit monitoring, with extra features for the Experian credit bureau including real-time alerts on attempted credit inquiries. The cheaper package includes $500,000 coverage and the premium version $1 million coverage.
Customers can also add child identity protection for any children still living at home. This includes Social Security number tracing, social network monitoring, Dark Web surveillance, fraud resolution services, and additional identity theft coverage. Both packages include alerts if a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood.
- Full credit and score monitoring
- 24/7 restoration services
- $1 million coverage with all plans
myFICO is operated by Fair Isaac Corporation, which sets the standards for calculating credit scores that the 3 major credit bureaus adhere to. It also offers services direct to consumers, including a full-featured credit monitoring and alerts solution designed to protect consumers against identity theft.
myFICO offers 3 pricing plans: 1-bureau monitoring plus a monthly credit report from Experian-only for $19.99 / month; 3-bureau monitoring plus quarterly credit reports for $29.95 / month; and 3-bureau monitoring plus monthly credit reports for $39.95 / month.
The 2 pricier plans include full monitoring services, including identity theft monitoring, Dark Web monitoring, and SSN monitoring. One of the main benefits of choosing myFICO is that it offers $1 million identity theft coverage and 24/7 fraud resolution with all its plans.
- Supported by IBM Watson AI
- 3-bureau credit monitoring
- Tax refund alerts
IdentityGuard stands out from some of its competitors in that its monitoring services are backed by IBM’s Watson, a powerful artificial intelligence tool. Using Watson, IdentityGuard scours billions of data points on the internet to find out and alert its customers when their identity is found to be compromised.
While some services make each individual enroll separately, IdentityGuard offers individual and family packages. This is particularly convenient if you have children who use online shopping or social media on a regular basis. The 3 individual packages range from $8.99 to $24.99 / month, and the 3 family packages range from $14.99 to $34.99 / month.
The Premier Family Plan includes AI insights into threats to your identity emanating from data breaches and social media; 3-bureau credit score and report monitoring; bank account takeover alerts; and Dark Web monitoring that detects if you or family members’ SSN, credit card numbers, or health insurance numbers have been compromised. Although unrelated to online shopping, it also includes alerts about cyberbullying.
- Malware protection for online shoppers
- Alerts when charges exceed your pre-set amounts
- VPN solution
Panda is a service operated by IdentityForce that offers a few features of interest to online shoppers. While it is mainly a monitoring service, it also includes protection against malware and data theft to ensure you can shop and bank online without fear of having your data stolen. Users can download antivirus for Windows, Mac, and Android as part of the service.
Panda only offers one pricing plan: a monthly subscription for $14.95 per month featuring a basic set of features. This service doesn’t include the full set of features offered by the others. Where it does stand out is in its combining of basic credit monitoring, anti-malware software, and a free VPN solution so you can browse without your IP being revealed to the world.
Do I Really Need Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft protection is a bit like car insurance: no 2 people are at the same amount of risk, but we all need at least a basic form of coverage. If you shop online, bank online, or do anything else online that requires you to enter sensitive information, then you could be at risk.
We’re not saying all this to alarm you. Indeed, only a minority of Americans are victims of identity theft each year, just like a small minority of Americans are involved in car accidents every year. Around 5% of Americans were victims of identity theft last year, and the figures are rising. A basic level of protection doesn’t cost a lot, but it will give you peace of mind.
Of course, you can also take steps to protect yourself from identity theft. Don’t click on suspicious links, don’t leave your bank statements in the trash, and educate your children about the risks of giving sensitive information to strangers. By taking the right personal steps, you decrease the risks of having your information stolen. Identity theft protection services are there to protect you in the instances you can’t help yourself—such as data breaches involving millions of credit cards.
How to Choose the Best Identity Theft Protection
The identity theft protection service providers listed in this article all offer a range of services. Some offer basic features at a lower price, while some offer a full list of features and $1 million coverage at a steeper price. Before choosing a provider, think about how much time you spend shopping online and the levels of risk you and your family might face. As with any service, it’s always a good idea to compare providers by price, features, usability, and customer service.