Most of us know the prevalence, dangers, and consequences of identity theft. It is the fastest growing white-collar crime. To proactively combat identity theft, more and more people are turning to ID theft prevention services to regularly monitor fraudulent activity.
Unfortunately, not all identity theft prevention services are the same, and selecting the best one for you can be confusing and frustrating. There are dozens to choose from and each offers varying levels of protection for a monthly fee.
Before you even start shopping for an ID theft prevention service, it’s important to know that there are many things you can do to proactively defend against ID theft at no cost. For example, you can monitor your credit for free once per year with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, and can implement a credit freeze to prevent any new accounts from being opened in your name.
One form of ID theft you can’t directly guard against is a data breach, which occurs when an identity thief hacks into the database of an organization that has your personal information on file (such as a bank or a doctor’s office). There were 662 data breaches in 2010 according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, up from 498 in 2009, proving that no one is immune to ID theft.
Considering the growing threats, subscribing to an ID theft prevention service is definitely a good idea. But before you decide to pay for one, do your research and ask whether the service:
* Offers monthly, weekly, daily, or even real-time credit monitoring. Time is not on your side when your identity is stolen, so real-time or at least daily credit monitoring is recommended.
* Provides ID theft prevention services, such as setting-up fraud alerts, obtaining credit bureau reports, and monitoring credit card activity. Although you could complete these services yourself for free, it’s a time-saver to have them performed by the ID theft prevention service.
* Monitors all three credit reporting bureaus. Some services only monitor one of the three agencies, which isn’t enough protection when you consider that a potential creditor usually only checks with one of them.
* Provides unlimited access to your credit scores. Keep in mind that many ID theft prevention services do not provide access to your FICO score.
* Has customer support. Live representatives should be available 24/7 if you suspect a problem.
* Provides ID theft insurance. Although it does not cover damages resulting from identity theft, ID theft insurance reimburses the costs involved in restoring your identity.
* Offers recovery assistance. Services vary greatly, and you want to know how much help you can expect in the event of ID theft. Some services only provide you with fraud affidavits to complete, while others actually contact creditors, law enforcement agencies, and other entities on your behalf.
You will also want to compare costs of the various ID theft prevention services, remembering that the price doesn’t necessarily reflect the level and effectiveness of the service.
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