Identity theft is a terrible ordeal for victims.
Current statistics have revealed that you are more likely to have your identity stolen than you are to have your car stolen. Unfortunately, when compared against vehicle theft, identity theft can be far more costly, prolonged, and many times more difficult to overcome than a vehicle theft.
In 2021, there were over 1.4 Million Americans who reported identity theft to the FTC. (vs 936,316 car thefts reported to the National Insurance Crime Bureau). The actual number of identity theft victims could be much higher as there is no requirement to report to the FTC -- many victims did not report to the FTC specifically and only reported banks, credit agencies or state government agencies.
Identity theft is on the rise with officially reported cases growing at 18% per year.
With this in mind, your risk of being a victim of identity theft is approximately 0.5-1% per year and even though it is very likely that you have car insurance, there's a pretty high chance you are not insuring your identity or protecting against a catastrophic event.
To counter this new and growing threat, there should be a perfect solution available for consumers. This category of products is called ID Theft Protection and is offered by a number of companies. Identity theft protection providers started their careers with a tarnished reputation (with the FTC suing one of the main players, LifeLock, for deceptive advertising in both 2010 and 2015).
However, despite their awkward start, in 2022 we need ID protection more than ever before so this guide will break down what you get from each provider to compare options.
Victims of Identity Theft
For victims, the worst part of identity theft is the breadth of potential fraud and the length of time to recover a stolen identity. Unlike a typical theft where your property is stolen (which you can replace on your own schedule or via insurance), identity theft can take years to overcome.
Identity theft protection plans have been created to help their subscribers in the event of identity theft. These companies provide their subscribers with access to the tools and processes needed for the identity recovery process, and they provide insurance for losses.
It's important to know that identity theft protection companies don’t prevent identity theft.
Instead, they offer alerts for instances when new accounts have been opened in your name and they offer protection after the event (tools, resources, processes and insurance).
These companies do offer helpful services and insurance if you become a victim of identity theft AND they bundle in some tools to be safer online to prevent ID theft (VPNs, anti-virus tools for your computer etc.). These can offer some form of prevention but they don’t stop you from clicking on a phishing link or being deceived by a scammer on a phone call or via text. ID Theft Protection is about protection for that specific theft and not as a blanket to protect against all scams and fraud.
With that in mind, looking for identity theft protection plans which include an insurance component is the best option as this will help offset losses incurred if you do suffer a theft.
How Is Identity Theft Harmful?
The consequences of identity theft are typically financial (but can range to criminal where your identity is used to implicate you in a crime). If a criminal has enough of your identifying documents to make up the required ID check, they can open loan and credit accounts in your name and direct the funds to themselves, leaving you with the balance to pay off.
Types of Identity Theft
- Taxation fraud
- Unemployment insurance
- Financial impersonation
- Loans which might include high risk (payday loans) which can be opened online and have extremely high interest rates which will be passed on to the victim
- Changes to your home and title
- Criminal activities in your name
Limitations of Identity Theft Protection
As many of these ID Theft Protection companies say on their own website — No one can prevent all identity theft or monitor all transactions effectively. It is important to understand that if you were sent a Zelle scam, or a 2FA code or spoke to someone on the phone and they tricked you in any way and you participated, you are not covered by the insurance. The insurance only covers acts of identity theft and the recovery processes from this event, and unauthorised transactions that you had zero knowledge or participation in.
Additionally, if an outside entity like a bank or PayPal lost your funds, the insurance does not cover you, as the insurer holds the outside entity as legally liable for the loss and not part of the policy.
Identity Theft Protection Options
The trend with ID theft protection services is to create a bundle of products which can help create an active stance (with ongoing monitoring and alerts to quickly notify you of fraud).
The standard pricing for these services starts around $10/month and up to $50/mth for the premium plans for families. Many providers offer a free trial or discounted introductory period.
IdentityForce offers a lot in their protection plans beyond credit monitoring.
The company offers two protection plans: UltraSecure and UltraSecure Plus Credit (where UltraSecure Plus Credit offers credit monitoring in the protection plan).
Identity Force will check public information record changes, address changes, court and arrest records. They also look for payday loan applications and for any records of your identity on any known identity trading websites on the public web and the dark web.
Identity Force provides alerts on sex offender lists to see if your name appears in any way on those lists. Like most identity protection companies, the company also tracks for Social Security Number use on new credit and loan applications.
There's also an Identity Force Mobile mobile app which features 'Attack Control' to monitor your phone for spyware and helps you from connecting to an non-secure Wi-Fi connection or a spoof WiFi network (if you check into a Holiday Inn, a hacker might be running a network from their car called 'HolidayInnWiFiSecure' and it is actually a spoof - always check with the hotel for the name of the official WiFi network name).
Identity Force ID protection plan features include:
- Social media - IdentityForce offers Social Media monitoring in all their plans.
- Expert team - IdentityForce has a 'Certified Protection Experts' for 24/7 ID recovery services. The will do paperwork, phone calls, and manage details to restore your identity.
- Insurance - IdentityForce customers are covered by a nationwide $1 million identity theft insurance policy.
- Advanced Fraud Monitoring - IdentityForce offers fast alerts when credit institutions (banks, auto dealers, mortgage companies and government agencies, request a copy of your credit report. Fast alerts help you stop fraudulent attempts quickly to prevent losses from mounting.
- Change of Address Monitoring - Receive alerts when your name and address have been changed (Criminals might try and update the physical address of your mail to gain access to your personal information). IdentityForce monitors if your mail has been redirected through USPS without your authorization.
- Court Record Monitoring - IdentityForce searches millions of criminal, court, and public records to make sure your identity is not being used in crime.
- Dark Web Monitoring - IdentityForce scours thousands of websites, including those on the Dark Web, black market chat rooms, blogs, and other data sources to detect the illegal trading and selling of your personal information.
- Payday Loan Monitoring - Identity force monitors pay day loans to alert you if your name has been used to open a new loan.
- Sex Offender Monitoring - IdentityForce checks sex offender registries to see if your identity is being used.
Now owned by Norton (Symantec), Lifelock are known for multiple price options with their protection plans, with the best features available with their Ultimate Plus plan. The Identity Protection plans can be purchased stand alone, or bundled with Norton 360 VPN and Password Manager.
Prices range from around $9 per month and up to $24 a month for the first year (prices increase in the second year).
The plans come in three levels: the Standard, Advantage, and Ultimate Plus.
These plans provide a comprehensive suite of digital security tools, including:
- Credit reporting - from either Equifax (one credit bureau) on the free plan, or up to Experian and/or Transunion on the higher plans
- Reimbursement Insurance - insurance from $25,000 on a claim to $1 million (depending on the plan you choose)
- Reimbursement for Experts - each plan comes with up to $1 Million in reimbursement protection for lawyers and experts for identity recovery assistance.
- Identity Lock - On the Advantage and Ultimate plans, subscribers can access a 'lock' feature which can freeze your account with Transunion to avoid new accounts being opened.
- Restoration Specialists - to help resolve your identity fraud.
- Crime Alerts - The Ultimate plan will alert you on crimes reported with your name
- Home Title Monitoring - The Ultimate plan will alert you if there are changes made to your home title.
- Additional Bundle (VPN, Password Manager) - Norton Lifelock offer an additional option to bundle in online security features (these features are not included in the stand alone ID Protection plans).
LifeLock's founder became infamous for advertising his Social Security number on billboards to prove how strong the service was. Unfortunately, the FTC was not happy with the promises made by the original LifeLock and this resulted in court cases in 2015. Lifelock is now owned by Symantec and has further improved their offering.
The protection plans for Aura are available for individuals, couples and families. Aura looks to provide assurance when an identity theft takes place by offering a 'white glove service' for fraud resolution with remediation plans and hand-holding until the fraud is fixed.
Aura's identity protection plans come with the following features:
- Identity Theft Insurance - each adult on your plan is backed by $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses and fees due to identity theft.
- Password manager -
- Credit lock - lock your Experian credit file to prevent further accounts from being opened
- Parental controls - add a filter to your home and family devices for safe sites / harmful sites. With Aura you can also manage screen time.
- ID Protection - you will receive alerts if your Social Security Number or other online accounts have been compromised.
- Antivirus - Aura offers a classic antivrus sofgware package to secure your devices against malware, viruses etc.
- Password management - Aura plans come bundled with a password management application
- VPN - Aura offers a VPN with their ID protection plans
- Case Management - Aura offers dedicated fraud case management
- US Team - Aura has a US Based team for customer service
- Spam - Aura assists with spam call / junk mail / site search removal
On Aura's premium family plan (still one million per adult). Although it is unlikely for both adults to be victims of fraud at the same time, there will be subscribers where the $1M per adult is a meaningful benefit.
Do I Need ID Theft Protection?
You can absolutely do some DIY work to simulate parts of an ID theft protection. The major benefit has to be insurance for financial loss. The work that is required to claw back and identity and to show financial institutions that a fraud has been committed in your name is a massive undertaking. Here's how you can DIY your ID protection
- Credit Monitoring - Equifax, credit karma and others will monitor your credit and new accounts for free
- Password breach - Websites like haveIbeenpwned.com will let you check your email address to see how many data breaches it has been involved int
- Antivirus - Traditional services like Norton and others offer to secure your devices against malware, viruses etc.
- Password management - Tools like 1Password are great solutions for password management
- Cyber insurance - talk to your insurance broker about adding a cyber insurance to your home insurance policy
- VPN - Many companies offer a VPN service
- Government resources - The government also provides a website called IdentityTheft.gov