Thirty-three percent of Americans have already been victims of identity theft, and this crime is only getting more common as thieves develop more ways to harvest and use private information. Would you know what to do if your identity got stolen? Would you even realize it had happened? Lots of people don’t, not until their credit score drops and they start getting collections notices in the mail.
Identity theft protection can offer you some monitoring services to let you know if your information is compromised, as well as some guidance and insurance coverage to help you recover from identity theft. Yes, you can do some of what identity monitoring services do yourself, for free, but the protection many services offer goes far beyond just monitoring your credit file and reading your bank statements. Many services check public records, data broker sites, social media, dark web sales forums, and other sources that may be difficult to access by yourself. Here’s what you can get when you buy identity theft protection services.
- 1 Credit and Identity Monitoring
- 2 Information Removal
- 3 Social Media Monitoring
- 4 Password Management
- 5 Recovery Support and Insurance
Credit and Identity Monitoring
Yes, you can monitor your own credit. You can get your free yearly credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, or you may be able to use free credit score monitoring offered by your bank or credit card issuer. But the credit monitoring you’ll receive with identity theft protection services goes a little further.
In addition to monitoring activity on your credit file, like changes to your credit score, hard inquiries, and new accounts, the protection service will monitor sites on the dark web where stolen personal information is sold, making sure that your personal information isn’t available online. Of course, it will also look for your data on data broker sites on the regular internet, and it will monitor your bank and credit cards for suspicious activity, too.
Identity monitoring keeps your personal information, like your address, birthday, and Social Security number, off the web. Identity monitoring will record changes of address and let you know if your information appears in public records, including court and law enforcement records – this could be a sign that whoever has stolen your information is using it to commit further crimes while posing as you. Identity protection services should provide identity monitoring on the internet and the dark web.
What if some of your personal information does turn up on a data broker website or on the dark web? You don’t want it to stay there. Many identity theft protection services offer data cleanup to help scrub your information from data broker websites and other places, so it’s harder for thieves to get their hands on it.
Social Media Monitoring
You’d be surprised how much personal information thieves can get out of your social media. You need an identity theft protection service that will help you lock down your social media and scrub it of sensitive information. Identity theft protection can also monitor social media platforms for new profiles that might appear using your personal information, including photos. If one of your social media accounts has been hacked, identity theft protection can help you get it back.
A good identity theft protection plan should come with a password manager so you can use unique and suitably hard-to-crack passwords for all of your online accounts. Strong, unique passwords make it much harder for identity thieves to get into your accounts, and if you’re using a new one for each account, it means that they won’t be able to access all of your accounts just because they figured out one. It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your identity and your information online.
Recovery Support and Insurance
If your identity is stolen, you’ll need support to take the next steps. Identity theft protection typically includes recovery assistance from a real human being who can walk you through what steps to take next, like filing a police report and a report with the Federal Trade Commission, ordering your credit reports, and collecting the documentation you need to prove that your identity was stolen.
Recovery assistants can help you put together a recovery plan and even help you call creditors to explain the situation. Most identity theft protection plans also include some amount of insurance to defray the costs of going to court or missing work during the recovery period.
Your identity could be at risk – but you can take steps to protect it. Sign up for identity theft protection, so you won’t have to face the threat of identity theft alone and unprepared.