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Best identity theft protection for 2021: keep your identity safe and secure

Best identity theft protection
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In a hurry? The best identity theft protection service overall in 2021 is IdentityForce
Limited Time: 25% off UltraSecure+Credit : IdentityForce is a powerful theft protection app that covers all bases - credit check monitoring, bank fraud, malware and ad blocking, and it even provides $1 million in insurance protection against lost wages and fraudulent purchases. Ask any questions to a real IdentityForce support staff member by calling 888-266-3930 toll-free in the US.View Deal

The best identity theft protection

The best identity theft protection can keep your identity safe and secure, especially as social distancing and the current pandemic make it difficult to get your identity verified physically.

This is increasingly important because identity fraud and identity theft have become an unfortunately common concern online, and the rise of these incidents is tied into the growing amount of data breaches happening these days.

The number of people affected by a data breach has reached truly alarming levels – over half of UK consumers, for example, during the course of 2019 (according to a report by DynaRisk). Indeed, looking at the global picture as of late 2020, almost half of all consumers worldwide expect to be hit by a breach (and 30% have fallen victim to one). In short, these incidents have sadly become a part of daily life, and an avalanche of identity records are posted for sale globally on the dark web.

A data breach occurs when a firm accidentally exposes data or a company's systems are hacked or compromised, and the personal details of some (or many) customers are stolen – such an occurrence can lead to your details being leaked online through absolutely no fault of your own. Those details can then be used to steal your identity in some manner for fraudulent purposes.

Furthermore, the danger is compounded because breaches are hitting some huge organizations with massive customer bases. For example, T-Mobile in the US recently admitted a major data breach in which hackers accessed customer details including phone numbers and call records (and to add insult to injury, this isn’t the first time in recent history that the telecoms giant has been breached). Even cybersecurity firms have suffered data breaches, such as Sophos which accidentally exposed customer details including emails and phone numbers.

With large-scale data breaches continuing to hit high-profile companies around the globe, it's no wonder many folks are worried about identity theft, but luckily, there is a solution: get yourself some protection courtesy of the best identity theft protection tools out there.

Many of the top identity theft protection services give you the ability to spot potential scams whereby a criminal may have obtained your details on the dark web (or elsewhere online), and used that information to engage in some kind of fraudulent activity (whether that’s making a payment, or taking out a loan). Note that this kind of protection isn’t something you can get with any other security tools, such as antivirus or VPN apps.

Of course, having established the usefulness of identity theft protection services, the question is: which one should you go for? We’ve highlighted the best of the bunch right here.

Best identity theft protection: How did we test them?

Our series on identity theft protection apps will evaluate the features, pricing options, competition, and also the overall value of using each app. However, these are not full hands-on reviews since evaluating identity theft protection apps is almost impossible. It would require several months of testing, purposefully hacking accounts to see if the protection app works, handing over personally identifiable information, performing multiple credit checks, and risking exposure of the reviewer’s personally identifiable information.

(Image credit: IdentityForce)

1. IdentityForce

Best identity theft protection provider overall

Reasons to buy
+Lots of features+Comprehensive monitoring and alert system+Email, live chat, phone support

> If you want to ask any questions to a real human being, then you can call IdentityForce directly on this toll-free number 888-266-3930.

IdentityForce Inc. is a Massachusetts-based corporation which provides identity theft services for individuals, businesses and government agencies.

Protection starts with access to credit reports from the top three agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Web access, iOS and Android apps enable checking your details at any time.

A comprehensive monitoring network offers near real-time alerts for issues including searches on your credit report, changes of address, accounts being opened in your name, fraudulent use of your social security number, your details appearing in court records or on the sex offender register, and your data being sold on the dark web. If a problem is found you'll be speedily alerted via SMS and email.

There are some interesting bonus features. PC-based anti-phishing and anti-keylogger software tries to keep malware at bay and prevent hackers stealing your data, while a Social Media Identity Monitoring suite scans your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ streams for malicious links, hacked and imposter accounts, and more.

Pricing for the service is $9.99 a month for the identity protection service, which offers round the clock monitoring of your personal information, and alerts you if it's compromised (plus it comes with $1 million of insurance cover). There's also identity protection with credit monitoring, scores, and reports, for $17.99 a month.

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(Image credit: Norton)

2. Norton LifeLock

Best all-rounder identity theft protection provider

Reasons to buy
+Near real-time alerts+Identity theft recovery specialists
Reasons to avoid
-High-end plans can be expensive

Norton LifeLock provides in-depth monitoring of credit and loan applications, court and criminal records,  USPS change of address requests and any data exposed on more than 10,000 websites, looking out for any signs of others using your details.

If a potential issue crops up, smartly designed mobile apps give you alerts of what's going on. Should someone apply for an auto loan in your name, for instance, you don't just get to hear about it a few days later when your credit report updates: instead, the app sends you an immediate notification asking if this application was yours. Say no and Norton LifeLock's support team leaps into action to investigate.

If a thief manages to bypass your defenses anyway, Norton LifeLock's ID recovery specialists will help you get your life back. Unlike some services, that doesn't mean they'll advise you on who to call – they'll do the heavy lifting for you, making those calls, filling in forms and more.

Unsurprisingly, all this power doesn't come cheap. Norton LifeLock's high-end Ultimate Plus account costs $34.99 a month. That said, it is a very comprehensive service, and there is currently an offer in your first year of subscription, meaning that during this time you will only pay $25.99 monthly.

It's hard to beat Norton LifeLock's features and functionality, though, and the service does offer good deals in some areas. If you'd rather not buy into the comprehensive package, the starter Norton LifeLock Standard plan gives you social security number and credit alerts for $8.99 a month.

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(Image credit: Experian)

3. Experian IdentityWorks

Best identity theft protection for beginners

Reasons to buy
+Straightforward website+Easy to understand
Reasons to avoid
-No outstanding features

One of the biggest names in consumer credit reporting, Experian now maintains information on more than a billion businesses and individuals worldwide.

The company's IdentityWorks is a capable service, offering access to its credit report and score, raising alerts when there are any significant changes, and keeping a careful eye on the dark web for any signs of the user's personal data.

Available for as little as $8.33 when billed annually for a single individual on the IdentityWorks Plus plan, it provides an affordable entry-level identity protection option. Two adults and up to 10 children will pay only twice that amount.

You don't have to be a financial geek to understand what's on offer, as Experian has gone to unusual lengths to make everything accessible and clear. While just about everyone claims they can show your credit report, for instance, the Experian site offers a sample report to illustrate exactly what you'll get.

If you do sign up, you'll discover a straightforward web console that presents your details in as simple a way as possible, although experts can drill down to payment histories and other details in a few clicks.

IdentityWorks Premium offers a far more comprehensive service, adding financial account activity, identity validation alerts, court records, as well as social and file-sharing network monitoring, all for $19.99 a month. This plan covers you for up to $1 million in terms of identity theft insurance, whereas the Plus subscription is good for up to $500,000. 

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(Image credit: ADT)

4. ADT Identity Protection

Best affordable identity theft protection provider

Reasons to buy
+Reasonable pricing+Suite of services+No contract
Reasons to avoid
-You get more features with top rivals

ADT is more famous for its monitored alarms systems, as part of its home security services, but the company has branched into identity theft protection for families as well. 

ADT Identity Protection offers a pretty comprehensive service that covers all of the important basics while coming in at a reasonable price.

Features include standard credit checks on charge cards as well as bank accounts and SSNs, as well as credit score monitoring with annual reports. There are also identity checks on drivers licenses and passports, as well as phone numbers, medical insurance, addresses, court records, and even email addresses.

Another feature is the provision of up to $1 million identity theft expense reimbursement, to cover any costs in reclaiming your identity in the event that it might be compromised.

ADT also offers 24/7 fraud incident resolution, with a dedicated team who will walk you through all the steps required to recover from any incident, and guide you on claiming reimbursement for losses.

All this costs from just $9.99 per month, and even better is that there is no minimum contract term to keep you locked in. Additionally, although ADT made its name in home security, ADT Identity Protection runs separately so don't expect to feel pressured to sign up for that service.

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(Image credit: Costco)

5. Complete ID

Best ID theft protection service for Costco members

Reasons to buy
+Good set of features+Very competitive on price+Discount for Costco members
Reasons to avoid
-User interface isn't the best

Complete ID is an identity protection service offered through Costco, offering a surprisingly comprehensive set of features - but even better, it comes in a very price-competitive package.

Complete ID works with three main protection features: credit monitoring, identity protection, and identity restoration. You get a range of monitoring services to ensure your identity has not been compromised, such as thorough dark web surveillance, SSN monitoring, as well as standard criminal record and credit score monitoring.

However, pricing is much more competitive than rivals offering a similar service, with Complete ID costing from just $8.99 per month for Costco Executive members, and $13.99 per month per person if you happen to be a Business or Gold Star member. 

On top of this, Complete ID also offers a bolt-on service of identity protection for your children, costing from $2.99 for up to five children for Executive members (it's $3.99 for other members). This ensures that details involving your children aren't used and abused by criminals, and adds a welcome extra level of security for families.

Overall, Complete ID delivers a very similar service to IdentityForce above, but at a discounted price. While there are some small trade-offs in terms of the user interface, the discounted rate makes Complete ID well worth considering.

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(Image credit: Zander)

6. Zander Identity Theft Protection

All the expected features - at a lower price

Reasons to buy
+Budget pricing+Backed by an insurance company
Reasons to avoid
-Lacks innovative features-Clunky website

As the name would suggest, Zander Identity Theft Protection, is from the insurance provider Zander, which lends some credibility to the product. Unfortunately, this does not carry through, as while the expected functions are provided, there is a missed opportunity to do something innovative, rather than an also-ran. From the website, it even seems that the Identity Theft Protection product may be there more to support the insurance products, even though it would seem it should be vice versa. 

If asked what the distinguishing feature for this Zander product is, it clearly is the price. It’s really hard to argue about the affordability, as it starts at a rock bottom $6.75 a month for the individual plan, and $12.90 a month for the family plan for the Essential Plan. It includes plenty of useful features, such as the lost wallet service, the Home Title Fraud service, Dark Web Monitoring for personal information, and true to its insurance roots, $1,000,000 for Stolen Funds & Expenses. The family plan upgrades this protection to two adults, with children covered for free.

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(Image credit: IDNotify)

7. IDNotify

Identity theft protection with the expected features

Reasons to buy
+Good features+Clean interface
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive

IDNotify has more than a passing resemblance to Experian’s IdentityWorks, and that is not just mere coincidence. Rather, Experian is behind both products, making these the equivalent of fraternal twins. 

IDNotify offers a range of plans, which starts with the quite affordable Essential Plan, which at a cost of $9.99 monthly provides basic identity theft coverage. While it offers basics, such as a lost wallet service, identity restoration and social network monitoring, it lacks some features that you need to jump up to a higher plan to get. 

For example, move up to the Select Plan, which for $17.99 monthly is a better rounded package, and provides an Annual Credit Report from Experian, Identity Theft Insurance, and a Social Security Number Trace. Move up to the highest tiered plan, Premier, and for $25.99 a month enjoy all the features of the lower plan, along with Payday Loan Monitoring, an Annual Credit Report from all three major credit unions, and Credit Limit, Utilization and Balance Alerts. 

Overall none of the above paid plans offers an exceptional value. While it previously was included with a TurboTax subscription making it a great deal, this no longer appears to be the case.

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(Image credit: Eversafe)

8. Eversafe

A well rounded identity theft protection package

Reasons to buy
+Fair pricing with discounts+Fraud alerts
Reasons to avoid
-Not a known company-Predictable features

Eversafe makes the statement that they are “The first step to a good night’s sleep,” providing protection against a variety of threats that includes scams, identity theft and fraudulent activity, that focuses on seniors and families. This service monitors a comprehensive list of accounts that encompasses credit data, credit cards, and other investments, with alerts provided that are even designed for ease of use for seniors. 

Eversafe takes the approach of building a profile for the subscriber, taking into account the historical financial behavior. Eversafe then looks for financial anomalies, such as missed bill payments, large withdrawals, and other spending pattern changes. When such an event is detected alerts are sent via text, phone and email. A senior friendly feature is that this alert can also be sent to a “Trusted advocate,” to help with the monitoring. Finally, Eversafe provides tools that help with a recovery plan, including help that is “Just a phone call away.” 

Plans start with the Essentials plan that costs $7.49 monthly. Sweetening the deal is the offer of a free trial, along with a 25% family member discount, and a 20% senior discount.

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(Image credit: Credit Squad)

9. Credit Squad

Credit monitoring taken to the next level

Reasons to buy
+Fraud alerts+Seven years of monitoring
Reasons to avoid
-Clunky website-Average feature list-Lowest tier plan is priced higher than others

Credit Squad tries to distinguish itself among the sea of credit monitoring services. While many of these services have a similar feature set, Credit Squad kicks it up a notch. An example of this is that while a lot of credit services look at two years of credit history, this service examines the full seven years that go into a credit score. Another, is that while not all credit monitoring services have their members call them, or if they do, the calls are sent overseas, Credit Squad indicates that they have US based professionals to handle the calls, and they are available the full 7 days a week to offer their guidance. 

There is an offer of three plans from CreditSquad. The bottom tier is the Standard Plan, at $14.99 a month- a little higher than some other plans. This basic monitoring includes an annual credit report from a single credit bureau, real time inquiry notifications, and tracking of your credit score. At the top end is the Elite Plan, for $24.99 monthly upgrades to credit monitoring from all three credit bureaus with additional features such as $1 million of ID Theft Insurance.

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(Image credit: MyFico)

10. MyFico

Strong ID protection from a trusted name

Reasons to buy
+Strong feature set+Neat interface+Well done app
Reasons to avoid
-High price

From the makers of the FICO Score (the number that indicates a person’s creditworthiness) comes the MyFico credit monitoring service. We appreciate the intuitive interface of its website, and also that the companion smartphone app is equally well done, rather than just an afterthought. MyFico is able to display relevant info in an easy to follow fashion, such as with color coded FICO scores, and pop up alerts that warn its users about a potential danger. 

While not the most budget priced, MyFico does offer a range of tiered credit monitoring plans. At the lowest level is the Basic plan, which at a cost of $19.95 monthly offers coverage of one of the credit bureaus (Experian), 24/7 identity restoration, and $1 million identity theft insurance, but does not include the credit monitoring. Adding back the credit monitoring, requires upgrading to a higher plan, such as the Advanced tier for $29.95 a month, which upgrades to all three credit bureaus covered, but only updates every three months, or the Premier level, for $39.95 monthly that then includes all three credit bureaus with monthly updates.

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How identity theft protection works

The above services offer different levels of subscription to customers, often on a monthly (or yearly) basis, but even the most basic identity theft management plan will offer a fairly comprehensive monitoring service of your personal details.

However, many providers also offer a credit scoring plan that is either sold separately, or can be combined with identity protection to provide the most secure service available to guard against theft and financial loss.

With this credit scoring, you have defenses in the case of someone stealing your personal details and applying for a credit card or loan; a common nefarious tactic. If this happens, the identity protection service should flag it up for you to confirm that you have indeed made such an application.

If you haven't, this means that you can cancel the application and ensure that your credit rating is not affected, while also taking steps to protect yourself from further abuse of your private details.

However, some identity theft services do not perform an adequate job of making such checks or issuing these alerts, so it's important to ensure that the service you're considering for identity theft protection does have reviews that state it is both reliable and trustworthy. You can do this by looking for customer feedback and reviews on the Better Business Bureau website or at Trustpilot.

Ultimately, though, a lot of identity theft protection depends on your own actions. Simple steps you can take include having a good and up to date antivirus to protect your computer against intrusion and data theft, and also using a paper shredder to ensure confidential documents are destroyed before they are recycled.

Also, if you suspect that your identity has been compromised, do ensure you make checks, and if confirmed, take steps to protect yourself.

Keeping your identity and personal details safe requires both proactive and reactive approaches, but hopefully subscribing to any of the best identity theft protection software featured above will help provide peace of mind and keep you safe from fraud and theft.

Is it worth paying for identity theft protection?

With such potential losses, it becomes clear that identity theft protection provides an important defense against a much higher potential loss.

In our current uncertain times, folks are trying to make the most of each dollar spent, and nobody wants to take on unnecessary expenses. Those looking for the value of an Identity Theft Protection actually don’t have to look far at all, and will quickly find the potential cost of not having it. 

This Spring, the 2021 Identity Fraud Study which is produced by Javelin Strategy & Research, painted a disturbing picture. In the US in the year 2020, 49 million consumers fell victim to scams. This resulted in a total of fraud losses of $56 billion dollars, with $13 billion of this total via traditional identity theft where the victim is not aware of the event, and the bulk of the losses, $43 billion, through identity theft scams where the victim in retrospect can pinpoint the actual scam event. The report goes on to indicate that due to the pandemic, the scams are on the increase, due to the shift of many consumers towards online banking. This included the shift towards transferring money via  such tools as digital wallets along with peer-to-peer (P2P) accounts.

What does identity theft protection do?

Identity theft protection is designed to detect if personal information has been breached. This is done by searching various databases, to look for important personal data, such as a credit card number, a driver’s license number, health insurance information, or bank account numbers. The identity theft protection service then looks for this type of data on the internet, the dark web, change of address records at the post office, social media sites, and loan applications such as payday loans, and new credit cards. 

The better identity theft protection plans also offer credit monitoring at one or more of the credit agencies. A change in the credit score can signal an identity theft as a loan can be taken out in someone’s name, the cash obtained, and then defaulted on before you even knew the loan was taken out. 

By monitoring these activities, the subscriber to the identity theft protection can be sent an alert if any event is detected. This then allows you to be proactive, and shut the breach down before it turns into a considerably larger loss. For example, canceling a credit card that you did not take out before it racks up thousands of dollars in bills is the better outcome than having your own credit score affected.

Identity Theft Protection vs Monitoring Services: What's the difference?

The terms Identity Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring Service are often thought about and used interchangeably as both are designed to protect consumers from having issues with their credit score. However, they are not really the same. 

A Credit Monitoring Service, is designed to do just what the term implies- to keep a watch on a user’s credit. If and when a change occurs, typically a decline in the credit score, the user gets a notification of some sort, such as an email, that the credit score declined. However, it offers little else, or what prompted the change. 

Identity Theft Protection is a stronger offering. This service will monitor multiple items, that does include the credit score, but also adds the Dark Web, criminal databases, Social Security number repositories, and other resources to assess for any threats to an individual’s identity being used for criminal purposes.

What should I look out for to see if my identity was stolen?

When someone’s identity is stolen, for the first few days, there may be no signs of anything amiss. From there, it may be as subtle as not receiving an expected bill, such as a credit card statement, or bank statement as the thief may have falsely changed the address to delay the criminal act being found out. 

Red alerts that your identity has been taken include receiving credit card charges that you did not make, or even a new credit card in your name that you did not apply for. Keep in mind that the thieves often start with a small purchase to verify that the card works, so pay attention to even small purchases. Any of the above should prompt you to immediately contact the provider of the credit card so the charges can be protested, or the new card can be closed immediately before the charges accumulate. 

Other things to be wary of include calls from collectors requesting money on a loan you did not take out. Finally, a significant drop in credit without an obvious issue, or a denial of a loan or credit card with a previously high credit should also sound the alarm.

What are the steps to take to prevent my identity from being stolen?

It becomes clear that efforts should be taken to avoid having your identity stolen. However, if it does happen, there are important steps to get things right again.

It starts with contacting local law enforcement to file an identity theft report. Contact your financial institutions, such as your bank, and credit card provider. Go through credit card charges, and dispute any that you did not make to limit the liability. Also, alert them of potential additional fraud, and have them put a fraud alert on the account. Most credit card providers can send out an email or text when they are used, indicating the amount of the charge, and where the card to use to alert you in real time if unauthorized charges are being applied to the card.

Furthermore, check with the credit bureaus, and ask to place a credit freeze. This then limits the ability to open new credit accounts as additional protections are in place for anyone to access your credit information. Requesting to place the freeze at any of the three major credit unions (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax) alerts the other two to freeze it as well as they share info.