Best identity theft protection
Identity fraud just isn't going away, and it continues to be a growing concern. If you're (quite rightly) concerned about falling for one of the many scams that have been doing the rounds on the internet, then our guide to the best identity theft protection tools will help you put your mind at ease.
Millions of people every year are hit by ID theft - the number of victims in the US alone in 2017 is thought to be in excess of 16 million people. These scams varied in their methods, but pretty much every one depended on a criminal assuming the stolen identity of someone else in order to withdraw money, take out loans, make payments and more.
However, there are ways to help protect yourself, with the best identity theft protection services offering tools to help you spot potential scams. The best identity theft protection services we list here all offer access to credit reports that can help you easily keep track of your financial accounts.
The best protection isn't cheap – you could pay $30 (£20) a month – but don't let that put you off. Some companies offer basic tools for free, and there are plenty of low cost, high value plans for UK and US citizens to choose from.
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Comprehensive ID theft protection with some unusual extras
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.
No service can offer a 100% protection guarantee, but if you do become an identity theft victim, IdentityForce has a capable identity restoration team to get your life back in order, and an insurance policy will refund you up to $1 million for ID theft-related losses and expenses.
Symantec's powerful ID theft protection all-rounder
Founded in 2005, LifeLock is a US-based identity theft protection company which was recently purchased by Symantec for $2.3 billion (£1.6 billion).
The service provides in-depth monitoring of credit and loan applications, court and criminal records, 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 near real-time 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 LifeLock's support team jumps into action to investigate.
If a thief manages to bypass your defenses anyway, LifeLock's ID recovery specialists will help you get your life back. Unlike some services, that doesn't mean they'll advise you who to call – they'll do the heavy lifting for you, making those calls, filling in forms and more. In really serious situations, you're covered by up to $1 million for losses and expenses due to identity fraud.
Unsurprisingly, all this power doesn't come cheap. LifeLock's high-end Ultimate Plus account costs $29.99 a month, 50% more than similar products from IdentityForce and ID Watchdog.
It's hard to beat LifeLock's features and functionality, though, and the service does offer good deals in some areas. The starter LifeLock Standard plan gives you social security number and credit alerts for $9.99 a month, and you can protect up to five devices with Norton Security Online for free in year one, and only $3 a month after that. Not only is that impressive value, but securing your devices could prevent the leaks that allow ID theft to happen in the first place.
Quick and easy protection for beginners in the US
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 for those in the US, offering access to their 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, it provides with an affordable entry to all-year identity protection. 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 you your credit report, for instance, the Experian site offers a sample report to show you 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.
CreditExpert doesn't offer any particularly surprising features, and its price is much the same as the other big names at $19.99 a month. Its ease of use is a major plus, though, and a 30-day trial provides a risk-free way to check out IdentityWorks's abilities.
Lifetime free access to your credit report if you are UK-based
In a world where the competition regularly charges eye-wateringly high subscription fees, Noddle's appeal is easy to spot: no-strings free access to your credit report, for life.
The free service does have a significant caveat. When you first log in, Noddle displays your current credit report, but after that it's only updated every 30 days. If you're unlucky on the timing, you could have an identity thief take out a loan in your name, and not know about it for as long as four weeks.
The commercial Noddle Alerts plan steps up its protection by alerting you within 24 hours concerning any significant changes to your credit report. It's priced at only £20 a year in the UK, which is excellent value when other services can charge around £15 a month for little more.
A separate Noddle Web Watch plan monitors the dark web for any sign of your personal details being sold online, which might give you an early warning of identity theft attempts. It's also priced at a very reasonable £20 as a standalone plan, or you can buy both Noddle Alerts and Noddle Web Watch for £30 a year.
Noddle's services have their issues. The website has more ads and marketing tie-ins than usual, and although the reports are informative, they're not quite as well-designed as some of the big-name competition. But it does deliver a strong set of features for a very, very low price, and if you're looking for a bargain, Noddle offers one of the best identity theft protection deals around.