Identity theft is a real issue. It happens all the time and it has all kinds of unwanted consequences.
Once an ID thief gets a hold of your personal information, he can do a lot of things in your name: he can get his hands on your passport and driver’s license, he can apply for credit cards, a mortgage or a job using your name, lease apartments or purchase cars and much more.
And because someone’s problem can be another one’s opportunity to make some money, the market is saturated with identity protection services that promise a lot and charge you even more. So while identity theft is a real problem, it is only fair to ask ourselves: are these ID protection services so useful and necessary? Are they really worth the hype or is it all just money down the drain? Can an identity protection service really protect you more than you can?
Here are some PROS and CONS that might help you make a decision.
PROS of using an identity theft protection service:
- It offers comprehensive and constant monitoring of your information. A specialized ID protection service can monitor all your data on a constant basis, so you don’t have to keep remembering to do it yourself. The monitoring is extensive: it can monitor your bank accounts, credit reports, medical records and so on. You can have all that in one single package. An ID protection service also notifies you in case of any suspicious activities related to your SSN, address, etc. and there are options to include your family in that monitoring, as well
- All major, reliable ID protection services offer to reimburse you in case you have your identity stolen while you have a contract with them. The amount they are willing to offer varies from company to company and plan to plan, but it can go from thousands of dollars to 1 million dollars, or perhaps even more
- In case you have your ID stolen, these protection services will assist you in recovering your name. They will most likely assign you a specialist who will guide you throughout the entire recovery process, including communicating with your creditors for you, sending out necessary letters and so on.
CONS of using an identity theft protection service:
- There are no 100% guarantees, not even with specialized ID protection services. This is of course the biggest ‘con’, although you can’t really call it that. Even though an identity theft protection service, which does its job properly, significantly reduces the risk of ID theft, nothing is 100% and the most trust-worthy companies will be fair-play enough to mention this from the start.
- The most effective and reliable services cost money. Most of these services charge a monthly fee, which can vary depending on the features they include. The fee can go anywhere from around $10 to $30/month.
- Some companies are misleading and they are just after your money, so you have to be very careful and read all their terms and conditions thoroughly. Some of them are not transparent enough about their pricing, others exclude some important features or benefits and you only realize that after you signed up (if you don’t read everything carefully before committing to any plan).
If you want to minimize the chances of having your ID stolen, identity theft protection services are definitely a helpful ally. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some measures you can take for free, on your own. You can sign up for free credit monitoring services, monitor your data yourself, online, make sure you get rid of as much junk mail, credit card offers, etc. as you can, and stay protected every time you are surfing the Internet, with the help of Antivirus programs, encrypted connection, strong passwords, two step authentication and so on.