You don’t have to be paranoid to be afraid of identity thieves this day and age. ID theft is a common reality and it can happen to anyone. And while the internet is indeed one of the greatest inventions of our times, it is also one that comes with many risks.
Our lives revolve around the internet. We are connected on a daily basis and we carry most of our activities online: from paying bills, shopping, communicating, booking our flights, vacations and so on.
How can ID theft happen?
There are countless ways through which ID thieves try to steal your personal or financial data:
- You can lose your documents or have them stolen: Social Security card, credit cards and so on
- Your computer/phone might get stolen and hacked
- ID thieves can hack your online accounts (social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter, etc., are a preferred target)
- Thieves may try to obtain your info by sending you e-mails or text messages in which they request you to provide that info, for various reasons
- You might infect your device with different types of viruses, malware and so on
Once these cyber criminals get a hold of your personal information, all hell can break loose. ID thieves can try to apply for credit cards in your name, purchase things using your credit cards, get a mortgage, obtain your driver’s license, lease apartments using your name, or even empty your bank account entirely.
Individuals are not the only potential victims. More often than not, large corporations are the targeted ones, because the rewards can be way more satisfying. Organizations worldwide confront with security breaches on a regular basis. Millions of accounts can get hacked, information stolen and so on.
Should you use an ID theft protection service?
While ID theft protection services can’t guarantee you’ll be fully protected from ID theft, they can still be a very useful security measure. While anyone can monitor their credit report by themselves, few of us have the time and mood to undertake such a tedious task. ID theft protection services can act like a reliable watchdog, alerting you if anything is wrong or suspicious.
Even though anyone can benefit from such services, ID theft protection services are especially great for people who know they are vulnerable to ID theft, because their personal data has been exposed (they just lost important documents, the company where they work just had a major data breach and so on).
People who are already victims of ID theft should also sign up for an ID theft protection service. One of the services offered by these companies is assistance in recovering your identity.
ID theft protection services also offer a consistent insurance in case you have your identity stolen while you have a contract with them. The amount of money offered varies from company to company but it can reach even $1 million dollars or more as reimbursement.
The biggest advantage of using an ID theft protection service is that it constantly monitors your information and you get alerts and notifications in case of any suspicious activity or changes made to your bank accounts, credit reports, medical records and so on. These alerts can be sent via e-mail, or even as text messages on your phone. The notification usually comes within the first 24 hours from the event, so you can start taking the appropriate measures before it’s too late.
Some tips to consider when choosing an ID theft protection service
One of the most important things to be aware of before signing up for an identity theft protection service is that these services are not capable of preventing ID theft. So if a company claims it can “protect you 100%” from ID theft, they’re lying. Stay away from companies that make such false promises, because they are just after your money.
Do your research on each company you’re thinking about signing with and make sure they are legit, have good reviews and they respect your privacy. Your personal data should in no way be shared/sold to third-parties, used for advertising purposes and so on.
Another aspect to consider is transparency when it comes to pricing. Choose a company that is transparent about its fees and also read the small printing carefully.
Identity Guard – Is it a good ID theft protection service?
Identity Guard is an ID theft protection service offered by an American company based in Delaware. The service was created by Intersections Inc., more than two decades ago and has successfully helped dozens of millions of customers so far. The company is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has an A+ rating.
Artificial Intelligence with IBM Watson
Identity Guard offers a comprehensive identity protection service through the revolutionary software, IBM Watson, based on AI (artificial intelligence) programming.
Watson is a really intelligent software developed by IBM and it is constantly monitoring and processing billions of pieces of information to discover whether your data/identity have been compromised in any way.
The artificial intelligence software is complex and extremely fast so in case of any potential threats and malicious activities, you will be alerted immediately. Its biggest strength is the fact that it can browse through huge amounts of data in a very short time, which makes it very efficient.
Watson can detect a various number of threats, from malware vulnerabilities to phishing attempts, data breaches of all sorts and more.
When do you get alerted by Identity Guard?
Identity Guard notifies you immediately in case of:
- Tax fraud
- Bank account takeovers (name, address, e-mail changes, requests for opening new bank accounts using your personal info)
- 3-bureau credit changes (new credit inquiries, new accounts, new public records and so on)
- Wire transfers
- Utility service and cell service applications
- Payday loan applications
Other useful features included with Identity Guard
Identity Guard also monitors the Dark Web to see if your personal information is detected anywhere: such as your social security number, credit card numbers, health insurance number and so on. That info can be found on places such as underground forums, secret chat rooms, black market sites and more.
There is also an add-on for safe browsing, to help you stay protected from malicious content. The extension works with Safari, Chrome, Firefox and blocks tracking cookies, malvertisements, Flash and more.
If you opt for one of Identity Guard’s Family plans, you also benefit from alerts when your child’s personal info is detected on the surface, deep and dark web.
And of course, you also get Identity Guard’s $1 million ID theft insurance, with all their plans. The money would be used to restore your identity in case it is stolen. In addition to the $1 million insurance, you also get access to Identity Guard’s hotline. The hotline is useful if you want to get any answers related to ID fraud.
Identity Guard also offers a mobile app and it is compatible with both iOS and Android devices.
Features included with the mobile app:
- Dark web alerts
- ID verification alerts
- Credit monitoring alerts
- Risk management score
- Threat alerts
- Credit score & factors
- Anti-phishing protection
Available plans and pricing
Identity Guard offers two types of plans: Individual and Family.
There are three subscriptions available for each of the two: Value, Total and Premier.
Value: it is billed at $8.99/month
Total: it costs $19.99/month
Premier: it is billed at $24.99/month.
Value: it is priced at $14.99/month
Total: it is priced at $29.99/month
Premier: it is priced at $34.99/month
All the plans (for both the Individual and Family options) come with the IBM Watson AI monitoring. The mobile app is also available regardless of the plan you opt for, as are SSN monitoring, dark web monitoring and access to the risk management score.
However, credit monitoring for all the 3 bureaus is only included with their Total and Premier plans, and not with the Value plan.
Other missing features from the Value plan are: address monitoring, bank account monitoring and the annual credit report from the 3 bureaus.
The Premier plan, which is the most expensive one, also includes more advanced features such as social insight report (assessment of your Facebook timeline and recommendations on how to improve your image) and alerts about potential cyberbullying on social media (the content detected, the people involved in the bullying, guidance and more).
Identity Guard doesn’t offer 24/7 support. You can reach them by phone Monday – Friday, from 8 am to 11 pm and Saturday, from 9 am to 6 pm ET. They reps are knowledgeable and friendly. The customer support is US-based.
Identity Guard may not be the most affordable ID theft protection service on the market, but it is definitely among the most complex and reliable ones available today. The Watson AI software takes your identity protection to a whole new level, being capable to quickly scan and monitor billions of pieces of information. Identity Guard continues to monitor your case for 60 more days after the problem has been resolved, which is another really nice bonus.