Cyber-attacks have become more frequent and much more damaging. Phishing emails can give criminals access to your personal data, and even worse access to your bank accounts. While one person stealing your wallet is awful, online hacking and phishing allow cyber criminals to steal hundreds of thousands of wallets in just a few seconds.
By the time you realize that you have been the victim of hacking or a phishing attack there is no way to stop it, so how do you keep your personal data and financial data safe? There are some things that you can do to prevent cyber attacks before they happen and some ways to recover if you are the victim of an attack.
Don’t Click on Links
If you get an email with a link that you aren’t expecting DO NOT CLICK on it. The only links you should click on are ones you requested, like a password reset. If you didn’t request anything, even if the link looks reputable, do not click on it. Phishing tricks people into thinking the link in your email is a legitimate company, but they aren’t. They are creating false pages that look like the real thing, so even if it looks like your bank unless you requested something from them, call before you click.
Create Complex Passwords
We know you love your children, but you shouldn’t make your passwords the way to express that love. You should have different passwords for every site you log into, and you should always choose two-factor authentication when it is an option. By following both of these rules, you can drastically reduce the odds that your personal data will be compromised.
If you suck at remembering passwords, you should look into a password manager. Password managers will help you create complex passwords and then store those passwords for you. They will even populate the password and other form data for you.
Invest in a Good Antivirus Program
Using a free antivirus program is a great way to save a little money, but it’s not the best way to keep your identity safe when you are online. Buying a robust antivirus software program will help stop attacks before they start. Choose a company that has more than just antivirus; you should look for providers that also include malware and ransomware protection.
Most antivirus programs also have extra features and options that can allow you to protect other devices like Android and MAC. Regardless of provider, you should make sure that every device you use is properly protected.
Protect Your Wireless Devices
Don’t leave your phone unlocked because it is convenient. It won’t be convenient in the event you lose your phone, and someone else finds it. You should also use Touch ID if it is available. Codes are easy to break, but your fingerprint is much harder. Also, you should keep your phone clean (I use alcohol wipes on mine because I am a germophobe) to keep someone from being able to pull your print from the device.
Our Top Five Identity Theft Protection Services
We have spent a considerable amount of time evaluating the most popular identity theft protection services to make sure that you have all of the information you need to choose a provider that is right for you. These are the providers that we selected, we will cover what we like about them and what we don’t to help you make an informed decision.
Our #1 Identity Theft Protection Sevice-LifeLock
LifeLock is our number one choice because it offers one of the most comprehensive identity theft programs on the market. They consistently monitor your credit score, financial activity and changes to your personal information and alerts you by email or text should it find something that appears suspicious.
What LifeLock Monitors
LifeLock will monitor public records and popular sites that allow criminals to sell or buy personal data. They also keep track of changes to any credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and other financial sites you visit.
If they determine that fraud has taken place, they will pass the issues on to the remediation department who will then work to resolve the issue.
Personal Information Monitoring
LifeLock does an admirable job of keeping an eye on your personal data. They will show you any addresses that are associated with your name, and then check that against other databases to determine if someone else is at those addresses and possibly using your name.
They will also monitor your maiden name, insurance cards, phone numbers, email addresses and your driver’s license. Other ways they keep track of your data include internet monitoring, this allows LifeLock to check the dark web to see if your information is being used by black market sites that steal and sell personal information.
In addition to monitoring your personal data, LifeLock also works to protect your financial accounts. Once you add your accounts to your LifeLock account they will monitor them and send you alerts and notifications if they sense something is not on the up and up.
They will also track all of your financial activity in one place. You just need to access the Financial Activity page, and you can see the histories of all of your connected accounts. LifeLock will alert you if you go over a set amount when making the purchase. The default amount is low, at $100, but you can raise the amount if you regularly spend more than that.
You can also dispute transactions on the Alerts and Notifications page by click the red “this wasn’t me” button. When you click the button LifeLock will send you the information you need to start the process to dispute the transaction.
You will need to add a reminder in the event you change your account logins or security questions, as you will have to update them manually on the LifeLock site.
If you are a LifeLock Ultimate Plus member, and you become a victim of identity theft under their watch, they will spend up to one million dollars to recover and restore your identity. If you are a victim of a theft that may compromise your identity, like if your purse or wallet is stolen, LifeLock will help you cancel credit and debit cards, and replace items like your Social Security card, insurances cards, and traveler’s checks.
To take advantage of their guarantee, you are required to notify LifeLock within 90 days of the date you realized that you had been a victim of identity theft. You are also protected under a more traditional insurance policy that will compensate you for any losses incurred should your identity be stolen. If you are an Advantage level customer you can get up to $100,000 of coverage; standard users are covered for $25,000.
However, all customers regardless of tiers are covered under the Total Service Guarantee. This guarantee isn’t insurance, it is only used to pay the cost of lawyers, investigators, and other consultants if you are a victim of identity theft while using the LifeLock program.
A few niceties that come with your LifeLock subscription include removing you from preapproved credit card offer mailing lists. Which means less junk mail, and more protection from someone looking in your garbage to gain information about you.
LifeLock also provides protection for your children. Children are more likely to have their identities stolen. It is estimated that the rate that children are targeted by identity theft is between 30%-50% higher for children. Children don’t realize that someone has stolen their identity until they are adults. So providing protection for your kids is worth looking into, as it can alert you early if someone has stolen their identity for nefarious reasons.
- LifeLock provides monthly credit scores from three different credit reporting bureau
- Provides more updates, alerts, and notifications than other providers
- Reviews the dark web and black market sites to keep you safe
- Monitors financial accounts and alerts when transactions look suspicious
- Cost more than other identity protection providers
- Customer online support require you to share information before getting assistance
- If you aren’t an Ultimate subscriber you can only get $25,000 in insurance if your identity is stolen
In a close second, we have IdentityForce, while it is similar to LifeLock IndentityForce differs when it comes to packages and features. It is also less expensive at $19.95 per month. It also uses the same credit score and reports sites Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to both manage and monitor your credit.
They are also highly confident in their abilities, as they, like LifeLock, offer recovery payments of up to one million dollars.
What IdentityForce Monitors
IdentifyForce provides credit score and report monitoring services and will alert you to any changes the minute they occur; you can access your reports using their online dashboard. You can click on View Reports to see any changes that have taken place. They will also monitor chat rooms and websites that are known to traffic in identity theft and other illegal acts.
If they find any potential compromises of your personal information they will contact you immediately, they also show you all of your accounts, including balances, and the total you pay each month. It will also remind you if you have fallen behind on certain accounts.
IdentityForce will also place fraud alerts on your credit file and even help you replace lost cards and drivers licenses if you lose your wallet. And for someone link me who excels at losing things, that’s a nice added bonus. Take it from someone who has lost more than one wallet, and a couple of purses, having a company that makes it easy to replace lost cards and IDs is awesome.
They also provide you with tutorials on how you can help protect your identity and reduce the likelihood that it will be compromised.
Personal Information Monitoring
Similar to LifeLock IdentityForce works to keep your personal information protected. They keep watch over your email addresses, phone numbers, government IDs (including your driver’s license) and your social security number. They will also search government and court records and criminal records to see if your identity is being used by someone who is trying to commit or has already committed a crime.
They also keep up to date on address changes and sex offenders registration databases; they can alert you should a register sex offender move into your neighborhood. IdentityForce will also check with the USPS to see if someone has requested redirecting of your mail.
They will also check the dark web and black market sites to see if your information is being used, or worse sold, with the intent of using your personal information to commit a crime.
Credit and Bank Account Monitoring
IdentityForce will also monitor your open bank and credit accounts to look for abnormal activity. You will need to provide your account information, and from there whey will review your transactions and alert you should something unusual take place. While IdentityForce monitors your financial accounts, they do not allow you to check your accounts on their dashboard. You will still have to log into your accounts individually on the provider’s site.
While they do monitor your accounts, LifeLock has a more robust offering when it comes to monitoring and management of your financial accounts. Another reason that LifeLock is stronger when it comes to protecting your financial accounts is how quickly they alert you by text or email should something seem abnormal. IndentityForce has added new bank and credit alerts, but often they don’t arrive in a timely manner, or sometimes they do not arrive.
Recovery Assistance and Insurance
IdentityForce, like LifeLock, offers a one million dollar identity theft policy. The policy allows for a payment of up to one thousand dollars per week to cover lost wages, and to assist you in covering fees for credit cards and loans that were denied due to your identity being compromised. If you have been previously reimbursed by any financial institution, IdentityForce will not compensate you for funds that have already been returned to you.
Children are more often the targets when it comes to identity theft, which is why IdentityForce will allow you to add your children to your account for an additional fee. They will also remove you from mail lists, which will reduce the amount of junk mail you get each day.
Identity Force also provides an Online Data Protection program that you can download for free. The software is designed to protect you online from keylogging malware by scrambling your entries as you type. It will also alert you to phishing sites by preventing them from loading. This service only works with Windows at this time.
- Less expensive than top competitors
- Has a complete personal monitoring option
- Allows you to add your children for a small fee
- Monitors financial accounts and alerts when transactions look suspicious
- Slow when it comes to sending alerts
- Keylogging protection is only available for Windows
Identity Guard Platinum
Identity Guard is similar to its competition as it provides a similar suite of services designed to keep your identity safe and to provide compensation should your identity be compromised. They are effective at monitoring your personal information and add some additional free options that can provide you with tools to help you protect your identity on your own.
For $24.99 you can get the Platinum service level, which includes all of their features and monitoring options, but you can also choose less expensive plans like the Essential plan at $9.99 per month and Total Protection at $19.99 per month. Each will offer personal information monitoring however, there are differences in the level of credit and public record monitoring.
What Identity Guard Monitors
With three different levels, you can choose how much, or how little protection you want. The table below will break down each option and what you get, or don’t get at each level.
Enter table here
Like most providers, Identity Guard monitors your personal information, credit scores and public databases including the dark web and black market sites to make sure that your identity isn’t being sold or traded. If they should find something abnormal, they will send a text message to alert you that something has changed. However, unlike some other providers, they will not alert the credit reporting bureaus, you will need to contact them yourself if your identity is compromised.
Personal Information Monitoring
Identity Guard Platinum is similar to LifeLock and IdentityForce in the way it protects your personal information. This information includes your name, address, email address, phone number and social security number but it doesn’t allow you to add any government IDs or addition email addresses or phone numbers.
It will also monitor any outstanding, or new, loans or lease agreements. They also check public records, but sex offender registers are not reviewed or monitored.
Identity Guard allows you to register up to twenty accounts to monitor and several banks account that you want them to monitor. However, while they monitor them, they have been known to miss changes, and not to send updates when they see a change has been made.
So while they may monitor changes to your credit and bank accounts, you may not be made aware that the change has taken place. Which could result in your accounts being compromised, so while you can upload your accounts to their platform, you will still want to check them independent of the platform to make sure something isn’t missed.
Similar to LifeLock and IdentityForce, insurance up to one million dollars is provided by Identity Guard in the event your identity is stolen under their watch. There are some differences when it comes to how Identity Guard makes payments to you, however. You will get $2000 per week in lost wages for up to five weeks and they also cover travel up to $1000 and elder or child care for up to $2000.
These additional features make it easier on you if you are away from home. They also provide emergency cash if your wallet is missing, so you don’t have to worry should your wallet, or purse is stolen.
Identity Guard provides several programs to help its members keep their data secure. These tools will allow you to keep yourself safe on websites and it lets you remove yourself from junk mail list and like other providers for an additional fee you can add your children to the account to protect them, as they are the most likely ones to have their identity stolen.
You can also use a Credit Analyzer tool that lets you see how different options like paying off debt or adding new credit accounts will affect your score with the three bureaus Identity Guard pulls reports from.
- Gives you $2000 in emergency funds if your wallet or purse is lost or stolen
- Uses all three standard credit bureaus
- Solid personal information monitoring
- Offers some decent online tools
- Cost more than some plans
- Alerts are slow or non-existent
ID Watchdog Platinum
With two different identity theft plans to protect you from fraud, you will be able to find a cost-effective way to protect your personal information. Both plans will provide protection for your social security number, address, and credit reports, and both offer a guarantee should your identity be stolen while they are guarding your personal information.
ID Watchdog even covers you if you don’t have them monitor your identity, which I know sounds odd, but they do. They will still help you recover from identity theft, which makes them one of our favorite programs.
What Watchdog ID Monitors
Similar to other providers they will monitor your identity or any changes, this includes scanning both encrypted and unencrypted data in chat rooms where identities are known to be traded or sold. If they detect that something has gone wrong with your identity, they will send an alert using
ID Watchdog works to make sure that they not only monitor your identity, they also work to protect your personal data to keep almost everything you do safely from theft. They check banks and other financial institutions to make sure new accounts aren’t being open; they even monitor your medical records and government IDs to make sure someone isn’t trying to present themselves as you.
They also visit record sites that report criminal activity to make sure someone isn’t using your identity to commit a crime. They also make sure that you are alerted the moment they identify something that doesn’t seem right.
In addition to keeping an eye on your credit scores ID Watchdog also provides you with copies of your annual credit report. They also work with financial organizations that require verification protocols to verify your identity. This makes it easier for ID Watchdog to alert you as soon as someone tries to log in using your personal information.
However, they lack some of the features that are found with other providers. They don’t do much to protect your accounts. While they will send you alerts, you will have to follow up on them on your own, which means if several accounts are compromised you may end up spending a good deal of time trying to manage the damage.
ID Watchdog will work to help you recover your identity should it be stolen during their watch. They offer three options when it comes to restoration of your identity these include; financial recovery, personal information recovery and restoration of your civil records.
They will also provide recovery insurance up to the industry standard of one million dollars. However, how much you are compensated in the event your identity is stolen can vary from state to state.
Like most identity protection providers, ID Watchdog lets you enroll your children in the plan for a minimal fee. And while they will provide you with an annual credit report for no additional cost, that seems to be the extent of their additional features. They don’t have the standard feature that removes your name off of junk mail lists, which is a driver for identity theft.
- Provides standard one million dollar insurance policy
- Provides personal and financial monitoring services
- Will assist with identity recovery even if you don’t pay for their services
- Doesn’t provide features that take you off junk mail lists
- Payout amounts can vary by state
Another provider in the identity theft realm is TrustedID, similar to other providers they not only work to keep your identity safe, they also provide you with resources to help you protect not only your identity but also protect your financial accounts and personal information.
One of the things that set TrustedID apart is their family plan option. It not only covers children, it also covers elderly family members, which are the most likely to fall prey to hacking and phishing attacks that can put their identity at risk.
What TrustedID Monitors
When it comes to preventing fraud, TrustedID is all about it. The first thing they will do is score you regarding how much you are at risk when it comes to identity theft. Next, they will offer you some ideas and tips, based on your score to help you protect yourself.
They also provide assistance if your identity is compromised You will have to complete a claims kit, but once completed they will help ou resolve any current issues and protect you from new ones in the future. You can also contact their service center using chat, phone or email if you think your identity has been compromised.
TrustedID will monitor your name, social security number, credit cards, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses. They also scan black market sites to make sure someone isn’t trying to sell or trade your identity.
If you have the IDEssentials plan you can also get Facebook monitoring. TrustedID will scan your personal information and alert you if your identity or photos of you are attached to a different page. One area in which they are lacking is reviewing public records and criminal records. Hopefully, this is something they will add to their monitoring options.
While TrustedID will help you monitor and manage your credit they don’t do much beyond that. They do remove you from junk mail list, but they are lacking when it comes to checking for unauthorized bank accounts, loans or leases. You also won’t get the added features that other providers offer, like vehicle registrations.
They also only check credit for two adults on the “family” plan. Which could leave other members of your plan to fend for themselves, or have to pay for another monitoring system that provides credits checks.
TrustedID provides a one million dollar insurance guarantee, which matches most of their competitors. They will reimburse you for any legal expenses, lost wages and other costs that you incur due to your identity being stolen.
You can get additional features that will monitor court records, social networking sites and tax records. you can also use their CreditLock feature to limit how credit reporting companies share your credit records.
- TrustedID allows you to add children and elderly family members to your plan.
- They offer the industry standard one million dollar service guarantee.
- They will work with government agencies to help restore your identity
- Doesn’t screen for unauthorized loan or credit accounts
- Trusted ID doesn’t check public and criminal records
What you should know about Recovery Assistance
The first thing you need to know is that there are two different recovery options that the majority of identity theft protection services provide. The first is a recovery service, this service is designed to help you repair any damage that has been caused by your identity being stolen and used by someone who isn’t you.
The other recovery product is the $1 million dollar coverage that every Identity Protection company provides. But sometimes the way the $1 million is presented can cause confusion. And even though the FCC did caution id from making people think they get one million dollars, it can still be hard to understand what you would really get.
So we are here to help you understand what you would get if your identity was stolen while using an identity protection company. While each company may have different plans, we are going to cover what most of the plans have in common in terms of what they do and how they pay you.
Most companies will require you to report the identity theft within 30 days, which means you kind of have to monitor your own identity along with the company to see if something is missed that has compromised your identity.
Once you have reported your claim, a customer support person will verify that your claim is valid. After your claim is verified the provider will assign a third party (in most cases) to work with you to gain an understanding of the damage and put in place a plan to repair each issue.
Once you are working with your recovery specialist they will walk you through what is being done, and what you can do to help, recover your identity. These are some of the steps taken to recover your identity if it is stolen:
- Working with experts to correct and re-establish your credit history
- Cancel all accounts, government IDs, and passports and replacing as necessary
- Spend up to $1 million dollars to restore your identity (this means paying for the experts and support to help you re-establish your credit and identity)
Most of the confusion can be found when it comes to the $1 million dollar guarantee, it is easy to think that you will get a payout, but that is not how the service guarantee works. Most of the guarantees on the market do not cover lost wages or business lost opportunities that were due to a negative credit score.
While some may provide funds for out-of-pocket expenses like gas and any fees you pay in the process of replacing government IDS, some will only cover the restoration of your identity. It is a good idea to contact any company you are considering to get a clear understanding of what they cover under their guarantee.
Identity protection services do provide a valuable service. One that many of us don’t have the time or skills to do ourselves. Managing your credit reports alone can take up a lot of time. So when you throw checking public and criminal record sites, social media accounts and checking on your children to ensure their identities are safe into the mix, it can feel like a lot. Because it is a lot.
And that is why having the benefit of an identity protection company can make your life easier; they can do all of the searching and checking, which means you don’t have to spend ours scouring the internet to see if your identity has been stolen.
They will also spend the money to recover and rebuild your identity, which is often a challenge if your accounts and finances have been compromised. So while there is no $1 million dollar bonus, these companies can keep you and your family safe from identity theft. Which is something that has become increasingly important as hackers and phishing schemes continue to become more clever and harder to stop.