Do ID Theft Monitoring Services Really Work?

KEITH MORRIS

Unfortunately, in this digital age, ID theft is a common occurrence. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Data breaches make their way into the news every few months, and financial hacking headlines appear regularly. No one likes to consider the possibility that someone will steal their identity and open fraudulent accounts, and it can have devastating financial and emotional consequences when it does happen. 

One solution to provide you with peace of mind in these circumstances is to sign up with an ID Theft Monitoring Service. These companies can provide far-reaching security benefits and, for a certain segment of the population, they really work and are well worth the monthly or annual fee.

What are ID Theft Monitoring Services?

ID theft monitoring companies keep an eye on your personal information, starting with credit and identity monitoring to alerts, all the way through to recovery services if needed. 

Credit Monitoring

You grant the company access to your credit reports, and they monitor them for as long as you designate, which is usually a year but can be monthly. You need to clarify with the company you choose which credit bureaus they monitor: Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax. It’s preferable they monitor all three. The monitors will look for things like opening a new credit card or loan account, notices of late payments, a filing for bankruptcy, legal judgments, a change in credit limits, and personal information change requests.

Identity Monitoring

This service focuses on your personal information, such as your social security number or driver’s license. Close monitoring looks for address change requests, new utility orders, arrest or court records, payday loan applications, and so forth.

Alert Notifications

When your personal information is used to open new accounts, or there’s an influx of new credit inquiries, the company will send an alert, notifying you of the new action on your credit. They will also notify you of questionable activities, such as new utility account requests.

Recovery Services

When your identity is stolen and results in fraudulent use, like running up debt on a credit card you didn’t open, the company assists you in repairing your credit and may help you recover any lost funds. Some of these companies can also represent you to the creditors.

ID theft monitoring companies may also offer insurance policies in case identity theft results in high losses. More services include keeping you up to date on the latest identity theft news or monitoring dark web sites where stolen financial and personal information is exchanged.

Who Will Benefit?

While everyone can benefit, ID theft monitoring services are especially beneficial in certain situations, including:

  • If you are at high risk or are already a victim of identity theft.
  • If you are notified of a data breach which may include your information but not offered free credit monitoring as a result.
  • When you resist putting a freeze on your credit.
  • When you don’t have the time or know you cannot consistently follow through with actively monitoring your credit.

Do ID Theft Monitoring Services Work?

The answer to do ID theft monitoring services work is complicated.  While monitoring cannot prevent or protect you from identity theft, it can provide quick notice so you can address it sooner rather than later. However, most monitoring services do not include tax, government benefits, or social security fraud alerts as they do not have access to those databases.

While you can monitor your credit yourself, scheduling timely checks of your credit report with all three bureaus, you won’t have access to certain databases that can tell of potential identity theft, such as the National Change of Address database and dark websites where the on-going trade of stolen information occurs.

What are the Alternatives?

The best alternative to hiring an ID theft monitoring company is to do as much as you can yourself. You must be diligent, however, as it will take time and commitment. Here’s what you can do for yourself:

  • Monitor changes to your credit reports with the three credit bureaus - Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
  • Track credit scores, now a free option with many credit card issuers and personal financial websites.
  • Report any instances of identity theft you discover to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) using the IdentityTheft.gov website or by calling them directly.
  • Contact credit bureaus and place a temporary fraud alert on your files.
  • Follow a free recovery path provided on the FTC website free of charge.

One additional important factor to consider is a credit freeze. You can do this yourself with the credit bureaus at no charge and no harm to your credit score. While this is in place, no one can open a new line of credit under your name and social security number. This helps you monitor your credit more closely and with less effort. When you’re ready, contact the credit bureaus and remove the freeze at any time.

If the do-it-yourself approach seems too overwhelming to you, however, consider going with an ID theft monitoring service to ensure you get the assistance you need. Once you’ve worked with them for a while, ask yourself, do ID theft monitoring services really work for your situation, and decide where to go from there. You can always start with paid services then segue into self-monitoring.

Read More: Lifelock ID Theft Protection Plans

Conclusion

These days, almost all transactions are done online, from shopping to banking. As a result, personal information can be stolen, credit ruined, data breaches occur, and you can end up owing thousands of dollars you never spent. Monitoring your credit reports and identity is imperative going forward, and you have several options of how to go about it effectively.

ID theft monitoring services can work for you if you cannot monitor your credit yourself or have previously been the victim of identity fraud. The main thing to keep in mind is that these companies cannot keep your identity from being stolen. They can only monitor it and alert you to abnormalities after they happen. From there, you’ll need to take action on your own behalf.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Keith Morris is a 20+ year veteran of the security game, with the knowledge and experience to set you on the right track toward personal safety and security. His firm is committed to giving you the tools and know-how to combat any threat to your safety.

KEITH MORRIS //  Security Expert


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