One of the great challenges of the digital age is that identity has also become digital, and is easily copied.
It's not quite as simple as that of course, but the dangers are clear, and present. Aside from the financial challenges associated with identity theft, there can be a great deal of emotional ones as well. It is often extremely difficicult to prove identity theft when it does occur, so trying to safeguard against it is one of the truest benefits of having so much data in the hands of centralized credit agencies.
Each of the main credit agencies has a good range of products on offer here in the United States, and for those that understand the challenges ID theft can pose, the cost is seen as very small. But, as usual, we're keen to get into the details and compare the features and benefits of each product and where possible make recommendations to you.
How do identity protection services work?
The basic premise is simple- most ID theft crimes are committed to secure finance illegally in your name. Once details that can be used in this way have been acquired, an application for credit will eventually be lodged by them.
When this happens, the lender goes through the usual motions of checking with credit bureaus for information that will support the application. The credit bureau is alerted to the application in the normal way. The first thing that ID Theft services do is allow you to be alerted to key changes on your credit report so that you can mentally take note of changes and whether they are due to your own activity. If you are in doubt, you can check your credit report to be certain.
The second thing that these products do is scan a maintained (and unfortunately- growing) database of known malicious, or suspect, websites for your personal information. If anything is found, alerts kick in and notify the credit agency and they contact you.
Another key feature is lost wallet assistance. We've all done it right? You're out having a great time, couple of beers sunk and when you get home to realise that you've lost your wallet or purse. My own story is slightly more embarrassing, but we'll leave that well-alone. The time it takes to contact all of your credit card providers, and have your details changed is a bore. Critically however, if this isn't done quickly your details could be used illegally to defraud you before you've got on top of the situation. What lost wallet assistance products do is allow you to call one number to cancel all of your cards. Not only making sure it gets done, but really speaking up your ability to do this and minimise any potential financial or identity losses.
Family ID Monitoring Services
In this article we're specifically interested in identity protection for the whole family, and Equifax, TransUnion and Experian all have products available. They all cost around the $30 price point, although promotions do change this price from time to time. The product are very similar at their core (this is good), and all include data from all three bureaus. There are some differences however which may lead you to chose one over the others.
Equifax Complete Family Plan Point of Difference
The ability to lock and unlock your credit file, essentially controlling the ability for credit in your name to be established. This is pretty smart, and from our point of view should be a standard feature across all bureau-based ID products.
TransUnion Total Point of Difference
TU place emphasis on softer added benefits but also integrate what its calls neighborhood monitoring which notifies you if a registered sex offender moves into your area. Obviously playing on the parental vibe. Although this does seem like a usful piece of information, it strays a little from the core ID theft service.
You can Apply here for TransUnion Total
Experian Point of Difference
Focus on a dedicated team of resolution professions. Experian have saying which I like, "Deter, Detect, Protect, Resolve". This outlines the 4 key essentials to dealing with the threat and Experian seem to place great emphasis on helping their ProtectMyID customers resolve any issues that occur.
Experian also include $1 Million ID theft insurance, which is compelling.