We’ve all heard of identity theft - if you’ve already had the misfortune of going through it you know what a stressful and painful experience it can be. If you have never experienced it you may be forgiven for thinking it could never happen to you. You would be wrong.
The FTC reports that 1/3 of all US citizens have already experienced identity theft at least once in their life. Identity theft accounted for $56 billion of stolen money in 2020 alone. That’s billion with a b.
Of that number, $13 billion was lost to large-scale data hacks; the type you see making front-page news when a company has to take to the stand with tales tucked between legs and apologize for ‘compromising’ the sensitive information of their customers.
Perhaps even more staggering, the remaining $43 billion was lost to direct-interaction scams. You know those emails you used to (and maybe still do receive) about a billionaire uncle you never heard of who just happens to need a couple of thousand dollars to help him out of a sticky situation? Those are called phishing emails and they have matured in recent years. So much so that even tech-savvy millennials are increasingly falling victim to them - millennials now constitute 35% of all fraud cases.
The threat of Identity theft is criminally underestimated and misunderstood and until we take sensible protection measures, these types of statistics will continue to grow. Just in case you were in any doubt, here are some more shocking statistics:
Let's be clear, there is no sure-fire way to prevent identity theft completely. Even with a protection service, it is still necessary to use sensible internet practices such as never sharing your passwords, never providing sensitive data unless you are 100% sure of the authenticity of the receiver, and trusting the adage - ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.’
That being said, even with the best will in the world it is not always possible to avoid identity theft on your own. Every time you apply for credit, a new job or home, sign up for a subscription service, or make a purchase online you are entrusting that company with your valuable data. Couple that with online scams that are increasingly so sophisticated that they are almost indistinguishable from reputable companies and those staggering scam statistics start to make sense.
An identity theft protection service may not be able to 100% protect you but what it can do is:
Now what kind of coverage you require will vary dependent on your needs. However, here are our three favorite identity theft protection services for 2024:
Aura offers an all-in-one solution to help you protect your family from identity theft. The service comes with all the features you and your family need to stay safe online. A credit monitoring feature will keep an eye on your credit report and let you know if there are any changes. In the event of suspicious activity, Aura's credit lock feature will immediately lock your credit file. Locking will prevent fraudsters from using your information to open new accounts.
The service also includes dark web monitoring, which will scan the internet for your personal information. The feature will ensure that your personally identifiable information isn't floating around on the internet for anyone to find. Aura will alert you if your online accounts, registered SSN, and other personal information is compromised. If Aura finds your personal information on the dark web, broker lists, and other public data sources, you will be contacted by a US-based case manager. They will help you through the process of resolving the issue and restoring your identity.
And if you're using Aura as a parent, you no longer have to worry about your children's online safety. The service comes with the ability to monitor your child's social media activity and internet usage. You can also set limits on their internet usage and prevent them from accessing inappropriate content. The secure VPN feature will encrypt your internet connection and prevent hackers from snooping on your online activity. And if malware, ransomware, and viruses are a concern, Aura has also got you covered there. The service comes with real-time antivirus protection to protect your devices from malware and other online threats.
IDShield provides security and privacy monitoring, as well as consulting and full-service identity restoration. You'll get fraud warnings via the app and access to full-time qualified private investigators, something you won’t find on other ID theft services. What’s more, if you need to get in touch with investigators, you can do so directly from the app.
Credit monitoring is also included in all its plans, including tracking the usage of your Social Security number and dark web surveillance. They also monitor bank accounts, including 401(k), notify you when a sex offender moves into or out of your community, search social media sites for images, postings, and remarks that could jeopardize employment prospects, and provide unlimited consultations with an identity theft counselor. Each level also includes a $1 million payment for missed wages, travel, and legal defense in the event of identity theft.
McAfee Identity Theft Protection is one of the top identity theft protection software on the market. It helps monitor your personal information on digital platforms for changes that could signal fraud, which ensures more data privacy.
Are you wondering how McAfee works? It continuously monitors the dark web to check if your personal information has been compromised in a data breach. If it finds any of your data on the dark web, it will send you an alert and guide you on how to resolve the issue. An expert experienced in identity theft protection will help you fix the issue and provide one-on-one support.The software offers a comprehensive suite of features to help you protect your personal information from identity thieves. One feature is an antivirus that protects you from the ever-evolving threats of viruses, malware, and spyware. This award-winning antivirus protection works on all compatible devices.
The identity monitoring feature monitors your personal information for any changes that may indicate identity theft. It alerts you immediately so you can take action to protect yourself. And if you lose your wallet, the software has a lost wallet feature that helps you cancel and replace your lost or stolen items. These items include your credit cards, driver's licenses, and other vital documents. With McAfee ID Theft Protection, you can enjoy using public Wi-Fi without worry. The software has a secure VPN that protects your privacy by encrypting your web traffic and hiding your IP address when using public Wi-Fi.The personal data clean-up feature will work extra hard to let you know how much of your data is available online. You can also check which companies are using it and delete it if you want. And with $1 in million identity theft insurance, you can rest assured that McAfee covers you financially in the event of identity theft.
With several highly-recommended identity theft protection firms, it can be tricky to know which ones are best for you and your family. To help narrow down your choices, we came up with our top 10 list based on the following criteria:
Identity theft is unfortunately an unavoidable risk in the modern world. While a protection service cannot entirely mitigate the risk, it will make your life immeasurably easier should the worst happen. Think of it in the same way as your car and home insurance. Hopefully, there will never come a time when you need them but, should that time arise, you will owe a debt of gratitude to your proactive past self.
Absolutely, many services offer spouse and familial coverage against identity theft. As mentioned above, there is a worrying rise in cases involving minors, many under the age of 6. If you want to protect more than yourself, look for a plan that includes family support.
Prices vary depending on how comprehensive the service is and the number of individuals covered. Average prices vary between around $6 and $20 per month. Most services also offer an annual subscription that is more cost-effective.
This is a very sensible question considering how much we have talked about potential data breaches. While no company is completely impervious to a data breach, you can rest assured that a reputable identity theft protection service is among the most encrypted and protected services in the world.