One of the most common questions I get from readers about identity theft protection services is “Are service like Lifelock or TrustedID worth the money?” If you ever frequent forums where people talk about identity theft protection you’ve probably come across a conversation like this:
Bert: I just lost my wallet and wanted to know if any of you think a service like Lifelock is worth it?
Ernie: All those services are a scam, you can do everything they do by yourself. Placing fraud alerts and ordering credit reports are free. Don’t waste your money, it’s all a big scam.
Ernie’s argument might have had some validity a few years ago when all identity protection services did was place fraud alerts on your behalf. Today it’s a different story. Services like Lifelock have evolved far beyond fraud alerts and credit freezes. Identity Guard’s Total Protection offers real-time monitoring of your credit report and Lifelock’s Command Center will scan court records, sex offender regitires, and even payday loans to see if your information is being used without your permission. As times have changed, identity protection services have stayed one step ahead of an ever increasing threat environment.
The Modern Identity Thief
It’s not your father’s identity thief. Today’s identity thieves employ sophisticated technology to access your personal information. Just a few weeks ago, police busted a major identity theft ring in Los Angeles that employed bluetooth scanners inside Arco gas terminals. Unsuspecting customers would enter their PIN number and the scanners would copy everything the thieves needed to duplicate your card and drain your bank account.
The reality is much of your private information is already out there and there’s very little you can do to stop it. How many credit applications have you filled over the past few years? Have you ever filled out a department store card to get that 10% in savings? In 2009, over 100 million records were compromised by data breeches alone. You could follow every advice about protecting your personal information and through no fault of your own, be a victim of identity theft because your health insurer had their database hacked.
What About My Free Credit Report?
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers have guaranteed free access to their credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – once a year. You can request your free copy at annualcreditreport.com , the official site authorized by the FTC to get your free credit report. While this is great, it doesn’t go far enough. Why shouldn’t we have access to our reports whenever we want? What might not be common knowledge is the fact that a large part of Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion’s business is selling your information to creditor’s and marketers.
Constant Monitoring Is The Best Way To Protect Yourself
Identity theft experts agree that early detection is the best way to resolve a problem before it get’s out of hand. If you rely on your free once a year credit report, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable 92% of the time. A service like Experian’s ProtectMyID offers near real time credit report monitoring with updates sent to you via text message or email if thet detect any adverse changes. Without such a service you’d have no notice an identity theft was opening lines of credit and ruining your credit until the debt collectors started to call.
For more information on choosing an identity theft protection service and how they vary, you can read our article on picking the best identity theft protection service here. Regardless of what service you choose, in this day and age you can ill afford to be without any protection.