Knowing you need identity theft protection is the easy part, deciding on the right service for you is far more difficult. We’ve compiled a list of seven questions you should ask about any service you’re seriously considering.
- 1. Does it monitor more than credit reports?
- 2. Will it prevent you from getting your free annual reports when you wish?
- 3. How does the service help if you are a victim?
- 4. Should you look for identity theft services that offer insurance?
- 5. Does the guarantee really protect you?
- 6. What are the costs and terms?
- 7. Do They Offer Family Pricing?
Since it’s easy to check your own
credit report and you can access it once a year for free, and because many types of
identity theft don’t show up in credit reports, credit monitoring alone is of limited
value. Consider services that scan other commercial databases, public records,
rogue Web sites that sell stolen credit cards and Social Security numbers, and
other places that may have your personal information and that aren’t as easy for
you to monitor yourself. Also check the options for receiving alerts; some
services only send alerts by email, others offer more alternatives.
Credit reports are often provided to customers as part of identity theft services.
But some companies obtain them by requesting the free reports that you are
entitled to get once a year, effectively preventing you from exercising your right
to ask for your free annual report when you want it.
Most identity theft services only
provide advice about the steps you’ll need to take, but some take a more active
role to help resolve your problems. Depending on the terms of service, assistance
may be limited to identity theft that occurs, or is discovered, after you join. If it’s
unclear how the service will help you, continue to shop around.
generally reimburses for lost wages if you must take time off from work without
pay to resolve an identity theft problem, long-distance calls, postage, notary fees
and other miscellaneous expenses. Money that an identity thief has stolen from
you is usually not covered. Since most identity theft victims have little or no
expenses, insurance is not an important factor in deciding which service to buy.
No identity theft service can guarantee
that you won’t become an identity theft victim. Guarantees are promises about
what the service will do if you are victimized. They may provide for expense
reimbursement and/or assistance resolving your problem. Some only promise to
resolve problems resulting from a defect in the service. Read the guarantee
carefully; it may not provide as much protection as you expect.
Many identity theft services offer “free trials,”
during which you can test some of the features, but unless you have an identity
theft problem immediately, you can’t fully assess the service during the trial
period. Pay attention to the terms of the trial offer; usually consumers must cancel
before it ends to avoid charges. Some services charge month-to-month, others
require payment upfront for a year or offer pre-payment options that are less
expensive than paying month-to-month. Not all will provide a pro-rated refund if
you decide to cancel before the term you paid for is up, however. Read the terms
and conditions carefully to understand the cancellation policy.
Some services will offer substantial discount to cover a spouse or child while other services will one rate for an individual. If you’re the head of a household, it makes sense to search for policies that will cover a spouse or child. If your spouse or child becomes a victim of identity theft, it can very easily become your problem.