In 2010, roughly 50 million Americans spent more than $3.5 billion on identity protection services. While there are plenty of things you can do on your own to prevent identity theft , several companies offer a full suite of fraud protection services—including identity monitoring and recovery—that can go the extra mile on your behalf. Not only do these companies monitor for identity theft and fraud, but they also help you get your life back in order should a theft occur.
Identity Theft Monitoring Services
Identity monitoring services, such as those offered by TrueIdentity, monitor your personal information, credit cards, and bank accounts, keeping a vigilant eye out for fraudulent activity. Bear in mind that most fraud monitoring services require you to become a client before the identity theft occurs. However, a few will take you on as a client even if your identity has already been stolen. Services like these then use power of attorney to help mitigate the damage on your behalf.
You’ll want identity monitoring services that scan for evidence of fraudulent activity in the following places:
Bank account transactions. A good monitoring service should flag when a withdrawal has been made over a certain limit. Many banks offer similar fraud prevention services as a regular component of their business as well.
Credit reports from the three main credit bureaus. It’s important that any identity protection service regularly scans your credit report at the three main credit bureaus
(Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) for bogus accounts or fraudulent debt collections.
Personal identifying information. One of the major benefits of identity theft protection services is that companies can harness technology to scan online databases (such as court records or black market sites where people buy and sell personal information) for your leaked personal information. This enables companies to quickly detect fraud, or the potential for it. By comparison, waiting for a fraudulent item to appear on your credit report can take months. Personal information includes:
National Change of Address Database. Identity thieves often file an address change to prevent their victims from receiving bills or notices on fraudulent accounts.
Note: Identity theft protection services cannot address medical identity theft or tax identity theft , due to privacy laws.
Identity Theft Recovery Services
After an identity theft has occurred, it can take up to 200 hours for the average victim to contact the authorities, notify businesses, cancel accounts, and deal with credit bureaus. An identity theft protection services company may take on some—or most—of this hassle for you by contacting the proper authorities and credit bureaus. Here’s what to look for with recovery services:
Temporary power of attorney authorization. An identity fraud protection services company can go to bat for you in the event of an identity theft, but only if you give them the power to do so. You’ll still take responsibility for all dealings with the IRS and the Social Security Administration, however.
Stolen/lost wallet protection. The company should either cancel and replace all your credit cards and IDs for you, or make the process easier by providing you with the necessary phone numbers to do so.
Excellent customer service. Whether a company representative will help you draft a letter to a debt collector or place a freeze on your credit report, you’ll want friendly, knowledgeable employees on your side walking you through this sometimes confusing process.
Familiarize yourself with identity theft recovery steps.
Identity Theft Insurance Policies
Many identity protection services offer insurance policies with a limit up to $1 million. That million dollar insurance limit is intended to cover legal fees; run-of-the-mill recovery expenses, such as travel or lost-wage reimbursement, often have much lower coverages. It may not be necessary to purchase an insurance policy (if it’s not included), considering most identity theft cases get settled without attorneys. In addition, most of the expenses for a victim of identity theft typically get reimbursed by a merchant, federal consumer protections, or homeowner’s or renter’s insurance—in which case your identity protection services company won’t need to pay out a cent.