For criminals, identity theft has never been a more attractive crime. Stealing someone’s identity is cheaper and easier than ever before, often with little risk of getting caught. Between data breaches of personal information, phishing, malware, hackers, and scammers, protecting yourself from identity theft requires caution and vigilance.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft in the past, you’re at greater risk of it happening again. And if you have children or elderly family members to look out for as well, preventing identity theft can be a full time job.
ID theft protection helps ease that burden.
Identity theft protection services help you monitor threats to your private information, accounts, and credit. They can help you restore your identity and even compensate you for damages and costs related to identity theft. Not all identity theft protection services are equal, however, so which should you choose?
If you don’t want to read the full article, here’s a list of services to consider:
We found these to be best identity theft protection services:
- LifeLock: Our top pick. The biggest name in ID theft protection offers good coverage if you shell out for the premium tier plans.
- Identity Force: Our top recommendation. Comprehensive monitoring packaged in an easy-to-use dashboard. ID restoration support is available around the clock.
- Identity Guard: A more affordable option with a good insurance policy. It’s easy to set up and uses AI to assist with monitoring and alerts.
- IDShield: A budget alternative that provides all the basics but that has a few oddities that cause it to lag behind the top three.
- Aura: A secure option with good prices, but its design makes it tough to find certain features quickly.
- IdentityProtect: An easy-to-navigate interface and inclusion of all the primary features you need for identity theft protection, but its prices are higher than average.
- Experian IdentityWorks: IdentityWorks gives you the basics you’d expect from an ID theft protection service, but it focuses almost too heavily on credit scores.
- Identity Defense: With Identity Defense, you receive one of the most affordable identity theft protection services, but its features are extremely basic.
- Home Title Lock: If you need to simply manage your home title, this service is for you. If you want more ID theft protection features, look elsewhere.
We evaluated each of these companies on the following criteria:
- Monitoring, protection, and alerts
- Value for money
- Insurance and compensation
- Customer support and billing
- Setup and ease of use
See our more detailed breakdown below.
Best identity theft services
Several reputable companies offer identity theft protection services. Here are a few to consider:
Our top recommendation. LifeLock is the best ID theft protection solution on the market, according to our most recent tests. Its basic tier includes fraud alerts, lost wallet protection, 24/7 support, reduced junk mail, and $25,000 in stolen funds reimbursement. Higher tiers include court records scanning, data breach notifications, an annual credit report, account activity alerts, and up to $1 million in reimbursement. Fictitious identity monitoring scans look for people building fake identities based on your info. The top tier includes file sharing network scans, account takeover alerts, investment account monitoring, and credit inquiry alerts.
We found LifeLock easy to use and set up. If you opt for the upper tier plans, you’ll get one of the most comprehensive protection packages on the market.
- 24/7 live support
- Comprehensive monitoring and alerts in top tier
- Stolen funds reimbursement
- Well-known brand name that lives up to the hype
- Some essential protections reserved for most expensive tier
- A little pricier than others
NOW WITH NORTON:Most LifeLock plans now include Norton 360 to protect your devices from online threats. 1-year subscriptions come with 60-day money-back guarantees.
Read our full LifeLock review.
Although it’s on the expensive side, Identity Force offers comprehensive protection and monitoring of a wide range of info. It’s all packed into an easy-to-use web dashboard.
Identity Force monitors black markets for your information. You can customize alerts for charges, withdrawals, and transfers. Restoration experts, available 24/7, will help you with the paperwork to cancel and replace cards.
A $1 million insurance policy compensates you for out-of-pocket expenses related to ID theft, but not for actual stolen funds. Family and business plans are available, but there are no tiers, meaning you get full coverage, and value-added perks aren’t locked away in more expensive plans.
- Comprehensive monitoring
- Easy-to-use design
- 24/7 ID restoration support
- One-size-fits-all plan
- A bit more expensive than rivals
- No stolen funds reimbursement
BEST ID THEFT PROTECTION:Identity Force offers a well-rounded service that helps protect from ID theft and assists victims in recovery. The base plan comes with a 14-day free trial.
Read our full Identity Force review.
Identity Guard comes in three tiers of protection starting with account and card monitoring, alerts, and victim assistance. It monitors the web and black market for misuse of your personal info and will help cancel and replace lost or stolen cards. IBM Watson AI assists Identity Guard in finding and recognizing suspicious transactions.
We found Identity Guard to be easy to set up and use. It also comes with a great insurance policy that covers stolen funds as well as costs related to restoring your identity. Family plans are available.
- AI-assisted monitoring and alerts
- Easy to set up and use
- Good insurance policy with stolen funds reimbursement
- No two-step verification on login
- Cheapest plan lacks some essential monitoring
AI-ASSISTED ID THEFT MONITORING:Identity Guard is a comprehensive and powerful service for ID theft protection. Comparitech readers can save 33% on their next plan.
Read our full Identity Guard review.
IDShield gives subscribers all the basic ID theft protection features they would expect to have. It includes insurance reimbursement and instant alerts whenever it discovers oddities related to your personally identifying information. It has a solid price point versus its competitors, and it offers a 30-day free trial period, so you can determine whether it meets your needs.
Where IDShield lags a bit behind the top contenders on our list is in its design. IDShield is a little more difficult to use than it should be, creating complexities that may frustrate subscribers. You need to enter quite a bit more of your personal information into IDShield than you need to enter with other ID theft protection services. Those other services gather information for you, which simplifies the signup process. There are a few other quirks with IDShield that aren’t deal-breakers, but that can be an annoyance.
- Has a reasonable price point
- Provides strong security through two-factor authentication
- Has explanations of financial terminology throughout the interface
- Account activation is far more complex than it should be
- You cannot freeze your credit directly through the IDShield interface
NOW WITH IDSHIELD:Receive a 30-day free trial period when you subscribe to IDShield.
Read our full IDShield review.
When thinking about ID theft protection services, Aura is probably not the first service that comes to mind. But it earns its place on our list of the best ID theft protection services for its customer-friendly features. It offers around-the-clock customer service, ensuring you can find answers to your questions whenever needed. Aura’s price points are highly competitive and give you good value. You also can make use of two-factor authentication, which keeps your account secure and protects the information you entered into the software.
We do wish using the Aura interface was easier to navigate. The service has a few design quirks that make it tough to find the information you’re seeking. It takes a little longer to find things in Aura than it does in the top three theft protection services on our list. Ultimately, though, Aura is such a strong service that it overcomes its quirks.
- Offers 24/7 customer support
- Price points are reasonable and competitive
- Provides security features like 2FA to protect your information
- Design of the interface makes it tough to find certain information
- No self-help documents are available
NOW WITH AURA:Receive a 14-day free trial period when you subscribe to Aura. If you subscribe to an annual pricing plan, you also receive a 60-day money-back guarantee.
Read our full Aura review.
IdentityProtect’s restoration experts are available 24/7 to help cancel cards, contact police, and resolve fraud disputes. Each plan includes one free annual credit report from TransUnion, web monitoring, bank account protection, public records monitoring, and address and phone number monitoring. A $1 million insurance policy covers damages incurred from ID theft.
The 1-year plan is one of the cheapest options available, though it lacks a few protections found in its pricier rivals.
- Includes a monthly credit report
- Has an extremely easy signup process, avoiding complexities
- Lacks a few basic monitoring essentials
- Poor customer service
BUDGET ID PROTECTION:IdentityProtect offers cheap 1-year plans and offers a 7-day free trial.
Read our full IdentityProtect review.
With the backing of one of the most well-known names in the world of credit — Experian — IdentityWorks has instant trust among potential customers. It successfully performs the basics of monitoring your identity, giving you the primary features you’d expect to have, including a $1 million ID theft insurance policy. It has a nicely designed mobile app for those who prefer to use it on a smartphone versus a web browser on a computer screen.
Unless you have a significant desire to try to improve your credit score or to learn more about how credit works, however, IdentityWorks lags behind the others on our list. IdentityWorks seems to focus more on credit score and credit history than ID theft protection. If you need help with your credit, IdentityWorks is a good choice. If you want to focus on identity theft, though, there are better options on our list.
- Delivers the basic features you’d expect
- Provides a $1 million ID theft insurance policy
- Has advice for monitoring your credit score
- Focuses too much on credit score
- Displays multiple ads inside the ID theft protection interface
BUDGET ID PROTECTION:Experian IdentityWorks has a 30-day free trial period available, as well as an always free tier.
Read our full Experian IdentityWorks review.
Identity Defense ranks among the lowest-priced ID theft protection services available. Although this low price may grab your attention, it’s important to understand that Identity Defense’s feature set is extremely basic. If you have any complexity in your financial life, Identity Defense may struggle to give you the types of protection that you need. Additionally, the Identity Defense signup process has quite a few oddities and inconsistencies that we found to be concerning.
Having said that, Identity Defense does offer a $1 million insurance policy to help you with expenses related to recovering your financial life after identity theft. If you just want to spend as little as possible to receive identity theft insurance, Identity Defense is worth considering.
- Clean interface
- Lower than average price points
- Delivers basic features for those without complex financial lives
- Does not have advanced features that are commonplace with others
- Signup process has oddities that are red flags
- No 24/7 customer service
BUDGET ID PROTECTION:Identity Defense's lowest-priced tier starts at $6.99 per month.
Read our full Identity Defense review.
Although Home Title Lock fits within the category of identity theft protection services, it doesn’t offer the same set of features as the others on our list. This service focuses solely on monitoring your home title for signs of potential fraud. It does not monitor your credit report for oddities, nor does it look for signs of fraud related to your personal information and financial life on the dark web.
Some of the other ID theft protection services on our list include home title monitoring as part of their feature sets, especially in their higher-priced tiers. If you want both home title monitoring and ID theft protection, I’d recommend one of those services. If you just want to keep things simple with nothing but home title monitoring, though, Home Title Lock is worth considering.
- Very simple service for those who only want home title monitoring
- Delivers what it promises
- Lacks ID theft protection services
- Price is high for what it provides versus other ID theft protection services
BUDGET ID PROTECTION:Home Title Lock offers a 14-day free-trial period.
Read our full Home Title Lock review.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft and identity fraud are two terms often used interchangeably to describe the use of someone else’s personal information without their consent for criminal purposes, such as obtaining credit or financial gain. Typically, identity theft entails stealing someone’s private information for the purpose of impersonation, or identity fraud.
Because many of us store personal details and access accounts online, a lot of identity theft occurs over the internet. For the fraudster, conducting crimes online has the added benefit of never having to verify their identity in person.
However, a lot of identity theft also occurs offline. Family members and caregivers are often the culprits for identity theft against children and the elderly. Dumpster divers dig through discarded documents to discover details about those whom they defraud.
A range of crimes is classified under identity theft, including credit card fraud. But when most people think of ID theft, we associate it with criminals opening up new lines of credit in the victim’s name using their Social Security (US) or Social Insurance (UK) number. Fraudsters might take out payday loans, apply for credit cards, and open new accounts using the victim’s identity.
The consequences are numerous and burdensome for victims. Their credit score will almost certainly be damaged at no fault of their own. Debtors seeking payment hound them through mail, phone, and even in person. Repairing the damage can take months.
To make matters worse, identity theft can go unnoticed for a long time, even years. This makes tracking down the culprit and assessing the crime much more difficult, which is why many people turn to identity theft monitoring and protection services.
Am I at risk of identity theft?
Put simply, yes. Pretty much anyone can be a victim of identity theft.
Even if you are careful about protecting your information, you are not the only one holding it. Chances are, the government and businesses keep information about you stored in databases along with millions of other people. Your employer, insurers, tax preparer, credit bureaus, phone and internet service providers, tax officials, and many more all have access to your most valuable personal information.
And none of them are perfect. Data breaches of major databases pulled off by hackers are larger today than they’ve ever been, and alarmingly frequent. A criminal doesn’t need to hack your computer, break into your house, or scam you with a phishing email to find info that can be used for identity theft.
Is it worth it to get identity protection?
People can duplicate many of the services that identity protection services provide on their own. However, this does take some time and effort. If you subscribe to an ID theft protection service, it does the background work for you. Some people feel that this background work is worth the monthly cost of the service.
Is LifeLock the best ID theft protection service?
After testing every service on our list, we ranked LifeLock as the best ID theft protection option available. Without question, LifeLock is the most well-known ID theft protection service, and it earns its notoriety with excellent features and services. You may find that another service meets your needs better, but for the majority of subscribers, we believe LifeLock’s upper-tier subscriptions deliver the best results.
Does subscribing to one of the best identity theft protection service guarantee I will never become a victim?
No, simply subscribing does not guarantee that you will not become a victim of identity theft. The subscription simply gives you an early heads-up about any potential problems with your identification information. You then need to take steps to protect your information.
What do identity theft protection services do?
ID theft protection services monitor the way your personal information appears on the internet. Should the service find something odd, it will generate an alert for you.
The service will give you advice on what you should do after receiving an alert. However, some confusion exists about what happens after that. You have to take the steps required to protect your information. The ID theft protection service does not take those steps for you. It just provides information for you, and you do the work to change account details or password information.
If you fall victim to ID theft while subscribed, the service will help you restore your identity and compensate you for damages incurred.
Is it hard to cancel ID theft protection services?
If you try to cancel your identity theft protection service after subscribing, you may encounter some challenges. Expect the service to try to talk you out of canceling, usually by offering you a special deal to extend your subscription. You may have to speak to multiple customer service reps before you can finally cancel. (Some services do allow you to cancel online without speaking to anyone.)
However, during our hands-on tests of these services, we did not experience significant problems with cancellations. All the services on our best identity theft protection services list canceled our service when requested and did not overcharge our credit card.
What is the best defense against identity theft?
Vigilance is key to preventing identity theft. Keep a close eye on your bank account and credit card statements, and check your credit score at least once per year. Take steps to hide private information, both online and offline.
By law in the US, you have the right to get one free credit report every year. The official website is annualcreditreport.com. You should thoroughly scan and follow up on any activity or lines of credit that looks suspicious or unfamiliar.
A credit report is not the same as a credit score. A credit score is a number between 300 and 850 that represents your credit risk—how likely you are to pay bills on time. It is calculated using the information in your credit report.
Bank account and credit card statements
It should go without saying that any unfamiliar activity on your credit card and bank statements is a bad sign. Report these to your bank immediately.
Don’t brush off small sums, either. Criminals will often hit credit and debit cards with a small charge of a few cents to check whether they are still active.
Keep your info safe
Keep your Social Security (or Social Insurance) card, birth certificate, bank account paperwork, insurance documents, tax forms, passports, and other critical documents in locked hidden places. That’s places, with an s, because it’s also a bad idea to store all of this stuff in one location where a burglar could stumble upon it and take everything.
Thoroughly shred any paperwork with personal information on it before you throw it out.
Ask a trusted neighbor to collect your mail while you travel.
As for online information, always create strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts. Enable two-factor authentication if available. Before entering any information on a website, make sure the site is HTTPS encrypted and that the domain (e.g. “comparitech.com”) matches the company name. Use a VPN if you plan on logging into any account or entering personal details on public wifi.
If you have important documents stored on your computer or smart phone, be sure to encrypt them. Check out these useful tools for encrypting files and folders, or encrypt your entire drive with a tool like Veracrypt. Don’t store the encryption key on the same device as the encrypted files.
Enable real-time antivirus such as Windows Defender or a third-party tool, and always keep your programs and operating system up to date.
Invest in identity theft protection
Several companies offer identity theft protection as a subscription-based service. These businesses monitor your credit, bank accounts, credit cards, and other finances for unusual activity. Many of them also monitor the internet and dark web for your information so you can take proactive steps to prevent ID theft ahead of time. Most offer some sort of insurance or compensation to help with legal fees.
While these services can be useful, they are not for everyone. You can accomplish much of what ID theft protection services offer on your own, so long as you’re disciplined about checking your credit report and accounts regularly. We recommend ID theft protection services most to people who have previously been victims of identity theft because they are at a higher risk of being defrauded again.
What do I do if I’m a victim of identity theft?
If you’re a victim of identity theft or think you might be, follow these steps to get back on your feet.
Fraud alerts and credit freezes
If you’ve noticed fraudulent activity on your credit report, immediately place a fraud alert on your report. This lets the major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and Transunion in the US—know that someone is misusing your information, making it more difficult for thieves to open new lines of credit in your name. Businesses must contact you to verify your identity before opening an account. You only need to contact one of the major credit bureaus to set up a fraud alert, and they must alert the other two by law.
Fraud alerts last 90 days.
Another more extreme option is the credit freeze. This prevents all creditors from accessing your credit file. Note, however, that this will prevent legitimate creditors from accessing your file, so don’t do this if you are legitimately trying to open any new lines of credit.
File an ID theft report
Once you’ve locked down your credit to prevent further damage, go the FTC and file a complaint. You can fill in the details of what happened and print out an affidavit. Write down the report number or get a copy.
Next, file a police report. Bring the affidavit and FTC report number with you. Once you have both the affidavit and police report, you can start contacting debtors.
Go through your credit report and contact any of the debtors that opened up new lines of credit that you don’t recognize. Bear in mind that debt is often sold by businesses to third party bill collectors, so some of the debtors listed won’t look familiar whether they are legitimate lines of credit or not.
Explained what happened and close your accounts. Each business is different, so ask what you need to do to get a refund if necessary. You can use the affidavit and police report from the previous step to help prove your case.
Always remember to ask for a return receipt and record any communications you have with debtors, and follow up in writing.
You might also need to contact the credit bureaus to resolve any errors on your credit report.
Identity theft statistics
The 2017 Equifax hack put 143 million Americans at a high risk of identity theft when it leaked a huge trove of private information including Social Security numbers. Even before that, identity theft was a serious problem in the US and across the globe.
According to the FTC, fraud complaints reached more than 5.8 million in 2021 in the United States, which was 19% higher than the previous year. Reports of consumer identity theft complaints totaled more than 1.43 million in 2021.
People who are active on social media face a higher risk of identity theft than those who are not. Most identity theft complaints are from people between the ages of 30 and 59.
On a positive note, consumers seem to be getting better at quickly identifying fraud attempts. 78 percent of victims detected fraud within a week’s time. By learning more about identity theft and raising awareness about how to prevent it, you can protect yourself and your family from this growing threat.