Face it. Sooner or later, your information is going to get stolen.
Maybe it will be used to open a new credit card in your name — for someone to max out before walking away…
Maybe it will be used to intercept a tax refund before it gets to you — a crime that makes up about half of all identity thefts in the U.S. each year…
Or maybe it will be used at the ER to avoid hospital bills — and stick you with them, along with insurance increases and fraudulent files in your medical record.
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to prevent ID fraud in the first place. But not everyone does them. Even if you do, you might slip up now and again.
And even the most vigilant protector of personal info can be undone by a company that lapses and leaks your info all over the web.
That’s why it pays to have some extra support in your corner.
So today, we’re going to take a look at different identity protection sources. What they do, how much they cost and why you should have one right now.
Your Four-Point Checklist
There are plenty of identity monitoring and protection services out there. Some are great — others are little more than a Band-Aid. And different ones specialize in one aspect or another.
But whatever identity protection service you decide to use, make sure it covers at least these four things…
- Credit report monitoring at all three major credit reporting agencies
We all know about the three big credit reporting companies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
What most people don’t know is their reports can differ wildly.
That’s because sometimes when you apply for a credit card, loan or otherwise use your identity, businesses will only contact one credit reporting agency — which gives that agency a head start on any suspicious behavior.
The others will catch up soon enough, but those first few days or weeks after a false account has been created are the most crucial. Catch an error early and you can prevent a lot of damage down the line.
That’s why you don’t want an identity protection service that only keeps track of one credit reporting agency. You want all three.
That way — the second someone makes an inquiry — you know.
- Identity monitoring outside the agencies
Most new accounts will go through credit reporting agencies — but not all.
Some payday loans, for instance — the kind that charge annualized interest over 200% in most cases — don’t require a credit check. They only require a Social Security number, with a few other identifying tidbits like name or address.
You won’t find out about those sorts of issues until the loan is delinquent. By then, you’re already deep in the weeds.
Likewise, hospitals don’t perform credit checks before admitting (and charging) patients. And some for-profit colleges can issue student loans through private placements — without alerting the agencies.
In short, you need an identity protection service that monitors your information across a whole host of industries. Including medical bills, nontraditional loans, some rental agreements and any other type of money exchange that doesn’t require a credit check.
In a similar vein, you want a service that regularly monitors the dark web for your information.
If you haven’t heard of the dark web, it’s basically like the regular internet… only invisible to search engines and, by extension, most people. You only can see a page if you know the address ahead of time.
The dark web is where most stolen personal information appears and gets sold. Odds are great if your ID is stolen it will show up on the dark web first.
And if your identity protection service spots it there, you can quickly disable all sorts of potential vulnerabilities.
- Lots and lots of lawyers and accountants
On average, dealing with ID theft takes around 200 hours. That’s like working a second full-time job for over a month.
But if you’ve got a good identity protection service, you don’t have to worry about that. The experts will deal with it for you.
This will require you to sign a limited power of attorney — basically saying that the company’s lawyers can represent you in this matter.
You’ll likely have to provide supporting documents here and there when requested. This will still be a headache — but not a 200-hour headache.
And with any identity theft protection service worth its salt, there won’t be any additional fees involved.
- A big insurance policy
Finally, you don’t want to fix just the initial identity theft. You want to recoup any lost monies as well.
Good identity theft protection services have insurance for just this purpose. They’ll reimburse you for any expenses incurred, including wages lost dealing with the fallout or time you had to spend working the case.
And they’ll reimburse you for any money spent on outside experts who helped resolve the issue.
Most identity theft protection insurance is $1 million — good enough to cover the vast majority of fraud cases.
Some companies separate that money out. For instance, the premium LifeLock offering covers $1 million in stolen funds, $1 million in compensation for time spent dealing with your identity theft and $1 million for lawyers and other experts.
Choosing the Right Protection
Follow this four-point plan to narrow down your choices and you really can’t go wrong. Your final selection will depend on your personal preferences…
- LifeLock, for instance, provides the best insurance in case you suffer a theft
- MyFICO provides the most comprehensive credit monitoring
- EverSafe is best for a family. You can sign up for a family membership at discounted rates and see everyone’s info in one place. EverSafe also has special senior protections, with algorithms that can more aggressively monitor unusual activities
- IdentityForce, meanwhile, provides the cheapest plans that cover all the necessary basics.
Only you know which one makes the most sense for your situation.
But here’s the thing: You should choose one of them. And do it soon.
Because every day there are more data breaches — which companies sometimes keep quiet for months.
And every day you aren’t protected, you’re a step closer to being a victim.
So don’t delay. Protect your identity today.
Editor-in-chief, Unconventional Wealth
P.S. Of course, the best way to fight identity theft is to never lose your identity in the first place. There’s no way to prevent 100% of thefts — careless companies can always expose your data. But using a virtual private network (VPN) — like TunnelBear — when you’re online can greatly cut down your risk. By browsing from behind a privacy filter, you can stop bad actors from invading your computer, monitoring your activity and, yes, stealing your data. A VPN like TunnelBear is a crucial part of privacy protection — set yours up today.
(Editor’s Note: We do receive compensation when you buy from our partners — that’s how we keep the lights on. But we only choose partners we believe in and use ourselves — so you can rest assured, our recommendations are real.)
Ryan Cole is the editor-in-chief of Unconventional Wealth. He’s been covering the alternative investment space for nearly a decade and writing about finance and investment for almost 20 years.
Ryan has walked the walk for years, living a very unconventional life. He’s led snowmobile tours through the mountains of Colorado, settled in Japan for five...