What is identity theft protection?

ID theft protection services are designed to help you catch potential fraud as early as possible, while providing financial protection in case your identity is actually stolen. These services focus on making sure you’re aware of potential theft as it happens, so you can limit liability and minimize potential credit damage.

How is ID theft protection different from credit monitoring?

In many cases, these two services are interwoven into one package. Both offer services like credit report monitoring and alert systems that keep you update on changes in your credit report that could signal theft. However, identity theft protection services usually have added features like ID theft insurance, which covers costs and damages caused by identity theft up to a certain dollar amount.

What do I get from an identity theft protection service?

ID theft protection services typically offer the following:

  • Credit monitoring with fraud alerts
  • Credit report copies, usually provided monthly or quarterly
  • Identity theft insurance, typically between $25,000-$1,000,000
  • Identity fraud restoration assistance
  • Credit score tracking

The number of reports you receive and the amount of insurance protection generally will change the cost of the program.

Additional steps when identity theft happens

It should be noted that many identity theft protection services may not have any interaction with the credit bureaus other than providing your reports and sending you alerts if there are signs of potential fraud. Make sure to ask what “identity fraud restoration” services are provided before you sign up for a program.

Make sure to place alerts on your credit reports

If you’ve recently been the victim of identity theft, then you may want to place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports. You must contact at least one credit bureau to request that the alert is placed. This helps prevent new accounts being opened in your name.

Don’t forget to file a complaint with the FCT

Make sure to submit an identity theft complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online. This generates an identity theft affidavit that you can use to file a police report with local law enforcement.

Using a 7-year fraud alert

Once you have the affidavit and police report, it enables you to request a 7-year fraud alert on your credit report; the initial alert only last 90 days. The 7-year alert  can be extremely restrictive when it comes to getting new credit, so make sure you really need it before you apply. Otherwise, the initial alert is renewable if you wish to extend it.