Most Americans take the basic safety measures to protect their private information, like keeping their social security card in a secure place and password-protecting their devices. But as the average identity thief continues to advance and finds new ways to access your personal information, are these basic safety measures enough to protect you from identity theft?
In this article, we’ll answer the common question of “What is identity theft protection” and go over how it works in order to help you answer the question, “Is ID theft protection worth it for me?”
To understand how identity theft protection companies fulfill their duties, you’ll first need to know how identity theft happens. Identity theft occurs when someone purposely uses your personal information to commit identity fraud.
There are a few ways that an identity thief can get access to this kind of information:
Basic identity protection measures like keeping your personal documents in a safe place, shredding records that contain your social security number, and learning to recognize scams can help protect you from these kinds of identity theft.
Where these basic identity protection measures fall short is with more advanced forms of identity theft. Thieves these days have the ability to buy your personal information from illegal marketplaces on the internet or to gain access to your computer via public Wi-Fi networks, making dumpster diving for a social security number a thing of the past for some.
When it comes to these more advanced forms of identity theft, it’s difficult to know it’s happening or to fight against it on your own until your personal information has already been compromised and you’re left to deal with an oftentimes difficult identity restoration process.
That’s where identity theft protection comes in.
An identity theft protection service has the ability to search for your personal information on various places on the internet and send you a fraud alert when they notice any suspicious activity.
Some of the places these services provide identity theft coverage include:
By searching through these financial institution databases, an identity theft protection company is able to notify a potential identity theft victim when there is a fraud alert due to a data breach, resulting in their information being at risk of being used for identity fraud before it becomes a problem.
There are also other identity theft service options that can help you to bolster your internet security, lowering your chances of fraudulent activity and becoming an identity theft victim.
One of these is VPNs. VPNs help create an encrypted private network for you while you’re using a public internet connection, making it harder for other people to trace your internet activity and use that data to steal your personal information.
Firewall protection works similarly to help protect your computer from fraudulent activity and data breach opportunities by filtering incoming traffic and preventing those without authorized permission from gaining access to the personal data on your computer.
Although, when it comes down to it, is an identity theft protection service worth the price?
The short answer: it depends. Some of the data that an identity monitoring service provides is information you can look up for free elsewhere, like on a credit report website or on openly available government databases.
Another argument is that these sites have limited access to dark-web information and that even if they do find your bank account information listed somewhere, for example, they don’t have the power to block it from being used by other people. They can only let you know that it’s happening.
On the other hand, this type of monitoring service does provide advanced warnings that can help you get a headstart on taking care of damage, and services like VPNs and firewalls do provide substantial ID theft protection against hackers.
In the end, it all depends on how comfortable you feel with your risk of identity theft and whether you’d rather take the time to secure your information on your own or pay to have a specific service take care of it for you. Either way, it is important to have an identity theft protection plan in place.
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