If you’re not concerned about identity theft, you should be. This type of fraud is becoming more and more prevalent each year, sparking many companies to add identity theft protection to their list of services. Don’t become a victim of identity theft – equip yourself with the knowledge (and services) you need to protect yourself.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime where a thief steals your personal information to commit fraud. This typically involves obtaining information like your Social Security number, birth date, or bank account details. The goal? To impersonate you, most often for financial gain.
Fraudsters may use your identity to apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can harm your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your reputation.
Types of Identity Theft
Identity theft comes in various forms. Here are some common types:
- Financial Identity Theft: The most common form. It involves stealing your financial account details to make purchases or withdraw money.
- Medical Identity Theft: This happens when someone uses your name or health insurance numbers to get medical care, buy drugs, or submit fake billings to your insurer.
- Criminal Identity Theft: In this case, a criminal gives another person’s name and personal information during an arrest to avoid their arrest record.
- Child Identity Theft: Here, a child’s Social Security number is used by another person for personal gain. This can go undetected for years as most children don’t check their credit report.
Companies Providing Identity Theft Protection Services in 2023
More and more companies are choosing to add identity theft protection services to their list of offerings in 2023. Here are some of the more popular identity theft protection companies available right now:
- LifeLock: Known for its comprehensive monitoring services, LifeLock offers a range of protection plans. It can monitor your Social Security number, change of address requests, and court records for signs of fraud.
- IdentityForce: This company offers two primary services: UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit. These services include 24/7 monitoring of personal information, alert systems for suspicious activities, and assistance in case of identity theft.
- Experian IdentityWorks: This is a product offered by Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus. It provides identity theft monitoring, dark web surveillance, fraud resolution support, and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.
- ID Watchdog: Known for its advanced identity theft protection features, ID Watchdog offers two plans: Plus and Platinum. Both plans provide credit monitoring services, advanced identity monitoring, and full-service identity restoration.
- IDShield: IDShield offers individual and family protection plans. It monitors credit reports, Social Security numbers, and the dark web. It also provides unlimited consultation, a mobile app for real-time updates, and identity restoration services.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
In addition to the identity theft protection services listed above, taking proactive steps can significantly reduce your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. Here’s how:
Protect Your Personal Information
Keep your Social Security card, bank documents, and credit card statements in a safe place. Shred documents with personal information before disposing of them. Do not share personal details over the phone or via email unless it’s a trusted source.
Monitor Your Finances
Regularly check your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious activity. Set up alerts for large transactions. This can help you react quickly if your financial information has been compromised.
Use Secure Internet Connections
When providing personal information online, ensure the site is secure. Look for “https://” in the URL, which indicates that the site encrypts your information. Avoid using public Wi-Fi for transactions that require personal or financial information.
Create Strong Passwords
Use complex, unique passwords for each of your online accounts. Consider using a password manager to keep track of them. Regularly update your passwords.
Install Security Software
Use comprehensive security software on your devices. This includes antivirus software, firewalls, and email filters. They can help protect your data from malware and phishing attacks.
Be Wary of Scams
Phishing emails, texts, or phone calls are often used by identity thieves to gather personal information. Be skeptical of unsolicited communications asking for your personal data.
Check Your Credit Reports
Regularly reviewing your credit reports can help you identify any fraudulent activity. You can obtain a free annual report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Understanding what identity theft is and how to protect yourself can reduce your chances of becoming a victim. It’s all about being vigilant, careful, and proactive in safeguarding your personal information.