Editor's note - You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article. Opinions are the author's alone, and this content has not been provided by, reviewed, approved or endorsed by any advertiser.
In today’s complex financial world, if you don’t have an identity theft protection service, you're at serious risk. We've ranked which ones are best.
Identity theft protection services might be the most underrated service available. With so much information now taking place on the web–in addition to the fact that sensitive personal information is now everywhere–we all need an extra measure of protection, even when merely conducting ordinary, everyday business.

There are now scores of identity theft protection services available. Choosing the one that will work best for you can be the equivalent of navigating a matrix. There are many different services, service levels, and cost structures. The secret is to find the one that will provide the best balance of service and cost.

To help you in this important effort, we’ve compiled our list of the best identity theft protection services. We’ve included several of the most popular, but also one that offers free, but minimal protection. That’s because we believe that whatever your budget, you need to get some kind of identity theft protection service working for you.

Related: How To Avoid Identity Theft 

Our Top Pick For Best Identity Theft Protection Service: LifeLock

LifeLock isn’t the least expensive identity theft protection service, but it offers the most comprehensive protection available. They start by incorporating the program with Norton 360, to provide protection for your computers and mobile devices. But they also add VPN for each device, which enables you to navigate the web anonymously. That makes it more difficult for thieves to access your transmissions and information.

If you had to pay for all those services separately, it would be more expensive than the monthly subscription for LifeLock, with none of the individual services providing as great a protection level.

We also like that LifeLock offers three different plan levels, making the service affordable to all income levels. And not only do they provide protection, but they also provide identity restoration assistance, as well as reimbursement for lost funds due to theft.

Our Runner Up For Best Identity Theft Protection Service: Identity Guard

While we certainly like how comprehensive the protection provided by LifeLock is, Identity Guard’s incorporation of IBM Watson artificial intelligence might make this service the best protection possible. Watson provides a higher level of monitoring of all your information than what is available with any other service. AI is likely the future of identity theft protection services, but Identity Guard has gotten there ahead of the competition.

AI enables Identity Guard to simply monitor a much larger part of the web. But they also get down into certain details, such as monitoring any address changes reported to the United States Post Office, analyzing your social media profile, as well as providing credit monitoring and other services typical of identity theft protection services.

And much like LifeLock, they also offer three different plans to fit every budget. If you’re serious about exploring every nook and cranny of the internet where your information may appear, Identity Guard is the service for you.

Identity Theft Protection ServiceBest For
LifeLockMost comprehensive protection
IdentityGuardEmploying artificial intelligence to identity theft protection
ExperianIdentity theft protection with 3-bureau credit monitoring
Credit KarmaFree credit monitoring
Identity ForceIdentity theft resolution
Lex On TrackIdentity theft protection with a law firm behind it
MyIDCareAn extended free trial
IDShieldFamily protection

Best Identity Theft Protection Services

1. LifeLock

Thanks to all the advertising LifeLock does, both on TV and on the web, it’s probably the best-known of all identity theft protection services. The service was launched in 2005 and now serves more than 5 million people. And beyond its advertising, it looks to be the best overall identity theft protection service on the market.

Like other identity theft protection services, LifeLock provides comprehensive credit monitoring. But they also provide regular monitoring of the Dark Web, where stolen information has a tendency to appear, as well as changes of address in your name, the appearance of online payday loans, and other information.

If your identity is compromised, they will work with you to recover your identity. They’ll even reimburse you for lost funds, based on the amount provided in the plan you select.

LifeLock offers three different plans to accommodate different budgets:

  • Select – Provides protection and VPN for up to five devices, plus $25,000 in stolen funds reimbursement. The plan is $9.99 per month.
  • Advantage – Provides security and VPN for up to 10 devices, plus $100,000 in stolen funds reimbursement. The plan is $19.99 per month.
  • Ultimate Plus – Provides security and VPN for an unlimited number of devices, as well as up to $1 million in stolen funds reimbursement. The plan is $29.99 per month.

Best For: Most comprehensive protection. LifeLock comes with Norton 360 to protect your devices from viruses, spyware, ransomware, phishing schemes, and online scams. This provides physical protection of your devices, in addition to the information protection offered by the service. As well, it eliminates the need to obtain computer security software separately.

Read More: Is LifeLock Worth It?

2. Identity Guard

Identity Guard is almost as well-known as LifeLock, and it’s easy to see why. The service has been around since 1996 and has provided protection services for tens of millions of customers. Not only is it one of the most comprehensive identity theft protection services on the market, but it’s also one of the most innovative.

Identity Guard has partnered with IBM to take advantage of a technology known as Watson. It is artificial intelligence used to detect identity theft. It can identify and track thousands of data points to get the most thorough detail on where and how your information is moving on the web.

Like LifeLock, Identity Guard also offers three different plans, with each also including Watson AI:

  • Value – Provides Dark Web monitoring, safe browsing tools, and risk management reporting. The fee is $7.50 per month.
  • Total – Offers all the services of the Value plan, but also provides your monthly credit score, as well as tax refund alerts and address monitoring. The fee is $16.67 per month.
  • Premier – Offers all the services of the Total plan, but expands on the credit information. You’ll receive your credit score and credit report, as well as monitoring and analysis of your Facebook account. Watson will even recommend steps to take to improve your online profile. The fee is $20.83 per month.

Best For: Employing artificial intelligence to identity theft protection. AI is cutting edge technology, that rivals the human brain in capability. Applying it to identity theft protection provides for the highest level of security anywhere.

Learn More: Identity Guard Review 

3. Experian

It seems only natural the three major credit bureaus would offer some type of identity theft protection service. And all three do, but the plan offered by Experian is easily the best of the three.

In addition to providing credit monitoring from all three major credit bureaus, Experian also provides credit alerts, Dark Web surveillance, and identity theft monitoring. They also offer fraud resolution and up to $1 million in ID theft insurance. And since it’s a credit bureau, you can also lock and unlock your credit report using Experian’s proprietary CreditLock tool.

The total cost of the package is just $19.99 per month. And while the emphasis is certainly on credit monitoring, they do provide a solid range of identity theft protection services as well.

Best for: Identity theft protection with 3-bureau credit monitoring.  There’s no better place to get your credit information and scores than from a major credit bureau. And while you would think that Experian would provide only their own credit report and score, they go beyond and provide the same information from TransUnion and Equifax. That makes this the strongest credit monitoring service available, plus identity theft protection services.

4. Credit Karma

Credit Karma is a free credit monitoring service, which is exactly why we’re including it. It doesn’t provide comprehensive identity theft protection services to nearly the degree of the other services on this list. But if your budget is especially tight, Credit Karma will at least help you to monitor the most common area of identity theft, which is your credit.

The service provides your credit scores and credit report information from both TransUnion and Equifax on a monthly basis. Tracking these is the absolute minimum you’ll need to do to protect your identity. A significant change in your credit score can indicate unauthorized activity. But since the service also lists each credit account you have, you’ll know if someone has fraudulently applied for credit in your name. It even lists credit inquiries, so you’ll know where credit has been applied for.

And even though it’s not an identity theft protection service, I was alerted by Credit Karma about a year ago that a common password I use is floating around the Dark Web. Naturally, I deleted that password from my profile.

Best for: Free credit monitoring service. Credit Karma shouldn’t be viewed as a full-on identity theft protection service. But if you can’t afford a full-service provider, this is the next best option. You’ll be able to at least monitor your credit free of charge.

5. Identity Force

Identity Force is practically the granddaddy of identity theft protection services since it’s been in business for more than 40 years. The company also claims a 100% success rate in recovering lost identity.

And like other identity protection services, Identity Force also offers credit monitoring and credit reporting. But one of the most interesting services they offer is their ChildWatch feature. It comes at no additional cost and provides identity theft protection for your children.

Identity Force offers two plans. UltraSecure monitors change of address, court records, sex offender list, social media, payday loans, fraud, bank and credit card activity, medical ID, and Social Security numbers. Like many of the other services on this list, it also comes with up to $1 million in identity theft insurance. The cost of the service is $17.95 per month.

The UltraSecure+Credit provides all the same services, but also adds three bureau credit reports, credit scores and credit monitoring. The cost of the plan is $23.95 per month.

Both plans offer a discount if purchased on an annual basis.

Best for: Identity theft resolution. The 100% success rate in restoring stolen identities is a comforting outcome. In most respects, this is the whole reason you engage the services of an identity theft protection service. No service can prevent identity theft, but it’s the success in restoring your identity after the fact that really matters.

6. Lex On Track

Lex On Track is the identity theft protection service offered by Lexington Law. It’s a law firm that’s well known for working with credit-related problems, particularly credit repair. Since credit problems are often the result of identity theft, it’s a natural product development.

At $24.95 per month, you get your monthly FICO score, score analysis, and personal finance tools. It also comes with up to $1 million in identity theft restoration insurance. And if necessary, they’ll also provide credit repair services, which may incur higher fees based on the level of credit repair necessary.

Best for: Identity theft protection with a law firm behind it. Restoring your identity is a messy, involved process. Even though you will be the victim, not all creditors will see it that way. Some may attempt to collect fraudulently-incurred charges from you. Having a law firm in your corner during the restoration process is an obvious advantage.

7. MyIDCare

MyIDCare provides credit monitoring, credit and inquiry alerts, and monitoring of the Dark Web and address changes. And if need be, they provide recovery assistance, plus up to $1 million in insurance to reimburse you for losses incurred in an identity theft situation.

They also offer something rare in the industry, which is a 100% Recovery Guarantee or your money back. That’s a powerful guarantee, given the nature and potential extent of identity theft.

MyIDCare offers two plans:

  • Essential Plan – At $9.95 per month, it provides identity theft protection services, as well as single bureau credit monitoring.
  • Premier Plan – At $19.95 per month, it also provides identity theft protection. But it also adds social media privacy and fraud protection features, as well as providing your credit score and credit details through TransUnion.

Best for: An extended free trial. You can take advantage of a 60-day free trial before signing up for the paid service. That’s not the same thing as a free service, but it will give you an opportunity to sample a service before deciding if you want to continue. That kind of offer indicates a company that has plenty of confidence in its product.

8. IDShield

IDShield provides comprehensive credit monitoring and identity theft protection. Credit monitoring includes monitoring of all three major credit bureaus, as well as credit alerts.

The service also provides the following features:

  • Dark Web scanning
  • Social Media monitoring
  • Unlimited consultation
  • Live support 24/7, 365 days per year
  • Up to $1 million in identity theft restoration insurance
  • Identity theft specialists on staff to help you restore your identity

When a theft occurs, you can execute a limited power of attorney so that an identity theft specialist can work on your behalf. It essentially allows the specialist to handle most of the legwork in restoring your identity.

IDShield offers four plans:

  • Individual – Provides monitoring of credit (one bureau), public records, sex offender list, address change, payday loans, high risk application and transaction monitoring, and Dark Web monitoring. It also provides monitoring of up to 10 each of phone numbers, bank accounts, credit and debit cards, retail cards, and medical ID numbers. The cost is $12.95 per month
  • Three Bureau Individual – Provides all the services of the Individual plan, but also adds three-bureau credit monitoring. The cost $17.95 per month.
  • Family – Covers your family, including you, your spouse, and up to 10 dependent children under the age of 18. It provides all the services of the Individual plan, and a monthly cost of $25.95.
  • Three Bureau Family – Same as the Family plan, but provides three-bureau credit monitoring. It also covers children up to age 26. The cost is $32.95 per month.

Best for: Family protection. Where else can you get an entire family–up to 12 people–covered for between $25.95 per month and $32.95 per month? The higher fee includes children up to age 26, with three-bureau credit monitoring for each.

What are Identity Theft Protection Services?

The term identity theft protection service covers a lot of ground. Though many different companies refer to themselves as identity theft protection services, the specific services they provide can vary substantially from one company to another.

The most basic level of identity theft protection is credit monitoring. This makes sense because the sheer volume of credit transactions taking place every day around the world makes it a rich target for identity theft. A thief needs only to get your name and the account number for your bank account, credit card or debit card, then he or she can make transactions posing as you.

Monitoring of certain sensitive personal information, particularly your Social Security number, is another common service. Since your Social Security number is the key to so many potential thefts, a service can monitor when your number comes up in a web-based transaction or an online database. That will alert you of the potential for identity theft.

Monitoring public records is a common service as well. This helps to determine if someone has committed a crime in your name. Many services also monitor your state division of motor vehicles, to see if there is any activity connected to your driver’s license number.

Another common service is Dark Web monitoring. This is a shadowy corner of the Internet, where stolen identities and large amounts of illegally obtained data are bought and sold. If your information appears in one of these searches, protections can be implemented that will stop the identity theft before it becomes a problem.

Many services also offer additional protections, like antivirus software, or VPNs to mask your identity when you’re on the web. Both are designed to protect you from a potential thief stealing your identity by either tapping into your computer or monitoring your online activity.

Related: Should You Use a Masked Credit Card for Online Shopping?

Identity Theft Protection Service vs Credit Monitoring Services

Credit monitoring services loosely fit under the umbrella of identity theft protection services. By giving you access to your credit reports and credit scores, you’ll be able to determine if there are any significant changes in your credit profile. Many services also provide credit alerts. These will let you know, generally in real time, if a major transaction takes place using your credit card.

You can certainly set up these alerts through your bank and credit cards. The credit monitoring services add an extra layer of protection.

The main difference between credit monitoring services and identity theft protection services is the level of protection they provide. As described in the previous section, a comprehensive identity theft protection service will monitor your personal information, beyond your credit. They’ll investigate public databases, like the department of motor vehicles, scan the Dark Web and even certain chat rooms to see where your information may be coming up.

And as a baseline, full-service identity protection services will also offer credit monitoring. They may even provide you with regular updates on both your credit report and your credit scores.

The two services are closely related, even though they are not identical.

How to Best Use Identity Theft Protection Service

The first, best strategy with any identity theft protection service is to have one in place. Once again, the real value of these services is in their ability to detect identity theft as early in the process as possible. That will minimize the negative fallout. Buying a service after the fact will do little good.

Once you have the service up and running, the next step is to fully understand the protections and benefits it provides. You must also familiarize yourself with what they can protect you from, and what they can’t. By knowing how they work, and what their capabilities are, you’ll be in a better position to take advantage of the protections they provide.

You also need to be proactive. You can’t simply sign up for an identity theft protection service, then assume all is well. You’ll need to pay close attention to alerts and warnings that come from the service.

And if there is a verified theft, you’ll need to move quickly. First, contact the identity theft protection service to hook up with the right department. They’ll be able to tell you all the steps you’ll need to take to get better control of the situation. You’ll also need to be prepared to act on that advice. That will usually require filing a police report, then moving to freeze your accounts and even your credit reports.

It’s important to remember that both your credit and your identity are yours. The identity theft protection service exists to help you protect both. But your involvement in the process will be absolutely necessary, and the more quickly you act, the better the whole process will go.

Pros and Cons of Identity Theft Protection Service

Pros:

  • Identity theft protection services automate the process of identity theft detection, so the theft can be spotted early in the process, and the most effective steps can be taken to minimize the damage.
  • They monitor the volumes of information and data available on each of us all over the web, in a way we could never do ourselves.
  • They report unauthorized use of account numbers, your social security number, and even the availability of personal information on the Dark Web.
  • Identity theft protection services maintain staffs of trained experts to help you resolve your identity theft-related issues.
  • Many services also offer reimbursement plans, such as identity theft insurance or identity resolution insurance that will reimburse you for out-of-pocket costs resulting from the theft.
  • Alerts from identity theft protection services can let you know when it’s time to invoke certain protective measures, including the implementation of a credit freeze, or contacting the issuer of a credit or debit card to cancel and reissue a new card.

Cons:

  • The most obvious is cost. A comprehensive identity theft protection service can cost you several hundred dollars per year. That may seem expensive in an already stretched budget, but the cost of not having coverage can be many times higher.
  • No identity theft protection service can absolutely protect you from ever becoming a victim. The best they can do is minimize the possibilities, reduce the impact, and help you to recover more quickly.
  • An inherent limit of identity theft protection is that the best it can do is alert you of a theft immediately after the fact. What it can’t do is intervene to prevent a theft.
  • It’s possible for certain threats to take place without detection by the identity theft protection service.
  • Because of the large number of potential threats, many identity theft protection services offer something that looks like a matrix of protections that can be difficult for the average consumer to understand.

FAQs

The most obvious answer is in the level of service provided. Some services concentrate their efforts on detecting identity theft related primarily to credit. Others go well beyond, searching for evidence of misuse of bank and credit card accounts, as well as the availability of your personal information on the Dark Web. Others offer a staff of identity theft resolution specialists, and even insurance to cover financial losses. The amount you will pay for a service will depend on the number of protections offered.
It’s true no service can absolutely guarantee you’ll never be a victim of identity theft. But the value of any of these services is in their ability to a) alert you of a theft you may not otherwise be aware of, b) provide instruction on how to deal with the theft, c) offer direct assistance in recovering your identity, and d) provide financial remuneration to reimburse you for losses sustained as a result of the theft. You’ll be better off with those services available should your identity be stolen than you would be without it.
Most consumers focus primarily on credit-related theft. And while that’s probably the most common, there are many others. Examples include:
  • Tax fraud, where a thief obtains your name, address, and Social Security number, and files a bogus tax return for a large refund.
  • Medical theft, where your insurance information is used to pay for medical coverage for an unintended third-party.
  • Mortgage fraud, where a thief obtains a mortgage in your name on a bogus property, then takes the money and disappears.
  • Employment identity theft, where a thief uses your Social Security number to obtain employment. This is most typically done by either illegal immigrants or someone with a criminal history.
  • Those are just some of the many examples of identity theft that identity theft protection services are designed to protect you from.
    There are, but there are laws against all kinds of crimes, and that doesn’t prevent them from happening. What they mostly do – hopefully – is deter some identity thieves, as well as establish you as a legally recognized victim. But that in itself won’t make you whole. Law enforcement is limited to prosecuting the perpetrators. Restoring your identity is completely on you, and that’s much more easily done with the assistance of a good identity theft protection service.

    Bottom Line

    Identity theft protection services are one of those products that–like auto insurance–nobody wants, but everyone needs. With most business taking place on the web, including banking, shopping, receipt of paychecks and government payments, and bill paying, the stakes are too high to be ignored.

    A thief only needs to hack into your online transactions, or score a data breach, to have access to all the information needed to either use your financial accounts directly, or impersonate you in obtaining new credit or certain benefits.

    The time to purchase identity theft protection services is always before disaster strikes. The services may not be able to prevent it, but they can minimize the damage, and help you clean up the mess afterward. That’s certainly worth the cost of a few hundred dollars per year.

    In today’s complex financial world, if you don’t have an identity theft protection service, you need to get it as soon as possible. Check out the services listed in this article, and choose the one that will work best for you.

    Article comments