Best Identity Theft Protection of 2018

Eli McCormick ·
Finance Senior Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

To find the best identity theft protection services, we spent 60 hours researching identity theft and comparing the pricing and features offered by each of these services. Our pick for the best identity theft protection service is IdentityForce. It offers the most thorough protection, covering standard information such as credit cards and bank accounts, but also tracks public records and monitors your medical insurance. These are other sources of fraud that may go uncovered by other services. With pricing that’s comparable to many other services we looked at, IdentityForce has the most complete range of identity protection.

Editor's Note: A recent hack of Reddit has resulted in account data from 2005-2007 being accessed. This includes usernames, email addresses and passwords. Tom's Hardware has more details about the hack.

Best Overall
IdentityForce
For complete identity protection that goes beyond the usual bank accounts and credit cards at a reasonable price, IdentityForce is the best option.
View on IdentityForce
$19.95@IdentityForce
Best Overall
IdentityForce
Best Value
Identity Guard
If cost is one of your primary concerns, Identity Guard offers the best combination of thorough identity protection and low price. Other services may offer a low price, but they don’t cover as many areas as Identity Guard.
View on Identity Guard
Best Complete Protection
LifeLock
LifeLock’s identity protection extends beyond bank accounts, credit cards, phone numbers and email addresses. LifeLock also monitors public records databases and medical insurance so fraud can be detected there as well.
View on LifeLock
Product
Price
Overall Rating
Monitoring & Notifications
Recovery Assistance
Information Protected
Additional Features
Help & Support
Fraud Monitoring
Fraud Alerts to You
Fraud Alerts to Credit Bureaus
Resolution Services
Stolen Wallet Assistance
Service Guarantee
$1 Million Recovery Insurance
Social Security
Street Address
Full Name
Email Address
Telephone
Credit Card Numbers
Bank Account Information
Public Records
Loan/Lease Information
Criminal Records
Sex Offender Registry
Driver's License
Medical Insurance
Credit Monitoring
Mail List Removal
Credit History Reports
Family Coverage
Email
FAQs
Newsletter or Blog
24/7 Phone Support
$19.95 ShareASale
10 10 10 10 10 10
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$26.99 CJ
10 10 10 10 10 9.8
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$17.95 ID Watchdog
9.7 10 10 10 7 10
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$
$16.99 ShareASale
8.6 6.8 10 9.3 10 7.5
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$9.95 Identity Fraud
8.1 6.8 10 10 3.8 7.5
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$
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$
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$19.99 ID Patrol
8 10 7.5 6.3 5 10
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Check Price
7.7 10 5 7 7.5 10
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$29.95
7.3 10 5 5.5 10 7.5
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$16.95
6.5 10 5 3.8 7.5 5
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Best Overall
Effective identity theft protection services alert you quickly when your identity is compromised. IdentityForce is one of the most far-reaching services we reviewed, monitoring your Social Security number, name, street address and credit card numbers for signs of fraudulent activity.
IdentityForce has an expanded scope, tracking public records databases, loans, lease records and sex offender registries. Other identity theft protection services may cover some of these areas, but few monitor all of them. While IdentityForce can’t prevent your information from being stolen, it does notify you as soon as it finds fraudulent activity. One excellent feature is that you can set a certain dollar amount and you’ll receive notifications whenever a withdrawal or balance transfer exceeds that amount. You’ll also get alerts if an unfamiliar name, alias or address is associated with your name. One bonus of identity theft protection is that it’s often closely tied to credit monitoring. Because the ways ID thieves use your information can adversely affect your credit score, IdentityForce provides you with regular reports the three bureaus. It also offers tracking tools to show you how your credit score changes over time. If you are affected by an ID theft, IdentityForce has tools to help you recover. These include full managed restoration, which means that someone from IdentityForce will help fill out paperwork for you.
Pros
  • Helps with fraud alerts to credit bureaus
  • Has 24/7 phone support
  • Offers three-bureau reports
Cons
  • Can only track one bureau’s score each month
  • No guarantee that all suspicious activity will be monitored
  • Only covers up to $2,000 in travel expenses
$19.95IdentityForce
Read the full review
Best Complete Protection
LifeLock is one of the most thorough identity theft protection services we reviewed. The Ultimate Plus plan monitors a wide range of online databases, public records and even black market websites to see if your personal information has been compromised.
It will scan for names and addresses associated with your Social Security number to protect you from anyone using that information to open a fraudulent account. This service monitors some places that other services don’t. It tracks popular file-sharing sites to see if your information has been uploaded to them. LifeLock will also monitor sex offender registries for your information. The Privacy Monitor tool is a useful way to get alerts when fraudulent activity may have occurred. These alerts will ask you if a purchase, application or address change is legit, and if fraud has occurred LifeLock will immediately jump into action to remedy the situation. An "identity restoration specialist" will personally deal with the problem and help you solve it. In addition to identity monitoring, LifeLock offers some credit monitoring tools as well. You’ll receive annual three-bureau reports and will have monthly access to your Equifax score. One drawback of LifeLock is the price. It’s among the most expensive of the services we reviewed, with a monthly cost of 29.99.
Pros
  • Sends fraud alerts by text or via mobile app
  • Monitors black market sites for your information
  • Provides support for restoring your identity
Cons
  • One of the most expensive services
  • Monthly credit score tracking only monitors one bureau
  • May not be able to monitor all credit card transactions
$26.99LifeLock
Read the full review
Best Value
Putting price at the forefront of your buying decision is important, but when choosing an identity theft protection service, keep in mind that you want a service that gives wide coverage and provides timely notifications. In our research we found Identity Guard to have the best balance of cost to services.
For $16.99 a month you’ll get complete coverage that is very close to what the best services offer. We reviewed cheaper services, but they were stripped-down versions that lacked features that come standard with Identity Guard. With those services, features such as credit monitoring and credit history cost extra. Identity Guard’s protection services compare well with others we reviewed. It monitors your Social Security number, address and credit card numbers as well as other aspects of your identity such as criminal records and driver’s license information. Identity Guard also provides you with tools to gauge your risk of identity theft. This can be an invaluable way of helping you change behaviors that could lead to your identity being compromised. In the event that you are the victim of ID theft, the company provides quick alerts and recovery services, including fraud insurance of up to $1 million.
Pros
  • Low price and thorough service
  • Monitors driver’s license information for fraud
  • Removes your information from junk mailing lists
Cons
  • Does not monitor sex offender registries
  • Doesn’t send fraud alerts to credit bureaus
  • No 24/7 phone support
$16.99Identity Guard
Read the full review
Best for Public Records Monitoring
Intelius specializes in background checks and public record searches. It’s ID theft protection service IdentityProtect is one of the best for tracking information about you that appears in public records searches.
For example, it can track addresses and sex offender registries. Besides IdentityProtect’s public records monitoring, its other protections are basic. It monitors your credit report and sends you an alert if it finds suspicious activity. If fraud occurs, you’re put in touch with fraud-resolution experts, who are available 24/7. A subscription to IdentityProtect costs $19.95 a month, and you can sign up for a seven-day trial to see how well the service works.
Pros
  • Recovery experts help you deal with any suspicious activities.
Cons
  • It can’t freeze your credit reports for you.
$19.95Intelius
Read the full review
Best for Credit Report Monitoring
IDFreeze by myFICO includes complete credit report monitoring and lets you see regular reports from all three bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
It also sends you alerts when there’s activity on your credit reports. Many ID theft protection services only monitor and provide reports from one or two of the credit bureaus. In addition, IDFreeze includes dark web monitoring to see if your personal information is changing hands. If your identity is compromised, the service works with you to resolve the situation and restore it. IDFreeze is one of the more expensive services, costing $29.95 monthly.
Pros
  • IDFreeze monitors all three bureaus and sends you updated scores.
Cons
  • It doesn’t look at public records.
$29.95FICO
Read the full review
Best After-the-Fact Protection
Getting protection after a data breach is better than never having it at all.
ID Watchdog has many tools for monitoring and resolving fraud resulting from ID theft. Keep in mind that it can’t prevent your information from getting stolen, but it can notify you of suspicious activity. ID Watchdog includes restoration services that put you in touch with a specialist who works with you to resolve problems resulting from fraud. It also monitors some areas others don’t, including non-credit loan databases, which aren’t caught as often as other services.
Pros
  • Monitors payday loan databases
Cons
  • Doesn’t remove you from mailing lists
$0.00ID Watchdog
Read the full review

Why Trust Us?

We’ve been reviewing identity theft protection for eight years. In that time we’ve watched the industry and monitored trends to ensure that our reviews reflect the most current services. As the technology of identity thieves becomes more sophisticated, the tools used by these services are advancing in stride.

Services such as Identity Guard and LifeLock use algorithms and machine learning to search through the dark corners of the internet to see if your information is being sold or used by ID thieves. In addition to monitoring your Social Security number, address and name, these sites also look at medical records, which are increasingly a source of identity fraud.

How We Tested

We spent 60 hours researching identity theft protection services before narrowing our list down to the best companies. We couldn’t test them in a real-world scenario, since that would involve actually getting our reviewer’s identity stolen. Instead, we found comparable plans and contrasted the features each one offered.

One of the most important things to look for is how quickly the service will notify you about potential fraud and the methods used to notify you. The best services will call or text you. Many services also have mobile apps that notify you about potential fraud. These will let you say whether a transaction or loan application is approved and, if not, begin the process of rectifying the fraud. You’ll also want a service that notifies credit bureaus about fraud, this will save you from contacting the bureaus yourself.

As an added bonus, identity theft protection services often include an element of credit monitoring. Because your credit score can be affected by fraud, you’ll be given access to three-bureau credit reports more frequently than the once a year mandated by federal law. Many services also let you monitor one of your scores monthly.

In the event that your identity is compromised, these services offer recovery services. Look for services that include restoration services, which means you’ll be connected with a specialist who will fill out paperwork and make the necessary calls to help recover your identity.

How Much Does Identity Theft Protection Cost?

Typically, you can expect to pay between $10 and $30 a month for an identity theft protection subscription. Basic plans range from about $10 to $20 and usually monitor your bank accounts and credit reports for fraudulent activities. The more expensive plans include dark web searches, three bureau credit reports, notifications about activity on your investment accounts and alerts about crimes carried out in your name.

Are Identity Protection Services Safe?

Because data breaches are becoming more common, it’s a reasonable question to ask if these identity protection services are themselves safe. Look for an identity theft protection service that uses two-factor authentication (2FA). With 2FA, anyone who gets your email and password through another data breach or a phishing attack is blocked from logging in. Generally, someone gaining access to your ID protection account won’t result in your personal information being compromised, depending on how the service manages that data. But it can result in notifications being deactivated. According to Tom’s Guide, many prominent identity protection services don’t offer 2FA, but many are working to add it. 

Have You Been Affected by the Facebook Data Breach?

The most recent high-profile data breach happened in September and involved over 50 million Facebook accounts. This is the largest breach recorded by Facebook. The breach involved hackers exploiting a flaw in Facebook’s View As function, and it allowed them to steal digital keys that keep you logged into Facebook. At-risk users were logged out and asked to log in, which patched the vulnerability. To learn more about this breach, see the FTC’s writeup here.

When a breach of this scale happens, your first question is: Was I affected? If you were logged out, you were likely affected. Facebook also notified those affected with a message at the top of their newsfeed. According to Facebook, there is no evidence yet that the accounts have been compromised. Still, it’s a good idea to change your password, remove any other apps you use Facebook to log into and enable two-factor authentication.

Data breaches are a common part of today’s digital landscape. Freezing your credit, activating fraud alerts on your credit reports and using an ID theft protection service are some of the ways you can protect yourself. 

Data Breach Affects NewEgg & Ticketmaster

During the summer and early fall, a series of data breaches affected NewEgg, Ticketmaster and British Airways. This breach involved credit card information being skimmed during the checkout process. According to data threat management group RiskIQ, these attacks were likely perpetuated by the same hacking group, called Magecart. 

Magecart adds malware to sites and skims credit card data after you make a purchase. Magecart resold some of British Airways customers’ information, but so far no one has seen a similar sale for NewEgg customer data. NewEgg removed the code from its site, but if you made a purchase through them anytime between August and September of this year, you may want to cancel your card and get a new one. 

Monitor your statements for fraudulent charges. Also take note of any calls or letters you receive from accounts you don’t recognize or collections agencies. If you see them, contact your bank or credit card company – most don’t hold you liable for fraudulent charges, and federal law limits your liability for any fraud on your accounts. If a card is used before you can report it, you’ll only ever be held liable for $50 of any fraudulent charge. 
If you receive an email from a company saying it’s been subject to hack, take its recommended action immediately. Replacing a lost or stolen card won’t affect your credit score or report. The bank or card company will transfer your existing information to a new number.

What to Do if Your Identity Is Stolen

The sad fact is that your identity has a home in many places you can't personally safeguard. Things beyond your control, such as the 2017 Equifax hack, leave your information vulnerable. If your identity is stolen, don’t panic. There are several things you can do that will minimize damage.

It’s likely the entity that was compromised will offer you free credit monitoring. While useful, the services offered are usually bare-bones and can take as long as 60 days to notify you of any fraud. The identity theft protection services we reviewed are stronger, quicker and more comprehensive. So if you’re already signed up for an ID theft protection service, the free service offered won’t be of much use to you.

One thing you can do yourself is put a freeze on your credit file. We recommend doing this as soon as you learn of a security breach. A freeze prevents creditors from pulling your credit without your explicit permission. To start the freeze you’ll have to contact Equifax, Experian and TransUnion separately. Some allow you to start the freeze online, but others require you to call. When the freeze is set up you’ll receive a PIN you will use to open your credit file if you want to apply for credit. Depending on where you live, you may need to pay a fee of up to $15 to activate the freeze.

Another option is putting a fraud alert on your file. You’ll need to renew it every 90 days. The fraud alert requires creditors to contact you and get permission to open a new line of credit in your name.

Does Where You Live Make You More Vulnerable to Identity Theft?

Data breaches seem to be an everyday occurrence these days. The Identity Theft Resource Center estimates that since 2005 there have been more than 9,000 breaches, exposing more than 1 billion records. WalletHub recently published a report that looks at which state’s residents are most vulnerable to identity theft.

Nevada, Florida and New Jersey occupy the top three spots. However, Wyoming, Arizona and California saw the highest average dollar amount lost due to fraud. One interesting thing the report looked at is each state’s policies that aim to protect its residents from identity fraud. Delaware ranks last in this regard. Some common protections states use to protect residents include security freezes for minors and identity theft passports that help victims of ID theft recover their identities.

The report also makes recommendations on how to protect yourself from identity theft, including setting up two-factor authentication on your important accounts. In addition, you should take extra steps to keep you email accounts secure. The report also includes advice and commentary from a panel of experts on issues relating to identity theft and how to protect your information.

This report doesn’t mean that you’re completely invulnerable if you live in a state with a low incidence of identity theft. Always take precautions with your personal information. Identity theft protection services can warn you when your information is compromised but can’t prevent it from happening.

Tips to Help Prevent Identity Theft

When news of a new data breach breaks, your first reflex likely is to check if you’ve been affected and perhaps to sign up for identity theft protection. Too often though, the damage is already done. These services can notify you if someone uses your information to commit fraud, but they don’t prevent your data from being stolen. 

Luckily, there are many things you can do to better secure your personal information:

1. Don’t give your information to unsolicited requests. According to RoboKiller.com, nearly 4.5 billion robocalls were made in June alone. Phone scams focus on using credible threats, like tech problems or the IRS, to get you to give up personal information. The FTC has a guide on how to deal with phone scams.

2. Avoid carrying your Social Security card and try not to share your number widely. Some services may require it, especially if they need to check your credit. If it’s optional to include your SSN, don’t share it.

3. Empty your mailbox every day and shred sensitive documents before throwing them away. Do the same for anything that might have sensitive or personal information about your children. This may seem paranoid, but dedicated thieves can use this information to commit fraud.

4. Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication where possible. According to a Javelin Strategy & Research report, 81 percent of hacks start with a stolen or hacked password. Experian has tips on how to make a strong password. If a website has an option for two-factor authentication, we recommend activating it. It adds an extra layer of security that helps ensure your accounts aren’t accessed by unauthorized people.

How to Recover From Identity Theft

Even when you take all possible precautions, identity theft can happen. It’s a stressful experience but one you can recover from. Recovering from identity theft isn’t simple, and depending on what was stolen and how the theft occurred, there can be many steps.

The FTC has a checklist for recovering from ID theft. The first step should be calling the fraud departments of the companies where the fraud occurred and having them freeze your accounts. Then you should place fraud alerts on your credit report. To do this, contact one of the credit bureaus – it is required by law for it to contact the other two. Fraud alerts are free and make it harder for accounts to be opened in your name. Each bureau will send you a letter confirming a fraud alert has been placed on your file.

If you’ve had your wallet stolen or it's gone missing, cancel your cards and licenses and report passports and Social Security cards to the proper agencies. You have to make arrangements with each agency to replace those documents. Further, you need to change your logins, passwords and PINs.

You should also file an Identity Theft Affidavit with the FTC. It will collect all the details of your theft and send complaints to the appropriate agencies or businesses. After doing this, you need to contact local law enforcement. Bring the affidavit and remember to get a copy of the police report.

One advantage of signing up for identity theft protection is the service provides you with recovery assistance. You work with a case manager who helps you with some of the paperwork as well as walks you through the steps for closing or changing accounts. Some services may allow you to give them the authority to act on your behalf when dealing with creditors.

How Do I Protect My Identity For Free?

Paying for ID theft protection may not be an option for everyone. Even if you can’t afford a plan, you can still take steps to better ensure the integrity of your personal information and protect your identity without paying much. 

One of the biggest steps you can take is to stay vigilant. Keep an eye on your accounts. Check bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized or strange purchases. Many banks have fraud alerts that you can activate for your credit or debit cards.  

A common refrain of identity theft advice is putting a freeze on your credit. This will prevent new accounts from being opened in your name. To activate a freeze, you’ll need to contact each bureau and request a freeze. Recent legislation makes this free; previously you had to pay a fee each time you activated a freeze. Keep in mind, to get new credit for yourself, you’ll need to deactivate the freeze.

A freeze can prevent new accounts, but according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, this is a rare form of  ID theft, though with data breaches like the Equifax breach, there is a risk of it becoming more common.

Another way to prevent ID theft is to opt out of junk mail and unsolicited credit card offers. Use OptOutPreescreen to keep the bureaus from selling your name to lenders, which will cut down on unsolicited offers.

How to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

Identity theft of children is becoming more prevalent. According to Experian, 1.3 million children – most of them under age 6 – have their identities stolen each year. Children are appealing targets because they have blank credit files and the fraud often goes undetected until they turn 18. And though the impact is unseen for a long time, it can lead to results like being denied for student loans.

There are several signs that your child may have been affected by ID theft. If you start getting calls or bills from collections agencies in your child’s name, that’s a sure sign that someone has been using their information. You may get turned down for government benefits because those benefits are being paid to another account in your child’s name.

To protect your child from ID theft, keep their Social Security number and other personal information locked away. Tell your children to avoid sharing personal information online. The FTC recommends checking your child’s credit report at 16; this will give you time to address any fraud before they apply for loans or credit cards after they turn 18.

If you find that someone has opened an account in your child’s name, you should contact the companies where the fraud occurred. You may also need to contact the credit bureaus and have them remove any fraudulent accounts. You’ll likely have to provide evidence of your child’s birth certificate. You can put a freeze on your child’s credit, which will prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your child’s name, though it won’t prevent existing accounts from being used. 

What Is Tax Refund ID Theft?

One of the many ways ID thieves can use your information is by filing false tax returns in your name to claim refunds. In some cases, they may also use your Social Security number to get a job.
 
This is one of the most common types of fraud the IRS sees. The IRS estimates that in 2015 alone, $14.5 billion in fraudulent returns were attempted. An Experian study shows that tax fraud is the second most common type of ID fraud after credit card fraud, though the total amount of tax ID fraud is decreasing.

Most often, when you’re a victim of this type of fraud, you find out when you file your return. The IRS will send you a notice that it’s already received your return. If your SSN was used by someone to get a job, that employer will report that income to the IRS. When you send in your return, you’ll hear from the IRS that you didn’t report all your wages.

If you think someone fraudulently used your SSN to file a return, contact the IRS. It will assist you in fixing the problems. You also need to file a Form 14039, an Identity Theft Affidavit, which you attach to your return. In some cases, the IRS will assign you a unique PIN to use when filing your return.

How to Protect Your Identity Over the Holidays

The holiday season is the biggest for shopping, both online and off. In 2017, shoppers spent $5 billion on Black Friday and about $6 billion on Cyber Monday. With more and more holiday shopping happening online, identity theft becomes a greater risk around this time of year. According to Experian, during the 2017 holiday season, one out of every 85 transactions was a fraudulent attempt. 

Luckily, there are many steps you can take to protect yourself during the holiday season.

  1. Be cautious of offers: Do some research before clicking through an ad on social media or using a coupon. Some of these offers can result in your information being stolen, and others, like the Secret Sisters Gift Exchange, are scams designed to get you to pay for something that won’t happen.
  2. Pay attention when shopping online: Make sure the sites you buy from are secure. Look in the address bar to make sure there’s an “https” and locked icon in front of the address. Scrutinize links for offers that come in emails and look for subtle misspellings. Always use a secure network.
  3. Avoid giving personal information: Don’t give out your social security number or credit card number over the phone to anyone you don’t know, especially to cold calls.
  4. Monitor your accounts: Keep a close watch on your bank and credit card accounts. Look for any purchases you don’t remember making and notify the bank or credit card company as soon as you spot them.