The identity theft protection industry is estimated to grow at a rate of 17.6% between 2019 and 2024, with an estimated value of over 17,600 million by 2024. The reason for this growth is that more people are concerned with identity theft.
The rising number of reported data breaches, coupled with the realization that companies are harvesting and selling our personal information has led to an increased level of fear. Identity theft protection services represent themselves as being able to protect you from identity theft. But do they?
Before purchasing an identity theft protection service, it is crucial to understand what they can and cannot do for you.
Identity Theft Protection
The name of the industry, identity theft protection services, would lead you to believe these companies can protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, this is not true. The services offered by these companies are reactionary. They only notify you after an event. They do not offer any proactive solutions to help you prevent it before it happens.
Identity theft protection services monitor your credit report or reports, depending on the company. If a change is made to your credit report, such as a credit inquiry, the company will send you an alert. The purpose is to keep you informed of changes to your credit report. A beneficial feature if you are not the type of person that reviews his credit reports every year.
The downside is that not every type of identity theft is detected through credit monitoring. If someone uses your identity to takeover your bank account, it will not be detected by credit monitoring. If someone presents your identity for employment purposes or when arrested for a crime, it will not be detected by credit monitoring.
Further, credit monitoring primarily consists of monitoring the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Did you know that there are more than three credit reporting agencies? That’s right. Without monitoring all of them, you could be a victim and never know it.
A better alternative to credit monitoring is to place a free credit freeze on your credit reports. To learn more about a credit freeze, check out my previous article “Freezing Fraud” in the April 2019 edition. You can view it online at https://lifeinnaples.net/magazinewp/2019/04/21/freezing-fraud-bycarrie-kerskie/
Dark Web Monitoring
In recent years, identity theft protection services have started offering dark web monitoring. They claim to monitor the dark web and alert you if your information is discovered. While this may sound like a great feature, keep in mind that these companies only alert you. They are unable to remove your information from the dark web. Besides, it is impossible to monitor the entire dark web.
Your information could be on the dark web, but not detected in the areas these companies are scanning.
Since 2005 over one billion personal records were exposed in data breaches. Assuming your information is already on the dark web is not an unrealistic assumption.
Identity Theft Restoration
Another feature of an identity theft protection service is that they may offer assistance when you become a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately, the assistance you receive could range from them sending you a do-it-yourself repair kit to them doing the work on your behalf to restore your identity.
Trying to determine which level of assistance you will receive is difficult to determine based on their marketing. One of the most well-known identity theft protection services was fined TWICE by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising (making you think they can protect you and not helping you when you became a victim) and failure to protect customer information.
To help you determine the level of assistance you may receive, ask the company if you are required to sign a limited power of attorney. If the answer is no, then you will be restoring your identity yourself.
In summary, identity theft protection services cannot not protect you from becoming a victim, but they can help you monitor for specific types of identity theft. Monitoring is the same, so it does not matter which company you choose. However, what the company does and does not do after you have become a victim varies by company. If you are not required to sign a limited power of attorney, you will put in the hours to restore your identity.