Take a look at our rankings of the best identity theft protection options for 2021 to see how you can get the peace of mind you deserve.
Identity theft is a legal term that applies when someone uses your identity and personal information without your permission. More than 14 million people were victims of identity theft in 2019 alone. Experts believe that this number will only grow in the future. The thief can find enough information about you to steal your identity and use it to rack up bills in your name. They can take out credit cards and get loans. Once they default on those loans, the lenders will come after you because they think you’re the person responsible. Thieves can also steal your tax returns and any other money coming to you.
Victims of identity theft face many issues, especially as it can take months or years to fix the problem. The bank can freeze your accounts and leave you unable to pay your rent or mortgage along with all of your other bills. If you have a mortgage, enough time can pass that the bank forecloses. Renters may find that their landlords evict them because they cannot pay their rent. You also risk the thief sending messages to your loved ones through your social media accounts and leaving you with a poor or bad credit score.
The top identity theft protection services for 2021 usually include both credit and identity monitoring. There are three credit bureaus in the United States that keep track of your credit history. With credit monitoring, the service will work with those bureaus to keep an eye on your credit. This helps you see if someone opened a credit card that you don’t have or defaulted on a hospital bill that didn’t belong to you. Identity monitoring looks for signs that someone used your name without your permission. You may find that someone gave your name when a police officer arrested them or that a criminal used your identity to open a bank account.
When you check out our comparison chart, you might worry about how much it costs to get the protection that you want. The cost depends on which service you choose and the type of plan you pick. Some plans charge monthly fees that can range from less than $10 to more than $30 per month. Other services have annual plans and cost up to $400 per year. You’ll also find that some services offer discounts if you are a new customer.
Though some services offer individual plans designed for a single person, others have family plans that cover anyone who lives in your home as well as college students. With an individual plan, you only get protection for a single person. It comes in handy if you’re the victim of identity theft but offers no protection for your spouse or kids. If you have one or more family members who live in your home, you should go with a family plan.
Many parents do not realize how much information scammers can find about their kids online. They can easily find your child’s date of birth and full name, which they can use to get a Social Security number or birth certificate. More than one million kids become victims of this crime every year. Adults can use their information to turn on utilities in a home and open lines of credit. They can buy a new car and even take out loans in the child’s name. As you usually monitor for your name but not your kids’ names, you risk leaving them susceptible to this crime.
Identity theft does not always involve banks or credit cards. There are different types of identity theft that can affect you now and in the future. One example is medical identity theft, which is when another person uses your name and identity to see a doctor. They might give your Social Security number at a hospital and leave without paying or use that information to see another type of doctor. Senior identity theft occurs when hackers go after someone of advanced age. This often occurs online as scammers can get older people to enter their information on phishing websites.
Another potential example is identity cloning. This is when someone uses your identity every day. Criminals can sell your identity to someone who then lives under your name. They can work a full-time job and get an apartment with your identity. You may become a victim after using a phishing website that looks like a social media site or when you respond to dangerous emails. An identity clone can even use your information to get your tax return.
There are many things that you can do to stay safe after signing up with an identity theft service. It’s helpful to invest in a locking mailbox to prevent others from stealing mail that contains sensitive information. If you throw away bank statements and similar paperwork, always shred them before throwing them out. You should also use caution when using a scanner at the gas pump or an ATM. Hackers use skimmers on those machines that steal data off your cards. They can then use those cards and buy things, even if they don’t have the physical card.
Use caution online, too. If you get an email that seems suspicious, don’t click on any links inside it. Scammers often set up websites that look similar to real sites. When you log in with your info, they get a copy that they can use on the official site. By the time you realize what happened, it might be almost impossible to get your account back. We also recommend that you secure your wireless network and only use it with a password. This will block hackers from entering your network and stealing information.
A common sign of identity theft is an account that appears on your credit report that you don’t recognize. Though you can request a free copy of your report once a year, some of the top identity theft services of 2021 give you monthly reports. This helps you spot and report unfamiliar accounts. You may get bills in the mail that ask you to pay debts that you don’t have such as a car payment or utility bill. Many people also receive phone calls from debt collectors who claim that they owe money. This is a big sign that you’re the victim of identity theft.
If you’re the victim of identity theft or think you might be, call the police department in your city. You can file a report, which is your first step in stopping the scammer. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is another place where you can file a report. With help from the FTC, you can avoid paying back bills that aren’t yours and some of the hassles of identity theft. You should notify your bank and any creditors, too. Let them know that someone racked up debt in your name and that it will affect your credit in the future.
Our ranking of the top identity theft protection shows you the best services that are available. It’s often helpful to make a list of the features or services that are important to you. Start with a look at the costs to find a service you can afford. You may prefer an annual plan that you pay for at the beginning of the year to get a lower rate and protection for the next 12 months. If you want to cover your kids and spouse or partner, a family plan is a good choice.
We also recommend that you look for protection that comes with a mobile app. You may discover that you’re the victim of identity theft while on vacation or when you’re away from your computer. A mobile app lets you connect with customer service and get help as soon as possible. Find out if the service includes insurance and/or a guarantee, too. The guarantee lets you know that the company will give your money back if you’re not happy. With insurance, the service will cover the costs that you face as a victim of identity theft.
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