Q: Which of the credit report monitoring services allow credit reporting which is viewed from outside the United States? After 7 years, Free Credit Report terminated my monthly service because I work outside the United States.
A: That's a great question — you should continue to stay on top of your credit and continue protecting your identity even if you're overseas. We contacted the top credit report monitoring services and got the scoop on their international policies.
Identity Guard: You can sign in and use your Identity Guard account while you are out of the country; however, you must still be a citizen of the United States. It's also important to note that they only monitor US bureaus, so international credit accounts that are opened abroad will not be covered.
Trusted ID: The same rules apply for Trusted ID; you will still be able to use the service and get alerts. They also added that you would need to get an international number to contact them since most of their troubleshooting and disputing needs to be called in to assist you. They have an international number but it will still cost a little extra to call internationally.
PrivacyGuard: Their answer was quick and simple — as long as you have an Internet connection, you can keep up with your credit online by signing on to your online account.
Q: My spouse and I share all the same bank accounts and credit cards, so I don't feel those need additional monitoring. Would I be able to sign my spouse up for Identity Guard's kIDSure?
A: No, you will not be able to sign your spouse up with Identity Guard's kIDSure program because your spouse does not meet the requirements for the kIDSure program. These requirements are that the children you sign up must be under the age of 18 and you must be their legal guardian.
Even though you and your spouse share the same bank accounts and credit cards, it's still important that you both have your own protection or a family plan — which Identity Guard doesn't offer — because you both won't get the protection under one membership. For example, if only you decide to sign up for the protection then, even though both of your financial accounts will be protected, only your Social Security number be protected. If your spouse has their identity stolen then your identity theft protection service won't be able to assist your spouse through the restoration because the membership is under your Social Security number. This blog explains why couples with joint accounts can't share one identity theft protection membership.
As our top-rated identity theft protection service, Identity Guard offers solid identity theft protection. It actively monitors your 3-bureau credit report, credit cards, public records, Social Security number, applications and even offers Zone Alarm Internet security software for only $14.99/month per adult with a 30-day free trial. Identity Guard also offers its kIDSure program, which monitors your child's information on criminal records, DMV records, utilities records, as well as scans for Social Security number exposure on the Internet black market for only $5/month per child.
If you're looking for an identity theft protection service that offers a family plan, we'd recommend that you check out our other top-rated identity theft protection, TrustedID, which offers a family plan that protects an unlimited number of people living at the same address for $18/month paid annually or $25.19/month paid monthly. TrustedID also offers a 14-day free trial, which allows you to test the service before making a financial commitment.
Check out our identity theft compare page to see which service will be the best for you and your spouse.
LifeLock and LifeLock Ultimate are offering NextAdvisor readers a special 15 percent off as well as a 30-day free trial, which means you can test out the service without making a financial commitment.
With the 15 percent discount, LifeLock costs $7.79 per month with an annual prepay or $8.50 per month if you pay monthly. LifeLock Ultimate is a little more expensive because it offers more extensive credit monitoring and identity theft protection. It costs $19.48 per month with an annual prepay, or $21.25 per month if you choose to pay monthly, including the 15 percent discount. Both services are solid options for identity theft protection and credit report monitoring, although LifeLock Ultimate is more complete in terms of credit report monitoring.
Here is a breakdown of what each membership includes.
- Identity Threat Detection and Alerts
- Lost Wallet Protection
- Address Change Verification
- Black Market Website Surveillance
- Reduced Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers
- Award-Winning Member Service 24/7/365
- $1 Million Total Service Guarantee
- Annual Credit Reports
LifeLock Ultimate includes:
- Identity Threat Detection and Alerts
- Lost Wallet Protection
- Address Change Verification
- Black Market Website Surveillance
- Reduced Pre-Approved Credit Card Offers
- Alias Name and Address Monitoring
- Court Records Scanning
- File-Sharing Network Searches
- Unauthorized Payday Loan Notification
- Sex Offender Registry Reports
- $1 Million Total Service Guarantee
- Checking and Savings Account Application Alerts
- Bank Account Takeover Alerts
- Enhanced Credit Application Alerts
- Online Annual Credit Reports and Scores
- Monthly Credit Score Tracking
- Priority Award-Winning Member Service 24/7/365
A former U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs computer security chief told Congress on Tuesday that at least eight foreign-sponsored organizations — most of which are connected to the Chinese military — have previously hacked or are currently trying to hack into VA computers.
The entire VA database houses roughly 20 million veteran's personal information, according to Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs oversight and investigations subcommittee. The type of personal information that hackers had access to included such information as Social Security numbers and dates of birth, however the main threat to veterans would most likely be credit card theft, according to the officials with the VA’s inspector general’s office.
The VA has not yet officially released a statement to its potentially affected veterans, however the best option for those veterans would be to sign up for an identity theft protection service or, at the very least, monitor their credit. These services will help detect potential credit card theft by detecting the activity before it gets too far.
Identity theft protection services monitor your credit reports and public records as well as scan the Internet black market for your credit cards and Social Security numbers, and alert you if they notice something out-of-the ordinary or suspicious. While credit report monitoring services offer you full access to your credit report as well as alert you whenever there is a change to your credit report.
Identity theft is a crime that impacts more and more people each year. In 2012 more than 12 million people were victims of identity theft — that's an increase of 13 percent from the previous year, according to a 2013 study by Javelin Strategy and Research.
If you find that you've fallen victim to identity theft the first thing to do is not panic. Follow these five steps to restore your good name and credit.
1. File a police report and an identity theft complaint: Once you realize you are a victim of identity theft, you should immediately file a police report with your local police so they can begin a local investigation. This investigation can help reveal more information about the identity theft — such as where the thieves got your information if it was committed locally or in-person.
On top of filing a police report, you should also file an identity theft complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. It’s important to also file a complaint with the FTC because it observes national trends of identity theft as well as conducts investigations — of online and in-person identity theft — which can lead to future prosecution.
2. Notify your banks and credit report agencies: After you report the crime to the police and the FTC, the next step is to contact you banks to let them know that you were a victim of identity theft as well as verify that none of your bank accounts or credit cards have been tampered with or used. If any of your bank or credit accounts were used, then you should close them and re-open them with new account and credit card numbers.
Besides alerting all your banks, you also need to contact all three creditors — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to let them know that you’ve been a victim of identity theft. When you contact each of the creditors, you should request to put an extended fraud alert or a credit freeze on your credit report. An extended fraud alert is a note on your credit report that lets creditors know that they need to take extra steps to verify your identity. This alert is only for victims of identity theft and lasts seven years, according to the FTC.
A credit freeze is the most dramatic option of the two because it completely locks down your credit. This freeze prevents any company, even your current creditors, from accessing it. In most states placing a credit freeze is free for victims of identity theft, however some states charge you to place the freeze, according to the FTC. The length of the credit freeze also varies from state-to-state. The identity theft victim can decide if an extended fraud alert or a credit freeze is best for them.
3. Alert any company that has your personal information: This is one of the steps that most people forget. Identity thieves try to get as much information about you as they can, so this means that they may try to get information from essentially any place you've ever disclosed your personal information to — even if it was only your name and phone number. You should contact your utilities, cable and Internet providers, libraries, insurance carriers and any other company or organization that may have any of your information. When you contact them you should ask them to place a note on your account that lets their staff know that you were a victim of identity theft and they need to take extra steps to verify your identity before sharing personal information.
4. Follow-up everyone: Another step that you should take to restore your good name is to follow-up with your banks, creditors and the police. Your identity cannot be fixed overnight so it will take some time for everything to be sorted out, which means you'll want to check in on updates and make sure everything is being completed. Also, be sure to get everything in writing in case you ever need it again in the future.
5. Take steps to help stop identity theft: There are multiple steps an identity theft victim — or anyone who wants to keep their identity safe — can take to help stop identity theft in the future. You can opt to do it on your own by doing things such as shredding all documents containing any personal information, monitoring your credit report, checking your bank accounts and credit cards statements regularly to verify the purchases were made by you and, lastly, being aware of what you post online — in terms of personal information.
An easier way to possibly stop identity theft before it's too late is to sign up for an identity theft protection service. These services monitor your personal information on the Internet black market as well as monitor all three credit bureaus, and they'll send you an alert if they notice anything out-of-the ordinary or suspicious. Visit our Identity Theft Compare Page to learn more about what each of these services offer or check out this blog to learn why these services are important.
Q: I want to sign up for credit monitoring and I already have a security software suite. Do credit monitoring services come with security software? If yes, will it interfere with my current program?
A: Yes, many of the top credit report monitoring services offer free Internet security software with your subscription. If you already have security software on your computer, you have two options:
1. You are not required to download the security software suite that comes with your credit report monitoring membership. So if you want to keep your current program, you can continue using it without installing the new software.
2. Internet security software suites usually do not play nice together when installed onto a single computer. If you'd like to use the software that comes with the credit monitoring service, you'll need to uninstall the program you are currently running on your computer first.
Many credit report monitoring services come with some of the best-known programs in security software. For example, the top-rated Identity Guard comes with Zone Alarm Internet Security Suite for free, an award-winning Internet security solution including anti-virus, firewall, anti-phishing and anti-spam software with hourly security updates. Another example is the free subscription to Norton Internet Security Online that comes with your PrivacyGuard membership. Visit our credit report monitoring comparison page to read full reviews and compare all of the top services. You can also learn more about Internet security software here.
Q: I have been looking into possibly signing up for an identity theft protection plan, but I'm hesitant because I don't want these companies to keep my personal information when I decide to cancel. Do these identity theft protection companies delete my personal information when I cancel my membership, or will they retain my personal information even after cancellation?
A: Great question! More than nine million Americans have their identity stolen each year, according to the FTC, and one of the best ways to prevent identity theft is to know who has your personal information. Since these companies specialize in identity theft protection they have very secure and safe ways to keep your information private, yet it's important to know that a handful of the services still keep your personal information on file even after you cancel.
Some identity theft protection services — such as Identity Guard, Lifelock, ProtectMyID.com and Equifax Complete Premier — do not delete all your personal information when you cancel your membership. Instead, they delete some information, such as bank account numbers, and archive the basic information required for a membership, such as name and Social Security number. They archive the information just in case you decide to sign up for the protection again in the future.
Only three of the identity theft protection services we review — TrustedID, PrivacyGuard and IDFreeze — completely delete your personal information from their systems after cancelling. All three services will keep your information for a set period of time just in case you decide to get the protection again, then completely remove your information from the system. With TrustedID and IDFreeze your personal information will be purged from the system within 90 days of cancellation.
Our top-rated identity theft protection service, Identity Guard, announced Wednesday that it partnered with Experian to make the first-to-market launch of Experian's Precise IDSM Personal Protection Alerts product available to its members.
This new feature adds to Identity Guard's solid protection by providing members with identity monitoring via real-time alerts when a new account is applied for or opened as well as alerting members of potential identity fraud threats to help them identify and stop the potential identity theft before it occurs. An example of potential fraud alert includes a possible bank account take over.
This new feature is included in all of Identity Guard's identity theft protection plans and members will automatically receive a real-time alert any time their personal information is being authenticated by an Experian client business or agency. These inquiries can include a new banking account, loan or credit card application, or a company making an attempt to confirm their identity such as password reset requests. The personal protection alerts are sent to you via email or text message.
Want to try out Identity Guard's new alerts for yourself? Well you're in luck because for a limited time Identity Guard is offerring a 30-day free trial and costs only $14.99/month — with a 25 percent discount — to NextAdvisor readers.
Have you ever thought of how easy it might be for someone to use your identity? A film by an award-winning Czech guerrilla artist group called Ztohoven proves it to be very easy to use another person's identity. The film — which is screening throughout Europe — features "Citizen K," which was an experiment about identity.
Twelve members of the group all got their hair cut the same, took portrait photos and used computer software to merge two faces into one. They then used these photos and the name of another member of the group to apply for new identification cards. The each lived under someone else's identity with ease for six months. These individuals were able to travel outside of the country, vote in political elections, obtain gun licenses and even get married. After the six months ended, the group publicly exhibited their work at a gallery in Prague, where local police later confiscated the identification cards as well as arrested one of the group's members.
This experiment by Ztohoven proved that it's easy for anyone to use your personal information once they have access to it. So, how do you prevent someone from getting your personal information? There are a lot of little steps you can do on your own — such as monitoring you credit report regularly — however the easiest way is to sign up for an identity theft protection service. These services monitor credit reports, medical records, financial and other applications among others. Besides actively monitoring personal information, these services also monitor the Internet black market for you Social Security number, bank account and credit cards numbers, as well as other personal information.
On top of actively monitoring your personal information, identity theft protection services offer assistance in the unlikely event that your identity is stolen while signed up for protection. This assistance — depending on the service you choose — will walk you through each step of the identity restoration process to help you recover your good name. These services also offer a $1,000,000 insurance, warranty or guarantee that could cover the out of pocket cost of restoring your identity, which can include such things as legal fees and, in certain cases, lost wages. The insurances, warranties and guarantees do not reimburse the funds stolen from you because that falls under the responsibility of the financial institution of which your bank accounts are located.
All of the top credit monitoring services monitor your 3-bureau credit report daily, but if you need to keep up with your fluctuating credit score, there are particular services that will update your Equifax, Experian and Transunion scores frequently for your viewing pleasure. One such service is PrivacyGuard, which updates your credit scores from each bureau monthly. The credit report you receive from PrivacyGuard is detailed and extensive, explaining both positive and negative factors that contribute to your score.
In addition to credit monitoring, PrivacyGuard is an excellent identity theft protection service, which includes fraud support and a free subscription to Norton Internet Security Software. A monthly membership with PrivacyGuard costs $14.99/month and includes all the perks.
Currently, they are offering a $1 30-day trial, so even if you decide not to keep the service after 30 days, you still will have gotten all 3 of your credit scores as well as your full credit report. Read our full review of PrivacyGuard and see how it compares to other services by visiting our credit monitoring comparison page.
Disclosure: NextAdvisor.com is a consumer information site that offers free, independent reviews and ratings of online services. We receive advertising revenue from most of the services we review. Our editors thoroughly research and whenever possible test each service we review and offer their honest opinions about each one. We are independently owned and operated and all opinions expressed on this site are our own.