Q: I live in Hawaii and want to sign up for identity theft protection services. Do any of these services allow protection for people who live in Hawaii?
Here's a breakdown of where each service offers its protection:
Identity Guard offers protection to people in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.
TrustedID and IDFreeze both offer services to any U.S. citizen that has a valid Social Security number. So even if you live in another country these services might be a good option for you. However it's important to note that communication might be an issue because TrustedID and IDFreeze's phone lines aren't able to dial outside of the continental U.S., and certain aspects of the service can only be performed via phone.
LifeLock provides identity theft protection to anyone with a Social Security number, U.S. primary address, telephone number and who resides in one of the 50 states or U.S. territories.
Check out our Identity Theft Protection Compare Page to see a side-by-side comparison of each of our reviewed identity theft protection services or visit our FAQs to learn more about identity theft protection services.
Q: I'm a single parent and interested in signing up for Identity Guard, but I also want to make sure my children have identity theft protection. Does Identity Guard offer any program that protects one parent and two children?
A: Great question! Yes, Identity Guard does offer a plan called kIDSure that allows you to protect yourself as well as your children. This plan allows you to add a child to an existing adult's plan for only $4.99/month per child, so the monthly total for you and you two children would total to $24.97/month. You'd also get a free 30-day trial so you can try out the service before you make a financial commitment.
kIDSure is a plan that specializes in protecting children's identity since children don't have a credit history or as much personal information as adults. This child-specific identity theft protection monitors for 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.
Identity Guard's kIDSure has no age requirement, and no limit on the number of children that you can add to your membership. The only requirement is that the enrolled children are actually your children.
As one of our top-rated identity theft protection service, Identity Guard also offers extensive monitoring for adults including active monitoring of your 3-bureau credit report, credit cards, public records, Social Security number, applications of for credit‚ a cell phone‚ auto or home loans. If Identity Guard notices anything suspicious or phishy, they will alert you. The plan also includes Internet security software from Zone Alarm so you can even keep your family's computer protected.
Recently the Better Business Bureau issued a warning to alert consumers in the U.S. and Canada about a new utility scam. Thieves are calling residences and posing as representatives of local electric, water or gas company. The scammers tell the consumer that they are running late on utility payment, and they need to make a payment immediately.
Instead of accepting a phone payment of a credit card or check — such as your utility company does — the scammers are requiring you to make payments with a prepaid debit card. They tell you to go purchase one at the grocery store or bank and call them back with the payment information. They then take the information you've given them about the prepaid debit card to imprint a new prepaid debit card.
The BBB reported that thieves are turning to prepaid debit cards because regulations and rules for wire transfers have gotten more strict, and prepaid debit cards do not require any identification to use. Also, these cards are difficult to trace because they are intended for one-time use.
Here are some ways that you can protect yourself from this utility bill scam.
1. Don't pay bills with a prepaid debit cards: Companies that provide utility services don't accept payments with prepaid debit cards. If someone does call you and insists that you pay your overdue bill with a prepaid debit card then you should not give them any personal information. Hang up the phone and report the scam to the BBB.
2. Verify the caller. If you get a call from someone claiming to be a representative from your utility service that is threatening to turn off your utilities, make sure this person actually works for your utility company. The best way to do this is to hang up the phone, and call the phone number listed on your utility bill. Tell the customer service representative that you wanted to inquire about your bill because you just received a call from someone saying that you're past due. The representative will be able to tell you the status of your bill.
The BBB also reminds consumers to not allow anyone into your home to check electrical wiring, natural gas pipes or appliances unless you have a scheduled appointment with your utility provider. Also, call your utility company to verify they have sent someone to check the safety of your home.
If you feel that you have been contacted by a scammer and revealed your personal information then you might want to consider signing up for an identity theft protection service. These services monitor your personal information to make sure it isn't being sold to thieves or used inappropriately. In the instance that they notice something out-of-the ordinary or phishy, they will send you alert to verify the activity was done by you and not a thief. Check out this blog to learn why identity theft protection is a useful service to have, and visit our Identity Theft Protection Compare Page to find out what each service offers in terms of protection.
Q: I have two elderly parents who don't quite understand the importance of keeping their personal information to themselves. I often worry that someone will take advantage of them and steal their identity. How can I protect my elderly parents from identity theft?
A: Good question! We know how important it is to make sure your parents' identity is protected, especially since identity thieves often target the elderly and children, so the best option for you is to sign your parents up for an identity theft protection service. That's mostly because you can't be with your parents all the time so there's no way to know exactly what personal information they are revealing about themselves. An identity theft protection service will monitor their personal information — such as Social Security number and bank accounts — to make sure none of their personal information is being used fraudulently. If these services notice anything suspicious or out of the ordinary, they will send an alert to notify you of the possible fraud.
The best service for you and your parents depends on how much control you want over their identity theft protection membership. Some identity theft protection services — such as Identity Guard — do not allow you to completely represent a parent, even with a power of attorney.
With Identity Guard you do have the option to send the alerts to your email instead of your parents, however in the event that your parent's personal information is compromised, Identity Guard must speak to your parents and sort it out with your parents. If you decide that Identity Guard is the best option for your parents, they'd have to sign up individually and pay 14.99 per month each — with NextAdvisor's 25 percent discount — which would make the total $29.98 per month. This top-rated identity theft protection service also offers a 30-day free trial, so you can always sign your parents up and test the service out before you make a commitment. Check out our full review of Identity Guard to learn more about the service, or visit Identity Guard's website directly to start the 30-day free trial.
Other services — such as TrustedID — allow you to have complete control over your parents' membership as long as you can provide a valid power of attorney, which gives you permission to handle all their affairs. Your parents would need to sign themselves up, but once they are all signed up you can submit a copy of your power of attorney to TrustedID to be able to assist your parents with their identity theft protection. TrustedID offers a family plan that protects an unlimited number of people living at the same address for $18 per month with an annual prepay or $25.19 per month with monthly payments. As one of top-rated identity theft protection services, TrustedID offers a 14-day free trial that will allow you and your parents to test out the service before you make a financial commitment. Check out our full review of TrustedID to learn more about the service, or visit TrustedID's website directly to start the 14-day free trial.
News broke this afternoon that more than 50 million LivingSocial customers' personal information was hacked, revealing their names, email addresses, birth dates and encrypted passwords to the hackers. If you're a LivingSocial customer and fear that your personal information may lead to identity theft, then the first thing that you should do is change your passwords for any online accounts that you may have connected to your LivingSocial account including your email's password.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft from the hacking, here are some steps that can take to help recover your identity.
- Report the hacking to the FTC and the local police department: Filing a report with the Federal Trade Commission will help the agency look for any trends with identity theft, which can help lead to investigations and future prosecutions. Next, you should file a police report, which can help lead to a possible source of the hacking.
- Alert credit report agencies: When you alert your credit agencies you have two options — place a fraud alert or place a credit freeze on their credit report. A fraud alert is an alert that is connected to the credit report which lets creditors know that you need to take extra steps to verify your identity. The fraud alert still allows companies access to the credit report. On the other hand, a credit freeze completely locks down your credit, meaning no company — not even current credit cards — have access to the credit report. The decision to place a security fraud alert or a credit freeze is up to you.
- Alert creditors: The word creditor is used loosely because, in this case, a creditor can be any company, bank or membership that has your personal information. Even though you have already filed a report and alerted credit report agencies, this is still an important step because it lets creditors know that you should be aware of the accounts or memberships. Your creditors can include credit cards, banks, utilities, Internet providers, gym/spa memberships, insurance carriers and any other companies where personal information could be compromised.
Another solid way to help stop identity theft is to sign up for identity theft protection. These services actively monitor your personal information, such as your Social Security number and bank account numbers, to make sure the information is not being used fraudulently. If the service finds any of you personal information being used suspiciously, they will alert you to verify that it isn't fraud. Our top-rated identity theft services will even assist you throughout the recovery process.
Check out our compare page to learn more about identity theft protection services, or visit our FAQs to learn more about identity theft in general. Also, check out this blog to get more information about why identity theft protection is useful.
Q: Do any credit report monitoring services offer a business plan?
A: Though there aren't credit monitoring services that will monitor your company's Tax Identity Number (TIN) number, there are a couple of ways you can use these services to help protect your business. Top-rated services like Identity Guard monitor your credit cards and bank accounts daily, and alert you of any changes in your credit report. They also scan the Internet's black markets for any use of your social security number and name. If your business credit cards and bank accounts are under your social security number, then you will be protected under Identity Guard's excellent plan. Other top-tier services that do this are PrivacyGuard and Trusted ID.
Not only do credit monitoring services protect you against identity theft, but they also offer special recovery benefits if you are a victim of identity theft, and again, this applies to your business if the credit accounts are under your social security number. Identity Guard, for example, offers $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance coverage. This isn't even the best part of their identity theft protection, however, since you are not monetarily liable for fraud that occurs in your accounts. An even better benefit of the service is their Identity Theft Recovery Unit, that helps you restore your accounts, credit and good name.
Another way that credit monitoring can help your business is that many providers offer data breach services. A service like Trusted ID's "Data Breach Defense" offers extensive assistance in case of a data breach including rendering the compromised information valueless, communication management for you and your clients as well as reporting and audit services.
Read full reviews, sign up for free trials and compare the top services on our credit report monitoring services comparison page.
Do you ever wonder if identity theft protection services are worth the price? We recently talked with an identity theft victim who explained the headache they went through to restore their good name. The victim told us that it took them weeks to completely contact each of the necessary agencies, banks, creditors, local police and the Federal Trade Commission. They said it was a nightmare, and they wish they had someone to help them with the restoration process. That's exactly where the most valuable parts of identity theft protection services lie.
All of our top-rated identity theft protection services offer strong assistance in the case that your identity is stolen. They provide you with the resources that you need to restore your good name, and even represent you throughout the restoration process. This is valuable because the services alleviate the stress of having to contact every bank or business that you've ever provided your personal information to — even if it was only your name and phone number.
Another strong value of identity theft protection services is the constant monitoring of your personal information, even if it is only your social security number. These services — such as our top-rated identity theft protection services Identity Guard and TrustedID — monitor your personal information and alert you if they notice anything suspicious or out of the ordinary. This is important because it can help stop identity theft before it completely begins or before it gets too far.
Identity theft protection services also are cheap for NextAdvisor readers. Most of the services cost less than a gym membership each month. For example, NextAdvisor readers get a 25% discount on Identity Guard, which brings the monthly payments down from $19.99/month to $14.99/month. Along with the discount, NextAdvisor readers also get a free 30-day trial to test out the service before you pay any money. Check out our compare page to see all the special discounts and free trials NextAdvisor readers are offered.
Even though it may seem unnecessary to sign up for identity theft protection services now — because you're not currently a victim of identity theft — there is a chance that you could be a victim of identity theft in the future, and identity theft protection services would be a less-stressful way to restore your good name.
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2013, or CISPA, was passed by the House Intelligent Committee, Wednesday, and is now moving onto the House of Representatives, who could vote on it as early as next week. If passed, the bill — which is a revision of the 2012 CISPA that was shot down by the Senate last spring — would allow companies to share information with the U.S. government in hopes of assisting in the investigations of cyber attacks.
One of the major concerns with the proposed act is that it would allow consumer's personal information, which was originally given to a business, to be shared with the government top-secret spy agencies. If the bill is passed, one question arises: Could this possibly lead to identity theft and how will you keep your personal information private?
Yes, the reality is that this bill could possibly lead to more identity thefts because anytime personal information is revealed about an individual, they become more vulnerable to identity theft. Even though the information will be with government top-secret spy agencies, it is still important to consider that a government official could possibly commit identity theft, and even government agencies have the potential to be hacked. Scary thought, right?
There are a couple of ways that you could make sure your person information remains private. The first and unrealistic way is to completely remove your personal information from every business — from banks to grocery stores — that you've ever given personal information to, and the second is to sign up for an identity theft protection service. Although identity theft protection services can't remove your information from the businesses that you originally gave the information to, they can still make sure that you do not turn into a victim of identity theft by sending you alerts every time they notice something out of the ordinary. Our two top-rated identity theft protection services — Identity Guard and TrustedID — both offer superior identity theft protection including active monitoring of all three credit bureaus credit reports, bank accounts, credit cards, social security numbers and public records. Check out our full review of Identity Guard and our full review of TrustedID to learn more about the services. Or you can check out this blog to see a side-by-side comparison of the two services.
Q: My current credit monitoring service won't explain why my credit score is fluctuating. Are there services that will explain the specific reasons for my credit score going up or down?
A: First, you will need to sign up for a credit monitoring service that updates your credit scores frequently. Identity Guard, the #1 ranked service in our reviews, sends you updated credit scores every three months. PrivacyGuard, another service that received 5 out of 5 stars in our rankings, offers NextAdvisor readers the added benefit of monthly credit score updates, unlike their standard quarterly updates.
Both of these services provide explanations for why your credit scores fluctuate. When looking at your credit report with Identity Guard, look at the credit score from each bureau — Experian, Equifax and Transunion — and read both positive factors and negative factors that affected your credit score. An example of a positive factor may include paying your credit cards on time, and a negative factor could be too many requests for new lines of credit in a short period of time. In addition to this information, Identity Guard has a "Credit Analyzer" tool to see how different credit scenarios might impact your score. You can also call them if you have any questions about your account. Currently, Identity Guard is offering our readers a 25% discount and a 30-day free trial, read the full review and get all the details.
Like Identity Guard, PrivacyGuard also has a "Credit Score Simulator" that shows you how making certain changes to your credit practices could impact your credit score and your overall credit picture. As for your personal credit score fluctuations, PrivacyGuard gives you highly detailed explanations of your scores. It details both factors that are helping and hurting your score. It also gives a great breakdown of the discrepancies in your credit reports across the three different bureaus. This information can be very helpful in detecting erroneous information that one of the bureaus may have on file. They will be happy to explain your scores to you if you give them a call, just be sure to have your membership number in front of you. Read our full review of PrivacyGuard and sign up for the $1 30-day trial.
Read full reviews, sign up for free trials and compare all of the services we review here.
Q: I want to sign up a credit monitoring service like Identity Guard or PrivacyGuard, what information do I need to sign up and get started?
A: Signing up for a credit report monitoring service is quick and easy — you just need some basic personal information to get started. Information you'll need to enter includes your name, mailing address, email address, phone number, social security number and credit card information. Some services even let you choose whether you want text message alerts in addition to standard email alerts, in the case that they discover any changes in your credit report. Once you sign up, you can instantly access your 3-bureau credit report and scores. After you've joined the service, you can start adding other accounts for them to monitor, such as your bank accounts and medical records.
Note that when signing up for a credit report monitoring service, this is all done in a secure webpage with SSL encryption, so you do not have to worry about the security of your information. When entering personal information online, just look at your browser's address bar and make sure there is a little lock icon next to the URL. For more information on the privacy of your information when signing up for credit report monitoring and/or identity theft protection, take a look at this blog post.
Be sure to visit our credit monitoring services comparison page to read full reviews and see how all of the top services compare.
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.