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: Identity theft protection seems like a good service to have, but how can I guarantee these websites are secure?
A: Great question! That is always an important question to ask yourself whenever you're typing your personal information onto any website, not just identity theft protection websites. Any information that you disclose to any of our reviewed identity theft protection services' websites is safely transferred in an encrypted format using SSL technology. Employees of these identity theft protection services have limited access to your personal information as well as additional workplace standards — such as no flash drives or information storing devices allowed on the service's campus as well as limited or no access to the Internet.
These websites that you use to sign up are secure, but if you want to verify the security, there are a couple of things you can check on before you enter your information.
1. Look for a color change or lock to appear on the left side of the URL to show that the site has been verified as a legitimate website. All major Internet browsers — including Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari and Internet Explorer — have these features or a feature very similar. For example, Google Chrome changes the beginning of the URL to green and adds the lock to verify it's secure.
2. Make sure the URL starts with "HTTPS." This stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, which means that the website is secure and will transfer your information to the company safely. It is much more secure than "HTTP," which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. We advise you to not enter your personal information if a website begins with "HTTP."
If you currently have an Internet security software, then it should already verify the security of the website as soon as you visit it. For example, our top-rated Internet security software — Norton's Internet Security — verifies a website's security with a little check mark and a green dot on the right of the address bar.
Check out our Identity Theft Protection Compare Page to see which service will be best for you or visit our Internet Security Software Compare Page to learn more about how Internet security software can keep your personal information protected on the web.
Q: I have to give out my driver's license number for work, and I'm always worried that someone will use my driver's license information to commit identity theft. If I sign up for an identity theft protection service, will they monitor my driver's license number?
A: Great question! Most of the identity theft protection services that we review do not actively monitor your driver's license number because these companies have found that identity thieves usually need more than the information on your driver's license to commit identity theft. However, there is one company we review that does actively monitor your driver's license number — LifeLock.
This identity theft protection service offers two membership options — LifeLock and LifeLock Ultimate. NextAdvisor readers get a 30-day free trial as well as a 10% discount off either membership. With the discounts, LifeLock costs $8.25/month with an annual prepay or $9/month paid monthly, and LifeLock Ultimate costs $20.63/month with an annual prepay, or $22.50/month if you choose to pay monthly.
Here's a breakdown of what each membership looks like:
The basic LifeLock membership includes:
- monitoring of your personal information (financial applications, credit cards, Social Security number, driver's license and address changes)
- lost wallet protection
- 24/7 customer service
- fraud resolution
- annual credit report updates
- identity theft insurance
The LifeLock Ultimate membership includes:
- monitoring of your personal information (expanded from LifeLock)
- lost wallet protection
- 24/7 customer service
- fraud resolution
- annual credit report updates
- identity theft insurance
- three-bureau credit monitoring
- surveillance of public and court records
- scanning for fraudulent new bank accounts
- alternate name scanning
- surveillance of unregulated global networks and file-sharing sites
Over 1 billion people use Facebook worldwide, and while it's a great way to keep up with your friends online, there are certain consequences if you're not careful when using the site — careless Facebook users are prime victims for identity thieves. In addition to revealing too much personal information on your profile and using weak passwords, logging into your account from multiple locations without signing off can be a dangerous habit. This can leave your Facebook account, where you can have messages that contain personal information like addresses, credit card numbers and more, open to identity thieves.
Thankfully, Facebook has a feature that allows you to log out of all of your active sessions remotely, whether you are on your computer or smart phone. For example, if you signed on at your friends house one day and at the library a week before that but forgot to log off, you can sign into your account from your phone and log out of those devices even if you're hundreds of miles away. We show you how to do it from your Facebook for iPhone application (very similar on Android and your computer):
Facebook for iPhone:
1. Go to the sidebar and select "Privacy Settings"
2. Head to the "Security" section
3. Go to "Active Sessions"
4. Remove all of the active sessions you aren't currently using
In addition to making sure your Facebook profile is secure and your passwords are strong, identity theft protection services are extremely useful for keeping you safe from fraud. Read this blog post on how identity theft protection can work for you.
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.
A: Companies will only monitor a person's credit file if they are over 18; however, there are credit monitoring services that will protect young teens against identity theft. Without a doubt, Trusted ID is the best credit report monitoring service for those looking for a family plan. This is simply because other services don't offer them.
For $20/month Trusted ID will cover everyone in your household, including children and teens.
While only two adults will receive their 3-bureau credit scores and credit report, everyone in your household will benefit from Trusted ID's full service identity theft protection. Trusted ID will monitor each household member's social security number and name for misuse, and each member will also be covered by their $1 million identity theft insurance warranty. Additionally, Trusted ID provides valuable recovery tools if anyone in your household falls victim to identity theft — they will pay for and perform all the tasks necessary to restore your identity and good name.
A: There are two reasons why a lender may be unable to pull your credit score. The first reason may be because your credit history isn't long enough or you don't have a credit history at all. If this is the case, there are a couple ways for you to start building credit:
- If you have a limited credit history, you may be eligible for a credit card that caters to people with average credit. If you are new to the U.S., the Capital One® Cash Rewards for Newcomers is a particularly good choice as it was designed to help those new to the U.S. establish credit and earn cash back.
- There are also special cards that cater specifically to students.
- If you have absolutely no credit history, one of the best ways to start building your credit is to get a secured credit card. Secured credit cards require you to provide a cash collateral deposit which becomes the line of credit for that account. Use your secured card as you would a debit card, and pay it off at the end of each month to start building your credit.
- Another good idea is to sign up for a credit monitoring service. With a service like the top-rated Identity Guard or PrivacyGuard, you can stay on top of your credit with frequent updates on your credit scores and credit reports. Compare all of the top credit monitoring services here and get your scores for free by signing up for a free trial.
The other reason lenders are unable to pull your credit score may be due to a credit freeze. A credit freeze makes it so that no new creditors will be able to access your credit report for any reason and any new accounts that you try to open will simply not be opened. Only you can request a credit freeze; however, if someone, like an identity thief, has all of your personal information, they may be able to request a credit freeze on your behalf.
If you are in fact a victim of identity theft, there are several steps you need to take right away. Better yet, identity theft protection services offer strong assistance in the case that your identity is stolen. If you are worried about becoming a victim of identity theft, visit our identity theft protection comparison page, where we review each service in detail. Note that many of these services also offer 30-day free trials and double as credit monitoring services as well, allowing you to view your credit scores and reports.
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.