AllClear IDAs data breaches have become a sad reality for numerous retailers and other service providers across the country, many have scrambled to rebuild their customers’ lost trust. One way companies like Target, Community Health Services and — most recently — Home Depot have done this is to offer customers affected by a breach a free membership to an identity theft protection service. This usually entails the company that suffered the breach partnering with a security company and offering its services to all customers whose data was compromised. Those customers who choose to enroll will have free coverage for a period of 12 months, usually defined by a date set by the company — not the date the customer elects to sign up.

How do I know this isn’t a scam?

Providing complimentary identity theft protection certainly helps to restore customers’ faith in a company’s trustworthiness. It is also the right thing to do considering how many customers may face serious damages because of a mistake they did not make. That being said, you might be concerned that identity theft protection is a scam that will further compromise your personal and financial information. Rest assured that these services have been around for quite a while and aim to protect you from harm and help restore your good name if the damage has already been done. However, some of the services that retailers have chosen to offer don’t quite stack up against the leaders of the pack. It is important to know whether taking the free service is better than paying a small amount each month to get superior protection.

Will AllClear ID protect me?

Home Depot is offering all customers who shopped at its U.S. stores between April and September, 2014 one year of AllClear ID PRO identity theft protection service. This service normally costs $14.95/month, but eligible Home Depot customers will receive it for free until September 8, 2015. AllClear ID’s PRO plan offers members an array of identity theft protection and restoration features, including:

  • Fraud detection: This entails monitoring information reported by non-credit bureau sources, such as retailers and government agencies, to detect compromised social security and credit card numbers, PINs and account login information. 
  • Fraud alerts: AllClear ID will call you if your information is threatened, using a secure voice key to ensure you are receiving a legitimate phone call. After listening to the alert, you can press a code to be connected immediately to an operator during one of these calls.
  • Triple-bureau credit monitoring: After you activate this feature, AllClear ID will monitor your credit activity at all three credit bureaus. If any suspicious activity is detected, it will alert you immediately.
  • $1 million identity theft insurance: Coverage includes identity restoration, legal defense expenses and lost wages.
  • Identity restoration: In the event that your identity is stolen, AllClear ID will help contact creditors and law enforcement to help get your good name restored. This is good to have because it removes the pressure from your shoulders and ensures you won’t have to do all the work.

Can I get better protection?

While AllClear ID does offer decent identity theft protection, it is missing a couple of key features that are important for potential victims of identity theft. Black market monitoring is vital for those who have had their credit card information exposed in a security breach. As we have seen, the thieves who steal this information usually sell it on black market websites. Because of that, you want an identity theft protection service that will monitor black market websites, chat rooms and more, and alert you if your information should show up anywhere. Access to your credit reports and scores is also great to have, so you can see what is going on for yourself. AllClear ID monitors your credit activity, but does not provide you with regular reports or scores.

If you are looking for the most complete identity theft protection, you should look into Identity Guard. Not only does it provide you with daily 3-bureau credit monitoring with scores and a public records report quarterly, but it also monitors the Internet black market to ensure your information is not being sold or traded. This is in addition to a plethora of other features that can help ensure your identity remains secure — and restore it if something should happen. Even better, Identity Guard offers a 30-day free trial so you can try out the service and compare it to AllClear ID before you make a decision.

Learn more about Identity Guard and other services like it by reading our identity theft protection reviews.