Identity Theft Protection: Compare Services and Know What You Can Do Yourself

Pay for a service only if you are at risk, are unwilling to freeze your credit and won't monitor your own data.

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Written by Lauren Schwahn
Lead Writer
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Edited by Kathy Hinson
Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
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Co-written by Bev O'Shea
personal finance writer

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Identity theft protection companies pledge to act as guardians of your personal information for a monthly or annual fee. Generally, they start with credit monitoring, then layer on additional services to alert you to potential problems.

But alerts just flag you after the fact; they can't prevent someone from stealing and misusing your financial data. That’s why NerdWallet advises proactively freezing your credit — it can prevent the opening of fraudulent accounts.

Consider paying for an identity theft protection service if:

  • You’re already the victim of identity theft or at high risk of it.

  • You are unwilling to freeze your credit reports.

  • You know that you won’t go through the effort of actively monitoring your own credit.

  • You have checked and don't have adequate identity theft monitoring available for free as a benefit or as a result of a data breach.

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You can take steps to protect your identity yourself

You can perform the basic services offered by identity theft protection companies yourself, often at no charge:

"The first thing consumers need to do if they’re worried about ID theft is just to freeze their credit reports," says Chi Chi Wu, senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. "Freeze, freeze, freeze. Everything else is gravy on top of that."

What identity theft protection services do

In general, identity theft protection companies offer three main services:

  • Monitoring: Identity theft protection firms monitor your credit files and alert you about activity, such as new accounts opened in your name and credit inquiries received, so you can react quickly.

  • Alerts: They notify you of instances where your personal information has been used, like if someone tries to open a bank account in your name. This can be helpful because many people don’t realize identity theft has happened until their credit is wrecked, their bank accounts are depleted or they suddenly have a lot of new debt in their name.

  • Recovery: If someone hacks your information and uses it maliciously, these companies can help you recover lost money and help undo the damage to your credit. Most offer insurance policies of up to $1 million.

Many also offer tangential services, such as alerts about identity theft news and local sex offender registries. Some monitor dark web sites known to traffic in stolen personal and financial data, which is something you can't do yourself.

Are identity theft protection services worth it?

You may decide you want a full suite of safeguards and don’t mind paying for peace of mind. Or you may know you won’t do it yourself.

If so, compare prices and coverage details to find a plan that fits. Make sure the product you choose monitors credit data at all three credit bureaus; otherwise, you're paying for incomplete protection.

Avoid credit monitoring products from the credit bureaus, which tend to have less robust coverage and may limit your right to sue them, even if they are the ones that exposed your financial data.

But if you’re up for the task, taking steps like freezing your credit and checking your credit reports on your own offer adequate protection at no cost.

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Compare identity theft protection services

Here’s a look at some popular products in the identity protection industry. This is a small sampling; you may find a different provider that suits you better. You’ll need to unfreeze your credit temporarily, if you've already frozen it, to allow a provider access to your files for monitoring.



  • Its extensive list of features includes VPN and antivirus protection for multiple devices, plus an Experian credit lock. 

  • You can add up to five adults, plus an unlimited number of kids and devices to the family plan.

  • All plans have a 14-day free trial, and annual plans offer a 60-day money back guarantee. 


  • Does not monitor social media accounts.

  • If you cancel the annual plan after 60 days, you still have to pay for the full year (during which you retain access to the account.)

Cost: $15 a month for the monthly plan or $144 for the annual plan for individuals, which includes three-bureau credit monitoring. The couples plan is $29 per month or $264 annually. Families pay $50 a month for the monthly plan or $384 for the annual plan.

Best for: People who are budget conscious or have larger families. Read our full Aura review.

LifeLock Ultimate Plus


  • The top-tier plan from LifeLock by Norton, Ultimate Plus, offers multiple services to help you detect and recover from identity theft.

  • It includes social media monitoring and three-bureau credit monitoring.

  • The company adds value to its package through additional features, such as a $1 million identity theft recovery plan and investment account alerts.


  • The top-tier plan is pricey. Paying for a year of service up front drops the price, but note that after the first year the price is higher at auto-renewal time.

  • In 2023, LifeLock notified customers about a data breach that exposed users of its password management system, which affected nearly 1 million people.

Cost: Coverage for one adult is $34.99 a month, or $69.99 for two adults. Discounts are available for paying annually — about $240 for 1 person or $396 for two — but the cost will be higher starting with year 2.

Best for: Those who don’t have an entire family to protect; those who can afford to spend a little extra for comprehensive coverage. Read our full LifeLock review.



  • Easy to understand exactly what you are getting, because there are no tiers, and pricing is clear.

  • Offers unlimited consultations with an identity theft expert.

  • Scans social media posts for reputational risk.


  • As with all of these plans, you may come to rely on its services and become lax about good cyber hygiene practices.

  • Multiple alerts may lead you to dismiss them without reading, missing important information.

Cost: Monitoring of the three credit bureaus is $19.95 per month for individuals or $34.95 for a family plan.

Best for: Price-sensitive customers who want to have their social media accounts scanned as part of a package. Read our full IDShield review.

IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit


  • Offers a competitive list of features.

  • You get dark web monitoring and credit activity monitoring for children under the family plan.

  • Offers alerts about suspected health insurance fraud.


  • If you’re signing up to get the VPN or mobile device protection, you don't get to choose the type you get.

  • The website has a great deal of information, which may be confusing. Using the navigation links at the top helps isolate the info you want to learn about.

Cost: $34.90 a month or $349.90 a year for the IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit Individual plan, which offers monitoring at all three major credit bureaus. The family plan runs $39.90 a month, or $399.90 for a year.

Best for: Those who want medical identity coverage. Read our full IdentityForce review.

ID Watchdog Premium


  • ID Watchdog keeps credit monitoring, alerts and recovery simple.

  • One standout feature: You may be able to get help recovering from preexisting identity theft for an additional fee, which depends on details of the incident.

  • The primary account holder can add a second adult and up to four children to their family plan account.


  • Equifax bought ID Watchdog in 2017, the same year Equifax suffered a major data breach that exposed sensitive personal information of 147 million consumers.

  • The company’s mobile app gets lower ratings than those of its competitors.

  • Doesn’t match some competitor offerings, such as monitoring for health insurance fraud.

Cost: $21.95 a month or $220 for an annual plan for ID Watchdog Premium, which offers three-bureau credit monitoring. The family plan costs $34.95 monthly or $350 annually.

Best for: Those who need help recovering from preexisting identity theft.