Do You Need Identity Theft Protection Services?

Pay for a service only if you are at risk, are unwilling to freeze your credit and won't monitor your own data.
Bev O'Shea
Sean Pyles
By Sean Pyles and  Bev O'Shea 
Edited by Kathy Hinson

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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 do it yourself

You can perform the basic services offered by these 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 companies 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 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.

Get more financial clarity with NerdWallet
Monitor your credit, track your spending and see all of your finances together in a single place.

Compare identity theft protection services

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.

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. If you’ve already placed credit freezes, you’ll need to temporarily lift them to allow a provider access to your files for monitoring.



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

  • It includes web privacy and device security benefits.

  • 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 — $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.



  • 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 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.



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

  • One standout feature: You may be able to get help recovering from pre-existing 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 account.


  • Equifax bought ID Watchdog in 2017, the same year Equifax suffered a major data breach that exposed sensitive personal information of nearly 148 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 or $350 annually.

Best for: Those who need help recovering from pre-existing identity theft.