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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 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 — it can prevent the opening of fraudulent accounts.
Consider paying for an identity theft protection service only if:
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, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center. "Freeze, freeze, freeze. Everything else is gravy on top of that."
In general, identity theft protection companies offer three main services:
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.
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 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.
Cost: $29.99 a month for the first year, then auto-renews for $34.99 per month. Discounts available for paying annually.
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 .
Cost: Monitoring of the three credit bureaus is $17.95 per month for individuals or $32.95 for families (two adults, up to 10 minor children).
Best for: Price-sensitive customers who want to have their social media accounts scanned as part of a package. Read our full .
Cost: $23.99 a month or $239.90 a year for the plan, which offers monitoring at all three major credit bureaus. As noted, though, promotional pricing is often available. It's smart to look for it.
Best for: Those who want protection on a budget; those who want medical identity coverage.
Cost: $19.95 a month or $219 for an annual plan for , which offers three-bureau credit monitoring.
Best for: Those who need help recovering from pre-existing identity theft.