In this article:
Identity theft and fraud protection for your finances, personal info, and devices.
Do I Need Identity Theft Protection in 2023?
For an elderly Indiana County woman, the answer to this question was a resounding yes. After the woman’s family spotted a series of questionable transactions in her bank account, they discovered that her 35-year-old caregiver had stolen her identity — along with over $23,000 in fraudulent credit card charges and forged checks [*].
According to the latest data from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [*]:
Over a million Americans had their identities stolen in 2022 alone — with losses of nearly $9 billion.
Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America. That's why thousands of Americans are looking at identity theft protection options in 2023.
But can these services really keep you safe from identity theft? And are they worth the cost?
In this guide, we’ll explain what identity theft protection does (and doesn’t do), who needs it the most, and what features you should look for when considering a provider. Then, we’ll compare five of the best identity theft protection services available in 2023.
What Is Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft protection refers to digital security products and services that monitor your sensitive information to help prevent fraudsters from stealing your personal data, account passwords, and money.
Typical identity theft protection features include credit file monitoring, Dark Web monitoring, ID theft insurance, and fraud recovery services.
In the past, most products simply provided identity monitoring services. In other words, they only monitored your sensitive data and alerted you to identity theft or fraud after it had already happened.
For example, if your Social Security number (SSN) or email was leaked to the Dark Web, or your bank account details were used to open a fraudulent line of credit, you would be notified.
But if you want to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, it’s vital to do more to stop people from accessing your data.
Today, modern identity theft protection services proactively protect users against identity theft and fraud through digital security tools like spam blockers, password managers, antivirus software, and more.
Who Needs Identity Theft Protection the Most?
Every single person is at risk of identity theft — from children to senior citizens — and the danger is only getting worse.
According to the latest Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) Consumer Impact Report, 30% of identity theft victims lost more than $10,000, while 50% of victims have been targeted more than once [*].
Here are seven groups of people that should think about getting identity theft protection:
- Anyone with multiple online or financial accounts. If you or your family members lead active digital lives, you could already be at high risk of identity theft. Every new account creates a bigger attack surface — from work to email to social media to gaming platforms. Be especially cautious if you regularly notice warning signs of identity theft, like suspicious emails or unfamiliar activity on your accounts.
- Elderly Americans. Elder fraud is one of the most common types of identity theft, costing senior citizens over $3 billion annually [*]. With more personal wealth, but less tech-savvy skills, older Americans are prime targets for scammers.
- Families with young children. Younger people are common targets because they have clean credit files. If your children are online regularly, signing up for a family identity theft protection plan is a good idea.
- If you’ve already been the victim of identity theft. Half of all identity theft victims are repeat victims [*]. If you’ve lost out to scams before, fraudsters may use your personal data to target you again.
- You know you won’t actively monitor your credit. Credit monitoring is a critical part of identity theft prevention. If you don't have the time to review credit reports, bank statements, and online accounts to scrutinize every transaction, then identity theft protection services can do it for you.
- You want to protect your assets with identity theft insurance. Even if you are diligently monitoring your accounts, disaster may strike. If thieves steal from you, you can rest assured that your family home, savings, and credit score will stay safe if you are covered by an identity theft insurance policy.
- Your information is already available to hackers on the Dark Web. After a data breach, your account credentials could be available on hacker forums and illicit marketplaces. Identity Guard’s free Dark Web scanner can help you detect any leaked passwords.
The bottom line: Scammers target the most lucrative and vulnerable victims, such as those with greater investments, assets, and online accounts. The more accounts that you have in your name, the more careful you should be when it comes to identity protection.
How Much Does Identity Theft Protection Cost?
The good news is that there is plenty you can do on your own (and for free) that can help prevent identity theft — for example, regularly reviewing your credit reports and bank statements for signs of fraud, checking the Dark Web and recent data breach announcements to see if you’ve been impacted, and keeping your online accounts secure.
Identity theft protection services automate all of these tasks (and much more) for a monthly fee that starts at around $10 a month and goes up, depending on the features that you want.
Basic plans often offer limited features. For example, LifeLock’s basic plan doesn't include a virtual private network (VPN), antivirus software, or three-bureau credit monitoring (for these services, users need to upgrade to a more expensive plan).
All IdentityGuard plans include an online identity dashboard, Dark Web monitoring, data breach alerts, and a risk management report.
✅ Take action: If you’ve seen any signs of identity theft, you could be at risk. Secure your identity (and finances) with Identity Guard today and receive 33% off your membership.
What Does a Good Identity Theft Protection Service Actually Do?
If you’re considering an identity theft protection service, make sure that it does more than you can do on your own. Here are the most important features that you should look for:
Identity monitoring and alerts
Identity monitoring is an integral aspect of identity theft protection. These services constantly scan for your personal information in credit applications, public records, websites, and databases. If the provider detects any unusual activity or leaked information, you receive an alert.
Where do identity theft protection providers search for your personal data?
- High-risk transactions: Fraudsters often use stolen personal data to apply for payday loans and make wire transfers. A good identity theft protection service can detect if your information is used for this activity.
- Home title: There were 11,578 reported cases of deed fraud in 2021 [*]. An important feature of identity theft protection is checking homeowner registries to determine if anybody has attempted to alter your home title.
- Change-of-address: Scammers try to change people’s postal addresses to intercept mail. By checking with mail services, like USPS, you can stay one step ahead.
- Criminal and court records: These nationwide checks help you discover if anyone has used your identity during a crime, including traffic infractions.
- Sex offender lists: If an impersonator uses your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and is convicted of sex crimes, this could end up on public record — under your name.
- The Dark Web: Your identity protection service will use Dark Web monitoring to check if your details are circulating after a data breach.
The best identity theft protection providers monitor the three main credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). With credit monitoring, you can keep tabs on your credit file, credit cards, and bank accounts.
Here are a few things credit monitoring can help detect:
- Changes to your credit limits
- Sudden fluctuations in your credit scores
- Fraudulent credit accounts opened in your name
- Hard inquiries from lenders that you know you didn’t authorize
- Unauthorized applications for loans or credit cards made in your name
💡 Related: Identity Guard vs. IdentityForce: 2023 Comparison & Showdown →
Financial account protection
One of the key reasons to get identity theft protection is to secure your financial accounts. With extra protection, you can safeguard your credit and debit cards, savings, and credit score.
Financial account protection includes the following features:
- Credit Lock: A one-tap credit lock stops anyone from opening new accounts or taking out loans in your name.
- Bank account monitoring: Get alerts about suspicious activity on your account, like if identity thieves try to remove your name or add unauthorized account holders.
- Financial transaction monitoring: Link your credit card and bank accounts with the provider to track spending activity and catch early signs of financial fraud.
💡 Related: Credit Lock vs. Freeze: How To Pick the Right One →
Digital security tools to proactively protect your data
Hackers target victims with malware, phishing messages, and fake websites. All-in-one identity theft protection includes tools to protect your devices and data from these scams.
Key digital security features include the following:
- Antivirus software: Ensures all smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other IoT gadgets are safe from hackers and malware threats.
- Parental controls: Take control of your children’s browsing behaviors by restricting screen time and blocking access to specific apps and websites.
- Data broker list removal: A common ploy used by scammers is to buy lists of phone numbers from data brokers. A good identity theft protection service can remove your details from these lists, reducing the number of spam emails and robocalls that you receive.
Identity theft is a threat to everyone, from children to grandparents. With a family identity theft protection plan, you can keep even the most vulnerable members of your family safe.
Here are some features of a family protection plan:
- Child SSN monitoring: Around 1.25 million American children fall prey to child identity theft each year [*]. This feature alerts you if your child’s SSN or personal information is exposed online.
- Virtual private network: A VPN masks your location, browsing history, and data — so that hackers can’t intercept it.
- Password manager: Instead of reusing simple passwords or trying to remember login credentials, everyone in your family can use this application to create and store unique, complex passwords for all accounts.
Identity recovery and support
If you become the victim of identity theft, it could destroy your life. Once fraudsters ruin your credit score, you will struggle to get a loan, mortgage, or job. Thankfully, the best identity theft protection services can help you recover from the impact of fraud.
Here are some key features of identity theft recovery:
- 24/7 customer support: Easy access to U.S.-based remediation experts that help you create a recovery plan, and provide ongoing guidance to initiate credit locks or freezes.
- Lost wallet feature: The customer service team helps you cancel cards in your missing wallet and obtain new cards.
- White Glove Fraud Resolution Specialists: Get dedicated help to file reports, dispute fraudulent charges, and manage calls with banks, creditors, and government agencies.
💡 Related: How To Respond To The Theft Of Your Identity (15-Steps) →
Identity theft insurance
Another vital component of identity theft protection is the built-in insurance that most plans include. With financial coverage, you can get reimbursement for many losses incurred due to identity theft.
Identity theft insurance typically covers the following:
- Stolen funds
- Lost wages
- Legal fees
- Travel expenses
- Elder care and childcare
- Certified public accountant (CPA) expenses
- Costs of replacing stolen documents (e.g., passport or driver's license)
✅ Pro tip: Check with your employer or home insurance company to see if you have coverage for identity theft. While identity theft insurance offers more comprehensive coverage, your general insurance policy may help.
What Identity Theft Protection Services Can’t Do
No service can completely protect you from identity theft.
In fact, in 2015, LifeLock — one of the largest providers of identity theft protection services — entered into a $100 million settlement with the FTC over deceptive claims about its ability to protect its customers’ identities [*].
Speed is crucial when it comes to shutting down scammers and recovering from identity theft. The sooner you detect the threat, the better chance you have of minimizing the damage.
The Top 5 Identity Theft Protection Services in 2023
- Identity Guard
- Experian IdentityWorks
Here are the top five identity theft protection services in 2023:
1. Identity Guard
When considering the best identity theft protection services, Identity Guard is on almost every list. After two decades of keeping millions of Americans safe from online threats, Identity Guard joined forces with Aura to strengthen its position at the top of the market.
How much does Identity Guard cost?
Here are IdentityGuard’s plans and pricing as of March 2023:
- Value Plan: $7.50 per month (individual) and $12.50 (family)
- Total Plan: $16.67 per month (individual) and $25.00 (family)
- Ultra Plan: $25.00 per month (individual) and $33.33 (family)
Who should choose Identity Guard?
This service is optimal for budget-conscious people who don’t need premium credit monitoring. If you are willing to spend more for the three-bureau access, the premium tier is one of the best available.
✅ Protect yourself from the worst consequences of identity theft. Get 33% off your Identity Guard membership, including $1 million coverage for eligible losses due to identity theft.
Since its inception in 2019, Aura has become a household name in the industry. With award-winning identity theft services, credit monitoring, and digital security protection, Identity Guard’s partner is among the best solutions in 2023.
How much does Aura cost?
Here are Aura’s plans and pricing as of March 2023:
- Individual Plan: $12 per month (billed annually)
- Couple Plan: $22 per month (billed annually)
- Family Plan (5 adults and unlimited children): $37 per month (billed annually)
Who should choose Aura?
With its direct connection to all three major credit bureaus and its rapid fraud alerts, Aura is ideal for people who want to protect their financial assets and investments. Aura’s parental controls and Safe Browsing tools also make it a great choice for families, as Aura offers comprehensive protection for children and elderly adults alike.
Another industry stalwart, LifeLock, remains a popular choice. The built-in Norton 360 software is a big attraction — protecting against viruses, malware, spyware, and other emerging cyber threats — for an additional cost.
How much does LifeLock cost?
Individual plans range from $9.99 to $29.99 per month for individuals for the first year. Family plans covering up to five children range from $22.99 to $48.99 per month — rising to $82.99 in the second year.
Who should choose LifeLock?
If you want Norton 360 antivirus software and a powerful VPN, LifeLock is a good choice that offers solid identity theft protection. However, if you have a large family, the additional fees for every child can add up.
4. Experian IdentityWorks
IdentityWorks is Experian’s credit monitoring software that helps protect against fraud.
How much does Experian IdentityWorks cost?
Here are IdentityWork’s plans and pricing as of March 2023:
- Premium Plan is free for 30 days, then $24.99 per month
- The Family Plan (2 adults and up to 10 children): $34.99 per month
Who should choose Experian IdentityWorks?
With its 30-day free trial and the backing of Experian, IdentityWorks is a good choice for anyone who wants a trustworthy, effective credit monitoring service. However, it doesn't offer dedicated ID protection features, so it won't suit everyone's needs.
💡 Related: Identity Guard vs. Experian IdentityWorks: 2023 Comparison →
With over 40 years of experience fighting back against fraudsters, IdentityForce combines advanced detection technology, real-time alerts, and identity theft recovery services.
How much does IdentityForce cost?
As of March 2023, IdentityForce offers two plans. The UltraSecure Plan is $17.99 per month per member, and the UltraSecure+Credit is $23.99 per month per member.
Who should choose IdentityForce?
With a high price point, IdentityForce is not a budget-friendly option — especially for families. However, if you are prepared to spend more to get advanced fraud monitoring, the UltraSecure plan could be a good option.
What You Can Do For Yourself: 11 Ways To Protect Your Identity
If you’re prepared to take a proactive approach, you can protect your identity without paying for an identity theft protection service.
Here are 11 ways to reduce the chances of falling victim to identity theft:
- Order your free credit reports. The only place from which you can get your free reports is AnnualCreditReport.com. Check the reports for signs of fraud, such as new credit inquiries, and unfamiliar transactions or accounts.
- Manually review your credit card and bank statements. Check for fraudulent transactions by using your mobile banking app or paper statements.
- Place a credit freeze. You need to do this manually with all three credit bureaus. A freeze stops scammers from opening new accounts or securing loans in your name.
- Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Speak with these government bodies to ensure nobody has claimed your benefits or committed tax fraud in your name.
- Regularly check public records across the country. Find out if anybody has tampered with your home title or Medicare account. You can also see if anyone who is using your name has committed crimes or ended up on the sex offender list.
- Scan the Dark Web. You can manually use a Dark Web scanner to discover if any of your account passwords or sensitive information have been leaked.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA). With this additional security layer, you can stop fraudsters from taking over your accounts. Make sure that you use 2FA on your most sensitive accounts, including your email and social media accounts.
- Use a password manager. This step makes it easy to create and store stronger passwords — without relying on memory or scraps of paper.
- Sign up for data breach notifications. With notifications enabled for your most important accounts, you’ll get alerts if any company with which you have an account gets hacked.
- Use antivirus software. Take the time to research the best antivirus protection. Download the software, and set it up on all of your devices to stay safe and get peace of mind whenever you browse online.
- Learn about cyber hygiene. By reading about emerging cyber threats and digital security, you can teach your family to follow best practices while using social media. The more you know, the better your chances are of avoiding phishing sites and scam emails.
The Bottom Line: Identity Theft Is on the Rise
As hackers use more sophisticated tools, like AI and deepfake technology, the potential for cybercrime increases. Whether you pay or not, it is vital that you take ownership of your identity documents and data — now.
You can catch signs of fraud when you practice effective cyber hygiene and routinely monitor your financial accounts, statements, and credit score. But not everyone has time to do this — especially those who are responsible for children and elderly family members.
If you don’t have the time (or energy) to constantly monitor your personal and financial information for signs of fraud, it makes sense to sign up for a dedicated digital security partner.
With Identity Guard, you get award-winning identity theft monitoring and protection, credit monitoring, and powerful Safe Browsing tools — everything you need to keep your finances and family safe.
And if disaster strikes, Identity Guard has your back with a $1 million insurance policy covering eligible losses due to identity theft, along with 24/7 access to a team of U.S.-based Fraud Resolution Specialists.