Do You Need To Pay for Identity Theft Protection?

March 8, 2024

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    Is Identity Theft Protection Worth the Cost?

    Despite more than $10 billion in losses from identity theft and fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2023 [*], some critics still argue that you don’t need to pay for identity theft protection at all. Yet, losing your identity to a scammer can be a life-changing event. 

    On top of the emotional turmoil of becoming the victim of identity theft, recovery can take more than six months and 200 hours of your time [*]. 

    Even worse, there may be financial losses you fail to recoup — such as stolen funds, lawyer fees, and other expenses. 

    Identity theft protection providers promise to reduce the risk associated with these crimes and help cover any eligible losses and expenses that you might incur. There are many different options on the market, from basic plans that cost $10 per month to advanced full-family protection plans that cost closer to $40 per month. 

    In this guide, we’ll explain what identity theft protection can and can’t do, compare the costs and features of some of the most popular plans, and help you decide whether or not you need to pay for protection. 

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    What Does Identity Theft Protection Do? 

    Identity theft protection services monitor your sensitive information, credit, and online accounts and alert you to signs of fraud. They also provide identity recovery support and insurance to help you recoup losses and cover the costs of becoming the victim of fraud. 

    All-in-one options like Identity Guard, Aura, and LifeLock also include cyber security tools such as antivirus software, virtual private networks (VPNs), and Safe Browsing tools to help proactively defend against hacking, phishing attacks, and other scams that can compromise your identity. 

    Despite all of the features offered by identity theft protection providers, no tool can 100% guarantee that you won’t become the victim of identity-based scams. 

    Plus, many of the services offered on these plans include actions that you can perform on your own — such as checking your free credit report by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com and monitoring your bank accounts for suspicious activity. 

    But just because you can do something on your own, doesn’t mean you will. 

    ID theft protection providers do the work for you in a number of ways, including: 

    • Identity monitoring. These tools track your sensitive data, such as your Social Security number (SSN), bank account numbers, driver’s license, credit card details, and more — across public records, the Dark Web, and other places where your data might appear if it’s being used by scammers. You’ll be alerted if your information is leaked or shows up in criminal records or sex offender registries. 
    • Dark Web and data breach alerts. Identity theft protection services also scan Dark Web sites and marketplaces where stolen data ends up after a data breach. If your bank, insurer, or a government agency loses your data to hackers, your risk of identity theft rises considerably.
    • One or three-bureau credit monitoring. With direct connections to the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), these tools can notify you of changes to your credit file — such as new accounts or loans taken out in your name. You’ll also be warned of high-risk transactions, such as payday loans taken out in your name. 
    • Digital security and scam protection. To secure your devices and accounts from common digital threats, many services now include antivirus software, a VPN, and other tools to protect against hacking, phishing scams, and account takeover attacks that can give cybercriminals access to your sensitive data.
    • Lost wallet assistance. In the event that your wallet or purse is stolen, many services help you block your accounts and freeze your credit file. This significantly reduces the risk of someone finding your documents and using them to steal your identity. You may also request emergency cash to cover your expenses until you get new cards.
    • Parental controls and family safety. For full-family safety, these tools block inappropriate content, monitor conversations, and warn you of child identity theft. 
    • Identity recovery services. If you become the victim of identity theft, you’ll get access to qualified identity restoration help. Support can include expert guidance, along with resources that simplify the complex process of getting your identity back.
    • Identity theft insurance. Many services also include insurance to help pay for eligible losses and expenses associated with recovering your identity. Most identity theft insurance plans include coverage for lost wages, legal bills, and direct financial losses.
    Pro tip: Not every service or plan offers all of the above features. More affordable plans may only include basic Dark Web monitoring protection and one-bureau credit monitoring — while more advanced (and expensive) plans offer proactive protection that extends beyond the level of security that you could feasibly achieve on your own.

    How Much Do Identity Theft Protection Services Cost? 

    Identity theft protection starts at around $7 a month for basic protection and can go up to $40 or $50 per month for advanced protection that covers families or multiple adults. Discounts are often given for paying annually (rather than monthly), and some companies — like LifeLock — offer discounted pricing for your first year, which quickly increases in year two and beyond.  

    Most companies offer different tiers of protection; however, higher pricing doesn’t always equate to better protection or more features. 

    To help you decide which service is best for you, we’ve reviewed five of the top identity theft protection options available — including their features, best plans, and pricing. 

    Here’s a high-level breakdown of our picks for the best identity theft protection services available in 2024:

    Most affordable plan
    Most expensive plan
    Identity Guard
    Starts at $6.67/month with a special discounted rate.
    $26.67/month for the full-featured family plan.
    Aura
    Starts at $12/month.
    $37/month for the full-featured family plan.
    Experian IdentityWorks
    Limited free plan — Paid plans start at $24.99/month.
    $34.99/month for the full-featured family plan.
    LifeLock
    Starts at $7.50/month for the first year only.
    $28.25/month for the full-featured individual plan.
    IdentityForce
    Starts at $17.99/month.
    $33.25/month for the full-featured family plan.

    Now, let’s take a closer look at each provider, what’s included in their plans, and whether or not they’re worth the price:

    1. Identity Guard

    The Identity Guard homepage with a photo of an older couple looking at a laptop with a headline promoting award-winning identity theft protection

    Identity Guard has been protecting Americans against fraud and identity theft for over 25 years. With more than 38 million customers, Identity Guard is one of the most popular identity theft protection options available today. 

    The company’s main selling feature is its comprehensive identity watchlist. You can monitor more than 70 different parts of your identity — including your driver’s license, bank account information, and Social Security number (SSN) — and receive alerts whenever your data shows up on the Dark Web, in data breaches, or in public records including change of address notifications.

    Identity Guard also constantly adopts new technologies into its all-in-one approach, including Safe Browsing tools, a secure password manager, White Glove Fraud Resolution support, three-bureau credit monitoring, and a $1 million insurance policy.

    Here’s how much Identity Guard costs (using this discount link):

    Plan ↓
    Monthly price
    Annual price
    Value
    $7.20/month (individuals)
    $11.99 (families)
    $6.67/month (individuals)
    $10/month (families)
    Total
    $15.99/month (individuals)
    $23.99/month (family)
    $13.33/month (individuals)
    $19.99/month (families)
    Ultra
    $23.99/month (individuals)
    $31.99/month (family)
    $19.99/month (individuals)
    $26.67/month (families)

    Which Identity Guard plan offers the best value? 

    The Ultra Plan offers the best combination of features for reliably protecting your identity from sophisticated scams and identity theft. While the Value plan comes at an appealing price, it does not include credit account monitoring or White Glove Fraud Resolution. The Ultra Plan includes comprehensive identity theft monitoring and near real-time fraud alerts.

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    2. Aura

    Aura is one of the newer identity theft protection services — but it has already made a name for itself and been rated #1 by Money.com, Security.org, USnews.com, and more. 

    Aura provides a truly all-in-one solution, including identity theft protection, three-bureau credit monitoring, and a complete suite of digital security tools — such as a military-grade virtual private network (VPN), robust antivirus and anti-malware software, secure password management, and spam call and SMS protection powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

    The major selling point for Aura is its easy-to-use mobile app. It supports both Android and iOS, providing easy access to all of your most important identity theft protection features.

    Here’s how much Aura costs (as of March 2024):

    Plan ↓
    Monthly price
    Annual price
    Individual
    $15/month
    $12/month
    Couple
    $29/month
    $22/month
    Family
    $50/month
    $37/month

    Which Aura plan offers the best value? 

    Unlike Identity Guard, Aura doesn’t necessarily offer a “premium” tier for its service. All Aura customers get the same award-winning identity theft protection features. However, the Family plan includes parental controls, Safe Gaming features, and AI-powered spam call and text protection (which individuals and couples can also add to their plan). 

    Aura’s Family Plan also includes protection for up to five adults and unlimited children (even family members residing in different households), making it by far the best value on this list for families.

    3. Experian IdentityWorks

    Experian is one of the three major credit bureaus, and it offers a variety of credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to its customers. One of Experian IdentityWorks’ most attractive features is that you can sign up for its Basic tier completely free of charge.

    However, the company’s Basic tier does not include three-bureau credit monitoring or any additional security protection. Even the Premium and Family tiers do not come with digital security tools included, which means you may still be vulnerable to forms of identity theft that do not rely on your credit history — like criminal identity theft.

    Here’s how much Experian IdentityWorks costs (as of March 2024):

    Plan ↓
    Monthly price
    Annual price
    Basic
    Free
    Free
    Premium
    $24.99/month
    $24.99/month
    Family
    $34.99/month
    $34.99/month

    Which Experian IdentityWorks plan offers the best value? 

    Basic credit monitoring is better than no credit monitoring at all, and it’s hard to beat the value of a free service. While its Basic plan has limited features, Experian IdentityWorks’ higher-tier plans are much more expensive than many other entrants on this list, despite offering less value overall. 

    💡 Related: Identity Guard vs. Experian IdentityWorks: Which One Is Best?

    4. LifeLock

    LifeLock is a highly visible and well-known consumer security brand, thanks to its partnership with Norton 360. It offers a wide range of different plans, with additional features and services available at each level. Each of these plans comes with multiple pricing tiers that include steep discounts for first-time customers buying an annual plan.

    Unfortunately, the company doesn’t always advertise the true price of its services once the first year is up. 

    Many customers are surprised when they find out their LifeLock discount only applies to the first year — and end up paying 30-70% more than they expected after the introductory period has ended.

    Here’s how much LifeLock costs (as of March 2024):

    Plan ↓
    Monthly price
    Annual price
    Standard
    $11.99/month
    $7.50/month for the first 12 months;
    $124.99 annually afterwards
    Advantage
    $22.99/month
    $14.99/month for the first 12 months;
    $239.99 annually afterwards
    Ultimate Plus
    $34.99/month
    $19.99/month for the first 12 months;
    $339.99 annually afterwards

    Which LifeLock plan offers the best value?

    All of LifeLock’s subscriptions provide decent protection at an affordable rate — for the first 12 months. The company’s Standard, Advantage, and Ultimate Plus plans are competitive at their discounted rates, but they quickly lose their appeal when comparing the full post-renewal prices to alternative options.

    💡 Related: LifeLock vs. Experian IdentityWorks: 2024 Comparison and Showdown

    5. IdentityForce

    IdentityForce is owned by TransUnion, another one of the major credit bureaus. It offers identity theft protection and credit monitoring services as two distinct services. You can bundle these services together into a single plan, but the combined cost is higher than many other options on this list.

    While IdentityForce charges more than many of its competitors, it does provide a service that other digital security companies do not — credit score tracking and simulation. If you want to protect your identity while also improving your credit score, IdentityForce may have the features you need.

    Here’s how much IdentityForce costs (as of March 2024):

    Plan ↓
    Monthly price
    Annual price
    UltraSecure Individual
    $19.90/month
    $16.58/month
    UltraSecure Family
    $24.90/month
    $20.75/month
    UltraSecure + Credit Individual
    $34.90/month
    $29.08/month
    UltraSecure + Credit Family
    $39/month
    $33.25/month

    Which IdentityForce plan offers the best value?

    Since IdentityForce’s family plans only extend to two adults, the company’s individual plans provide better value overall. This is especially true for individuals who want to protect their identities while using the company’s credit score simulator to improve their overall credit. Otherwise, there are much better options on this list.

    💡 Related: Identity Guard vs. IdentityForce 2024 Review and Comparison

    Who Should Pay for Identity Theft Protection?

    Identity theft is the type of crime that can strike anyone, at any time. Identity thieves target victims regardless of their wealth, status, or background — even children can be victims of identity theft.

    However, this doesn’t mean that the risk of being targeted by identity thieves is the same for everyone. Some people are at a much higher risk for identity theft and should take great care to protect their sensitive data.

    Here are some indicators that you may be at higher risk of identity theft:

    • You’ve been the victim of identity theft in the past. Previous victims are more than 50% likely to be targeted multiple times [*]. If you’ve had your identity stolen in the past, you should sign up for identity theft protection. 
    • Your personal information has been leaked in a data breach. If hackers target a commercial or government organization and gain access to your data, they may use it to steal your identity. In some cases, they may sell your information on the Dark Web for others to use as well.
    • You’re unwilling or unable to undergo a credit freeze. You may need your credit for upcoming purchases or major life events. Using identity theft protection services to safeguard your information may let you continue negotiating with lenders and opening credit or debit card accounts without delay.
    • You know you won’t actively monitor your credit, bank account, and identity. Keeping your identity secure requires time and effort. If you can’t spend time monitoring all of your financial accounts and credit reports for fraudulent activity, it might make sense to have a professional service provider do it for you.
    • You have children or elderly parents/grandparents for whom you are responsible. Children and elderly people have a much harder time protecting themselves against scams and identity fraud risks.
    • You have significant assets (home, retirement funds, etc.). High net worth individuals frequently find themselves targeted by elaborate scams and fraud of all types. Purchasing identity theft protection is a prudent move for anyone who wants to shield valuable assets from cybercriminals.
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    How To Choose the Best Identity Theft Protection Service

    Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for identity theft protection. 

    Your personal assets, lifestyle, and risk tolerance determine which option is best for you. You may need more robust credit monitoring services, or prefer a service with higher quality fraud resolution capabilities.

    Make sure to compare identity theft protection providers based on the features they offer as well as the quality of their services. Having access to 24/7 fraud resolution and support can make a big difference when facing a potential identity theft situation in which every second counts.

    💡 Related: Is Identity Theft Protection Worth It In 2024?

    How To Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft 

    Even if you pay for a comprehensive identity theft protection service, you still need to take steps to prevent scammers from gaining access to your data. Many companies only provide help after you’ve already become a victim of identity theft.

    Here’s what you can do today to help protect your identity and personal data from fraudsters: 

    • Secure your online accounts and data against hackers. Make sure all of your online accounts have strong passwords and multi-factor authentication (MFA) enabled. This makes it much less likely that an identity thief who gains access to one of your accounts can immediately break into all of them.
    • Freeze your credit with all three bureaus. The three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — will let you freeze your credit account to prevent new lines of credit from being opened in your name. This makes it much harder for scammers to successfully steal your identity. 
    • Reduce your online footprint, and share less on social media. Scammers may take time to comb through your social media accounts and use the information you post online against you. Reduce the threat of ID theft by minimizing your digital footprint, and consider adding social media monitoring to your identity theft protection plan.
    • Learn to recognize the warning signs of identity theft. Many cases of identity theft provide early warning that something is wrong. This could include unusual activity on an email account, or finding letters from unfamiliar financial institutions in your mailbox. Investigate these issues when they happen so that you aren’t taken by surprise.
    • Don’t click on malicious links. Hackers may try to send you to spoofed websites designed to look like your bank or email login. When you try to log in, you actually send your username and password directly to the scammers. Use Safe Browsing Tools to protect your accounts in order to safeguard your identity.

    For individuals and families looking for comprehensive protection against scams and fraud, Identity Guard is an affordable and highly effective option. 

    Award-winning identity theft protection features like three-bureau credit monitoring and up to $1 million in insurance reimbursement against identity theft losses make Identity Guard an optimal choice for anyone at risk of fraud and identity theft.

    Save on award-winning identity theft protection. Get 33% off Identity Guard today!

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    1. Financial identity theft and fraud
    2. Medical identity theft
    3. Child identity theft
    4. Elder fraud and estate identity theft
    5. “Friendly” or familial identity theft
    6. Employment identity theft
    7. Criminal identity theft
    8. Tax identity theft
    9. Unemployment and government benefits identity theft
    10. Synthetic identity theft
    11. Identity cloning
    12. Account takeovers (social media, email, etc.)
    13. Social Security number identity theft
    14. Biometric ID theft
    15. Crypto account takeovers