When it comes to acquiring your personal and financial information, identity thieves can be extremely diligent. As a result, it may not always be easy to determine the best way to monitor your identity for fraud.
A quick web search will tell you that there are many methods to consider when it comes to detecting identity theft. But knowing what steps to take and how exactly to go about monitoring your identity can be a struggle. To save you an hour of reading and countless open tabs, we’ve broken down identity monitoring, what it really does, and who can benefit from it. Here’s what you should know.
What is Identity Monitoring?
If thieves acquire your information, they can start new lines of credit, commit crimes, and even get married in your name. And if you’re not entirely sure what identity monitoring entails, you’re not alone.
After all, what is your identity?
Don’t worry. We’re not trying to get too existential here. On paper, your identity consists of delicate pieces of information and some of your most important life choices: your Social Security number, your finances, your public and criminal record, your address, your creditworthiness.
Though we don’t always think about it this way, these are the factors that make up our identity. They’re our critical pieces of information and data.
In this same vein, identity protection consists of a collection of services that, together, monitor your most personal and vulnerable data. They also assist in untangling the knot if your personal information is stolen.
For example, take your Social Security number. This number, known as the “key” to your identity, can be used to obtain driver’s licenses and passports, take out loans, open lines of credit, and start phone service. But when you think about it, how would you know if someone had stolen your Social Security number and applied for a passport in your name? That’s where identity theft protection monitoring comes in.
Can I Do It Myself?
There are certain elements of your identity, such as your credit score, that is visible and easy to monitor on your own.
Under the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) passed in the 1970s, every American citizen is entitled to one full, free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) each year. This allows you to review your credit report, audit it to ensure that all of the entries in your credit file are correct, and that your credit file is free from fraud. If a credit card has been opened in your name, or a bank or creditor has done a hard pull of your credit history, a yearly review of your credit report with each credit bureau will allow you to review these entries and dispute anything that you don’t recognize.
You can also take advantage of other public records that may help you detect identity theft. Being vigilant, and maintaining your identity monitoring practices, helps make sure that your reputation remains outstanding.
How Do Identity Monitoring Services Work?
When it comes to your identity areas that are more complex to monitor, like the Dark Web or your Social Security number, identity monitoring services can help. By employing automatic tools and new technology, identity monitoring services provide you with in-depth information about your identity that would be unattainable on your own.
Dark Web Monitoring
The Dark Web can’t be indexed by search engines the way that the Surface Web can be. While you can pop your name into Google and hit “search” to see what information is available about you on the Surface Web, you cannot repeat the same process to see what information may be available about you on the Dark Web.
Dark Web monitoring tools are built to act as a search engine does on the Surface Web. Created and maintained by experts who have extensive knowledge and access to Dark Web black markets, a Dark Web monitoring tool will look for pieces of a user’s PII listed or are for sale on Dark Web black markets. When it hits on a match, it will alert the user, allowing them to protect the exposed information.
A substantial feature you’ll find in most identity monitoring plans is 1 or 3 bureau credit monitoring. While you can manually monitor your credit once a year with all three of the major credit bureaus, automatic credit monitoring goes a few steps further to alert you to activity in your credit file.
Automatic credit monitoring maintains constant vigilance over your credit information. This means that, instead of checking for fraudulent accounts and dealing with it every few months or once a year, automatic credit monitoring will check for changes daily. When there is a change in your credit file – a new credit inquiry, a new line of credit opened, or a substantial score change – the user will receive an alert. When credit monitoring alerts detect fraud, the user finds out about the activity faster, meaning that they’re able to limit the damage that a fraudster can do with their information.
Social Security Number Monitoring
Some elements of your identity, such as a new bank account opened using your Social Security Number, are impossible to learn about without automatic identity monitoring. Identity thieves will use your Social Security Number to file for passports and other identification cards, open bank accounts, and change the information on your existing accounts to leverage your assets. Social Security number monitoring can alert you to this activity and gives you the chance to shut it down before it’s too late.
The effects of identity theft reach far beyond your wallet. In a 2018 study released by the Identity Theft Resource Center that surveyed victims of identity theft, 77.3% of those asked reported increased stress levels, and 54.5% had increased fatigue or decreased energy. It’s important to have an expert that you can turn to for help.
Identity Guard offers its members access to an entirely US-based team of experts that can help with any situation. Whether you’ve lost your wallet or noticed fraudulent charges on your credit card, our team can help. With full case remediation services, we’re with you from start to finish.
What’s It Going to Cost Me?
Identity theft monitoring plans range in cost from $7.50 to $25 a month. More than a cup of coffee, but less than the cost of signing up for individual identity, credit, and Dark Web monitoring services.
If you can keep all of your identity monitoring services under one roof, you’ll be able to keep costs low and your security high.
Who Can Benefit From Identity Monitoring?
The traditional thinking used to be that if your information was exposed in a data breach, or your wallet was stolen with your Social Security card in it, you needed to start considering an identity theft protection plan.
However, with the steady stream of data breaches that seem to hit the headlines day after day, every consumer is at risk of having their information breached, and every consumer can benefit from identity monitoring.
Some companies to consider are: