From artificial intelligence to blockchain advancements, 2018 ushered in a lot of great things.
A rise in identity theft victims, roughly 16.7 million to be exact. And that added up to a staggering sum. McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies pegged damages at roughly $445 billion each year as hundreds of millions of records were exposed through various cybercrimes and breaches.
What’s even more disturbing is the fact that cybercriminals are targeting more personal details like social security numbers rather than credit card numbers, causing more global and far-reaching damage to people and their identities.
Bottom line, identity theft is a real and thriving threat in 2019, and the question is no longer whether or not you are going to fight back, but why haven’t you struck out sooner. With hundreds of reliable identity theft protection companies available though, it’s time to narrow down the choices. Here are the top questions you should be asking an identity theft protection service before you sign up.
Question #1: What exactly do you cover?
The number one question to ask any identity theft protection company is what exactly is covered. Consumers must understand that no service is fool-proof, and nobody can protect you 100% unwaveringly. With the big dogs like Yahoo, Facebook, and even the US military having fallen victim to cyber attacks, a $20/month service isn’t going to be able to stop every conceivable threat out there.
That being said, some services give you a lot more protection than others. Think of it like this. If there are two cars in a lot, one has a steering wheel guard on it, and the other doesn’t, which car is likely to get carjacked? Identities work much the same way. If you have more precautions, safeguards, and monitors out on your personal information, you are less likely to become a victim of an identity theft attack (but again, there are no guarantees). So, you need to ask the service in question what is covered. Good software will monitor things like your:
- Credit report
- Public records
- Dark web
- Loan monitoring
- High-risk applications
- Bank account transactions
- Change in address and other public records
You can also look for a service with identity theft insurance. This means that if you do become the victim of an attack, you will be reimbursed (usually up to $1M), protected, and assisted throughout the entire recovery process.
See what is covered, and make sure the service you end up with checks off as many boxes as possible.
Question #2: Do you offer family protection?
According to a CNBC study, more than 1M children were victims of identity theft in 2017. Those attacks cost people close to $540M, and that doesn’t even account for the long-term damage caused to these children’s credit history from far-reaching and catastrophic repercussions.
Without a doubt, children need identity theft protection just as much as adults do. In fact, since kids aren’t regularly checking their bank accounts, credit score, and transaction history, it might be argued that our little people need protection even more. So, one of the first questions you should ask an identity theft protection service is whether or not they have a family plan. Of course, you could get a separate plan for every member of your family, but that’ll get costly, fast. Instead, good services will offer a family plan, a flat monthly rate that covers a certain number of family members at once. This will save you a bundle and ensure that you, your spouse, and your kids are covered.
Question #3: Does your company cover existing ID theft?
While many identity theft protection companies offer the same or similar coverage, one feature you won’t find with most of the brands out there is pre-existing identity theft coverage. That’s because most people looking for theft protection are using it as a preventative course of action rather than a cure. If you have not had the misfortune of having your identity stolen or used fraudulently, then this feature won’t really matter much to you at all.
However, if you have been a victim of identity theft already, then this is probably the most important feature to look for when comparing services. Services that help restore your identity and accounts will offer assistance with canceling cards, closing or freezing accounts, and replacing cards or documents. They’ll also help you with legal disputes, offer remuneration, and help you clean up official records like civil court, financial, and criminal court records. This feature will generally cost more than your average identity theft prevention plans, but if you’ve already fallen victim to a cyber attack, then this could be an invaluable service you would gladly pay for.
Question #4: What type of social media monitoring is offered?
According to research done by Javelin Strategy and Research, people who are active on their social media accounts are significantly more likely to get hit by a cyber attack than those who do not have these accounts. What’s going on here? Really, it’s not that hard to connect the dots. Social media sites are meant to be a forum for people to share details about their lives with their friends in a public, broadcast-style fashion. This open forum makes for easy access to some of the most intimate details of our lives including things like our birthdate, favorite foods, pet names, and other commonly-used password terms.
Some people are even naive enough to announce when their homes are being left vacant and vulnerable to attack. How? Posted a selfie of you at the beach, airport, or in front of a famous, foreign landmark? That’s a flaming invitation for burglars to come ransack your unprotected home. Yet people do it all the time. Social media monitoring helps flag those seemingly innocuous posts that are putting you in serious harm’s way. So, any identity theft protection service needs to have this feature built-in.
Question #5: What type of device scanning/protection does your service come with?
While this one is not a make it or break it feature, device protection certainly adds to the value of an identity theft protection program. Many quality solutions will scan your devices including your PC, tablets, and smartphones for any security issues, viruses, or malicious files already in place. The software can also monitor your online activity, so it can warn you if you are about to visit a suspicious website, stop you from downloading an app with malicious content bundled inside, or let you know if you’re doing anything to compromise your security.
Device protection can solve some of the most common data breach issues such as eavesdropping, phishing, spearphishing (if you are on the corporate level), open ports, malware, and adware with a little help from handy tools such as encryption and firewalls. These basic but essential security measures will keep your devices and accounts immeasurably safer than if left without them.
Question #6: How fast are your alerts?
In a recent study released by the FTC, it was revealed that it takes cybercriminals just nine minutes to pounce with your stolen information. That means you don’t have a lot of time to react when your data has been compromised. For this reason, immediate notifications are an essential part of your identity theft protection regiment. Look for services that offer real-time alerts, sending out notifications to you as soon as possible after an incident is flagged. This way you can react quickly and prevent a major attack on your accounts.
Additionally, make sure the identity theft protection service you are considering has round-the-clock monitoring of your accounts and data. Since an attack can happen in just minutes, you can’t afford to have your protection take a break, even after normal business hours.
Identity theft is a growing threat, and as each year passes, cybercriminals just get more aggressive. That’s why whether you are protecting yourself, your family, or your business, you need to need to be proactive and stay on guard to thwart these pernicious attempts to invade our privacy and disrupt our lives. Choose a solid identity theft protection solution, and keep your personal details safe.
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