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A Guide to Identity Theft Protection

Last Updated: February 10, 2023
5 min read

Table of contents

Key points about: protection from identity theft.

  1. Recovery from identity theft is a long and complex process.

  2. Identity theft protection services help you keep your information private with monitoring and support.

  3. With identity theft protection services, you’ll have elevated financial security around the clock.

Recovering from identity theft can be a frustrating, long, and expensive experience. Identity theft protection services are a good idea if you’re looking for ways to protect your financial security, preserve your credit score, monitor your personal info, or help resolve identity theft. However, many identity protection services are available, and you’ll want to understand how these programs work before signing up.

How do identity theft protection services work?

Identity theft protection services work differently depending on the specific program or plan. Often, they’ll include a range of services and tools that can help alert you when your personal info is found online or if someone tries to open an account in your name. There may also be resources that can help you recover from identity theft if your personal data has been compromised.

Some identity theft protection benefits and services include the following, which Discover offers its cardmembers in its identity theft protection plan:

  • Credit monitoring. A change in your consumer credit report could indicate that someone opened a credit card or loan in your name or is using one of your credit accounts without your permission. A credit monitoring service that tracks all three major credit bureaus—Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®—may be more helpful than one that only monitors your credit report at a single credit reporting agency.
  • Dark web monitoring. Personal info from a data breach may be sold on the dark web, a part of the internet that’s more difficult to access than the surface web. You can share information when you sign up for an identity theft protection service, such as your Social Security number (SSN) or phone number, and get an alert if it’s found on the dark web.
  • Additional identity monitoring services. Some programs can look for your information in private databases and public records. They may be able to alert you if someone opens a bank account or takes out a payday loan in your name or if your name appears in court records.
  • Social Security number monitoring. Synthetic identity theft is when someone combines real and fake information to create an identity. Synthetic identity fraud, when the fake identity gets put to use, is an increasingly popular type of fraud. SSN monitoring can send you an alert if a new name, alias, or address becomes associated with your SSN.
  • Identity theft insurance.1 An identity theft insurance plan can help cover eligible costs related to identity theft recovery. Identity theft coverage may include costs such as legal fees or reimbursements of stolen funds.
  • Identity resolution assistance. You may have access to a fraud resolution expert. If you’re an identity fraud victim, they can help investigate your case and work with you to restore your identity.
  • Child identity protection.2 

Did you know?

A child’s identity may be more valuable to identity thieves because parents often don’t monitor their children’s credit reports or think accounts will be opened in their names. Your identity protection monitoring services may extend monitoring and assistance services to your children.

Before signing up for an identity theft protection service, review the company’s offerings to see what’s included and how much a subscription costs. You can compare Discover Identity Theft Protection to Lifelock.

What does identity theft protection detect or miss?

Identity theft protection services go beyond essential credit monitoring or credit score tracking. These services look for your information in various databases and alert you of suspicious activity, such as a change of address. These alerts can be an early warning that an identity thief is trying to use your personal information to commit fraud. This allows you to respond to the issue immediately.

Additionally, an identity protection service may include different types of assistance if you’re a victim of identity fraud. While restoring your identity can be frustrating and time-consuming, having an experienced professional can help. Identity theft insurance policies may cover some of the related costs, too.

Remember, identity protection isn’t the same as identity theft prevention. The services generally focus on detection and recovery, but they can’t keep your personal information from getting stolen in the first place.

Top ways to protect yourself from identity fraud

You can take several steps to help keep your information secure and protect yourself from fraud.

  • Don’t carry your Social Security card. You don’t want to become an identity theft victim if your Social Security number falls into the wrong hands or your wallet is lost or stolen. A good way to prevent identity theft is to keep secure information, like your SSN, in a safe place. Contact the Social Security Administration immediately if you lose your Social Security card.
  • Destroy old documents. Thieves may go through your mail and trash, looking for old documents or electronics to try and find personal information. Practice destroying documents with sensitive data and safely disposing of old electronics to protect your personal data
  • Check your credit score and credit report periodically. It’s good practice to check your credit score annually and check your credit report with each major credit bureau a few times a year.
  • Watch out for phishing. Phishing messages can trick people into sharing personal information or installing malware on their devices. Be cautious of any emails, phone calls, or texts you receive that ask for your information, request you to log in to an account, or instruct you to “reset” your password. Most credit card companies and financial institutions won’t call, text, or email you asking you to verify your personal information, nor will they generally ask you to provide it urgently.
  • Add a fraud alert or security freeze to your credit reports. A creditor may take extra steps to verify your identity before opening a new account if there’s a fraud alert on your credit report. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a credit freeze is a free option that can keep creditors from accessing your credit reports as part of a new application. You can also contact each credit bureau and ask them to create and freeze credit reports for children under 16 years old.
  • Use unique passwords. Repeating the same username and password could make it easier for someone to take over multiple accounts. A password manager can help you create and remember unique passwords for all your accounts.
  • Enable multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication can keep someone from getting into your account, even if they know your username and password. Multi-factor authentication usually requires using more than one method to verify your identity when logging into an account. For instance, you may need to provide your password and username, which would be one factor, then type in a code sent to your smartphone via text, which would be the second. Multi-factor authentication can be critical to keeping your financial accounts safe from would-be cyberthieves.

Taking extra steps to keep your confidential information safe is essential, but your identity and accounts could still be compromised in a data breach. Getting identity theft coverage could help you quickly respond if someone uses your information without your permission, and it can help you recover if you are a victim of fraud.


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