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A Guide to Identity Theft Protection

Last Updated: April 29, 2024
5 min read

Key points about: protection from identity theft

  1. Recovery from identity theft may be a long and complex process.

  2. Identity theft protection services help alert you when your personal information is found online.

  3. With identity theft protection services, you get comprehensive features that can help detect, notify, and resolve suspicious activity.

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 monitor your personal info or help resolve identity theft issues. 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.

Did you know?

Discover offers its cardmembers these benefits and services in its Identity Theft Protection plan, along with more features:

  • 3 Bureau Credit Alerts–when key changes1 are reported to your credit file.
  • Dark Web Alerts–when we find your SSN or any other info you provide on any one of thousands of Dark Web sites we monitor for illegally sharing personal data.
  • Criminal Court Alerts–when your name appears in a federal, state, or municipal record that we monitor for criminal arrest, court booking, and more.
  • Social Security Number Identity Alerts–if your SSN is used to create a new identity at Experian®.
  • Up to $1MM Identity Theft Insurance–for legal expenses, reimbursement of stolen funds, lost wages, and more covered expenses.2
  • 100% U.S.-Based Fraud Resolution Specialists.
  • Child identity protection–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. Discover Identity Theft Protection also extends some 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 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 promptly.

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, according to the FTC. 
  • 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’re a victim of fraud.

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  1. Key changes include: New accounts, credit inquiries, address changes, potentially negative information such as delinquencies, and public records.

  2. Identity Theft Protection: Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group, Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions, and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

    This product can only be agreed upon, purchased and delivered online. It is optional and voluntary.

  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.