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Best identity theft protection for 2021: keep your identity safe and secure

Identity theft protection to keep your identity safe and secure
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REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
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In a hurry? The best identity theft protection service overall in 2021 is IdentityForce
Limited Time: 25% off UltraSecure+Credit 

IdentityForce is a powerful theft protection app that covers all bases - credit check monitoring, bank fraud, malware and ad blocking, and it even provides $1 million in insurance protection against lost wages and fraudulent purchases. Ask any questions to a real IdentityForce support staff member by calling 888-266-3930 toll-free in the US.View Deal

The best identity theft protection can keep your identity safe and secure.

The best identity theft protection

This is increasingly important because identity fraud and identity theft have become an unfortunately common concern online, and the rise of these incidents is tied into the growing amount of data breaches happening these days.

The number of people affected by a data breach has reached truly alarming levels – over half of UK consumers, for example, during the course of 2019 (according to a report by DynaRisk). Indeed, looking at the global picture as of late 2020, almost half of all consumers worldwide expect to be hit by a breach (and 30% have fallen victim to one). In short, these incidents have sadly become a part of daily life, and an avalanche of identity records are posted for sale globally on the dark web.

A data breach occurs when a firm accidentally exposes data or a company's systems are hacked or compromised, and the personal details of some (or many) customers are stolen – such an occurrence can lead to your details being leaked online through absolutely no fault of your own. Those details can then be used to steal your identity in some manner for fraudulent purposes.

Furthermore, the danger is compounded because breaches are hitting some huge organizations with massive customer bases. For example, T-Mobile in the US recently admitted a major data breach in which hackers accessed customer details including phone numbers and call records (and to add insult to injury, this isn’t the first time in recent history that the telecoms giant has been breached). Even cybersecurity firms have suffered data breaches, such as Sophos which accidentally exposed customer details including emails and phone numbers.

With large-scale data breaches continuing to hit high-profile companies around the globe, it's no wonder many folks are worried about identity theft, but luckily, there is a solution: get yourself some protection courtesy of the best identity theft protection tools out there.

Many of the top identity theft protection services give you the ability to spot potential scams whereby a criminal may have obtained your details on the dark web (or elsewhere online), and used that information to engage in some kind of fraudulent activity (whether that’s making a payment, or taking out a loan). Note that this kind of protection isn’t something you can get with any other security tools, such as antivirus or VPN apps.

Of course, having established the usefulness of identity theft protection services, the question is: which one should you go for? We’ve highlighted the best of the bunch right here.

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(Image credit: IdentityForce)

1. IdentityForce

Best identity theft protection provider overall

Reasons to buy
+Lots of features+Comprehensive monitoring and alert system+Email, live chat, phone support

> If you want to ask any questions to a real human being, then you can call IdentityForce directly on this toll-free number 888-266-3930.

IdentityForce Inc. is a Massachusetts-based corporation which provides identity theft services for individuals, businesses and government agencies.

Protection starts with access to credit reports from the top three agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Web access, iOS and Android apps enable checking your details at any time.

A comprehensive monitoring network offers near real-time alerts for issues including searches on your credit report, changes of address, accounts being opened in your name, fraudulent use of your social security number, your details appearing in court records or on the sex offender register, and your data being sold on the dark web. If a problem is found you'll be speedily alerted via SMS and email.

There are some interesting bonus features. PC-based anti-phishing and anti-keylogger software tries to keep malware at bay and prevent hackers stealing your data, while a Social Media Identity Monitoring suite scans your Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ streams for malicious links, hacked and imposter accounts, and more.

Pricing for the service is $9.99 a month for the identity protection service, which offers round the clock monitoring of your personal information, and alerts you if it's compromised (plus it comes with $1 million of insurance cover). There's also identity protection with credit monitoring, scores, and reports, for $17.99 a month.

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(Image credit: Norton)

2. Norton LifeLock

Best all-rounder identity theft protection provider

Reasons to buy
+Near real-time alerts+Identity theft recovery specialists
Reasons to avoid
-High-end plans can be expensive

Norton LifeLock provides in-depth monitoring of credit and loan applications, court and criminal records,  USPS change of address requests and any data exposed on more than 10,000 websites, looking out for any signs of others using your details.

If a potential issue crops up, smartly designed mobile apps give you alerts of what's going on. Should someone apply for an auto loan in your name, for instance, you don't just get to hear about it a few days later when your credit report updates: instead, the app sends you an immediate notification asking if this application was yours. Say no and Norton LifeLock's support team leaps into action to investigate.

If a thief manages to bypass your defenses anyway, Norton LifeLock's ID recovery specialists will help you get your life back. Unlike some services, that doesn't mean they'll advise you on who to call – they'll do the heavy lifting for you, making those calls, filling in forms and more.

Unsurprisingly, all this power doesn't come cheap. Norton LifeLock's high-end Ultimate Plus account costs $34.99 a month. That said, it is a very comprehensive service, and there is currently an offer in your first year of subscription, meaning that during this time you will only pay $25.99 monthly.

It's hard to beat Norton LifeLock's features and functionality, though, and the service does offer good deals in some areas. If you'd rather not buy into the comprehensive package, the starter Norton LifeLock Standard plan gives you social security number and credit alerts for $8.99 a month.

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(Image credit: Experian)

3. Experian IdentityWorks

Best identity theft protection for beginners

Reasons to buy
+Straightforward website+Easy to understand
Reasons to avoid
-No outstanding features

One of the biggest names in consumer credit reporting, Experian now maintains information on more than a billion businesses and individuals worldwide.

The company's IdentityWorks is a capable service, offering access to its credit report and score, raising alerts when there are any significant changes, and keeping a careful eye on the dark web for any signs of the user's personal data.

Available for as little as $8.33 when billed annually for a single individual on the IdentityWorks Plus plan, it provides an affordable entry-level identity protection option. Two adults and up to 10 children will pay only twice that amount.

You don't have to be a financial geek to understand what's on offer, as Experian has gone to unusual lengths to make everything accessible and clear. While just about everyone claims they can show your credit report, for instance, the Experian site offers a sample report to illustrate exactly what you'll get.

If you do sign up, you'll discover a straightforward web console that presents your details in as simple a way as possible, although experts can drill down to payment histories and other details in a few clicks.

IdentityWorks Premium offers a far more comprehensive service, adding financial account activity, identity validation alerts, court records, as well as social and file-sharing network monitoring, all for $19.99 a month. This plan covers you for up to $1 million in terms of identity theft insurance, whereas the Plus subscription is good for up to $500,000. 

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(Image credit: ADT)

4. ADT Identity Protection

Best affordable identity theft protection provider

Reasons to buy
+Reasonable pricing+Suite of services+No contract
Reasons to avoid
-You get more features with top rivals

ADT is more famous for its monitored alarms systems, as part of its home security services, but the company has branched into identity theft protection for families as well. 

ADT Identity Protection offers a pretty comprehensive service that covers all of the important basics while coming in at a reasonable price.

Features include standard credit checks on charge cards as well as bank accounts and SSNs, as well as credit score monitoring with annual reports. There are also identity checks on drivers licenses and passports, as well as phone numbers, medical insurance, addresses, court records, and even email addresses.

Another feature is the provision of up to $1 million identity theft expense reimbursement, to cover any costs in reclaiming your identity in the event that it might be compromised.

ADT also offers 24/7 fraud incident resolution, with a dedicated team who will walk you through all the steps required to recover from any incident, and guide you on claiming reimbursement for losses.

All this costs from just $9.99 per month, and even better is that there is no minimum contract term to keep you locked in. Additionally, although ADT made its name in home security, ADT Identity Protection runs separately so don't expect to feel pressured to sign up for that service.

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(Image credit: Complete ID)

5. Complete ID

Best ID theft protection service for Costco members

Reasons to buy
+Good set of features+Very competitive on price+Discount for Costco members
Reasons to avoid
-User interface isn't the best

Complete ID is an identity protection service offered through Costco, offering a surprisingly comprehensive set of features - but even better, it comes in a very price-competitive package.

Complete ID works with three main protection features: credit monitoring, identity protection, and identity restoration. You get a range of monitoring services to ensure your identity has not been compromised, such as thorough dark web surveillance, SSN monitoring, as well as standard criminal record and credit score monitoring.

However, pricing is much more competitive than rivals offering a similar service, with Complete ID costing from just $8.99 per month for Costco Executive members, and $13.99 per month per person if you happen to be a Business or Gold Star member. 

On top of this, Complete ID also offers a bolt-on service of identity protection for your children, costing from $2.99 for up to five children for Executive members (it's $3.99 for other members). This ensures that details involving your children aren't used and abused by criminals, and adds a welcome extra level of security for families.

Overall, Complete ID delivers a very similar service to IdentityForce above, but at a discounted price. While there are some small trade-offs in terms of the user interface, the discounted rate makes Complete ID well worth considering.

How identity theft protection works

The above services offer different levels of subscription to customers, often on a monthly (or yearly) basis, but even the most basic identity theft management plan will offer a fairly comprehensive monitoring service of your personal details.

However, many providers also offer a credit scoring plan that is either sold separately, or can be combined with identity protection to provide the most secure service available to guard against theft and financial loss.

With this credit scoring, you have defenses in the case of someone stealing your personal details and applying for a credit card or loan; a common nefarious tactic. If this happens, the identity protection service should flag it up for you to confirm that you have indeed made such an application.

If you haven't, this means that you can cancel the application and ensure that your credit rating is not affected, while also taking steps to protect yourself from further abuse of your private details.

However, some identity theft services do not perform an adequate job of making such checks or issuing these alerts, so it's important to ensure that the service you're considering for identity theft protection does have reviews that state it is both reliable and trustworthy. You can do this by looking for customer feedback and reviews on the Better Business Bureau website or at Trustpilot.

Ultimately, though, a lot of identity theft protection depends on your own actions. Simple steps you can take include having a good and up to date antivirus to protect your computer against intrusion and data theft, and also using a paper shredder to ensure confidential documents are destroyed before they are recycled.

Also, if you suspect that your identity has been compromised, do ensure you make checks, and if confirmed, take steps to protect yourself.

Keeping your identity and personal details safe requires both proactive and reactive approaches, but hopefully subscribing to any of the best identity theft protection software featured above will help provide peace of mind and keep you safe from fraud and theft.