Not so very long ago, many considered the dark web an urban legend and identity theft something that only happened to wealthy and careless people. As more and more companies have emerged to protect the identities of everyday people from the villains pilfering and plundering the dark web, the vast majority of the general public has come to accept the reality that the dark web is real and identity theft can happen to anyone.
The Fallacy Of Total Protection
The above acceptance, however, has brought its own myth with it, and that myth is that identity theft services are a cure all for the problem. They’re not, though.
Research from the Consumer Federation of America shows that service ads for identity protection services have become so effective that over a third of users believe it can both remove their info from the dark web and prevent dark web pirates from using any personal information they do happen to buy or steal.
In reality, identity protection services do neither of the above. It’s a frightening realization, but no one can shield you from someone stealing your identity. At a cost of $10-$30 per month, what the majority of identity protection services mainly offer is awareness beforehand and assistance in the aftermath of a theft.
That’s not to say that identity protection services aren’t valuable, but consumers do need to understand that there’s a limit to what providers can do and what consumers are and aren’t getting by paying for such services.
Should You Buy Monitoring Services?
Having identity protection services in your corner can keep you aware, alert, and may bring you some added peace of mind. The important part of the decision is in understanding what monitoring services actually offer:
Monitor Your Identity?
Your medical identity can be stolen and used for medical services. Your tax identity can be stolen and used to file a fraudulent tax return. Your citizenship identity can be stolen and used for boarder crossing and immigration purposes. There are hundreds of ways your identity can be stolen, and there’s simply not any software or database available to comprehensively cover all the possible bases.
By keeping an eye on your financial identity, such as your credit report, monitoring services can alert you on new account fraud, which occurs when someone opens an account in your name. But, even that’s not a guarantee. Many subscribers to monitoring services never get notified of compromises to their identity. They eventually discover the problem on their own when they themselves try to renew or open financial accounts.
Monitor The Dark Web For Your Info And Remove It?
Monitoring services can tell you if your info is on the dark web, and it’s likely already there. Years of breaches across every niche of business from banks and creditors to medical facilities have resulted in millions of social security numbers and other personal information floating around the dark web. So, knowing it’s there isn’t that helpful. And, there’s nothing that anyone can do to remove it once it’s there.
Prevent Theft Of Your Identity?
Just as your info can’t be removed from the dark web, there’s nothing anyone can do to prevent your identity from being stolen. With the right info, identity thieves can take your info and use it to do just about anything.
Monitoring services can, however, help alert you that a theft has happened. They can also help you learn preventative strategies to lessen the chances of financial ruin from identity thieves opening new accounts in your name. One such strategy is credit freezing, which can be reversed whenever you need to apply for credit.
Restore Your Stolen Identity?
Some monitoring services offer identity restoration to varying degrees, such as offering professional assistance and/or a DIY repair kit. Always look at your contract to see what, if any, restoration services are covered.
While often redundant and secondary to FDIC-insured loses from a financial institution, some monitoring services offer a reimbursement program. Again, check your contract to see if there’s a reimbursement program and what limits and exclusions apply.
How To Select An Identity Theft Monitoring Service
Now that you know what a monitoring service can and can’t do for you, you can select a service that realistically suits your needs. Don’t forget to ask questions about what protection services are offered:
- Do you have to sign a limited power of attorney so that the company can work on your behalf if your identity is compromised?
- What types of identity theft does the service monitor for – medical, criminal, tax, credit, social security, and so forth – and to what degree or limitation?
- Is restoration service included, and, if so, how does it work?
- Does the service have wallet protection program to automatically cancel all your credit cards and arrange for new ones if you lose your wallet.
The bottom line is that these monitoring services can tell you if you have personal information out there to be stolen and possibly provide a failsafe for reimbursement. They can monitor your personal and financial information’s security to a degree, but it’s not comprehensive enough to ensure your identity isn’t stolen nor that you immediately know it has been stolen. They can help you take proactive steps to learn how to keep your information safe, but they can’t remove your info from the dark web. The most important service is perhaps the tedious repair in the aftermath of a theft, which can often involve a plethora of financial accounts to close and reopen.