Are identify theft monitoring services worth it?
August 22, 2016 11:19 AM   Subscribe

More than one such service exists. Do they work? Are they worth it? Should I sign up?

I've learned about AllClear, and I'm sure there are other similar services. Is it worth it to sign up for me and my wife? Do these services really work? I'm skeptical but am willing to be convinced otherwise, and am interested if people have good or bad experiences with them. My wife and I have no kids, and are not wealthy, but do travel and shop online a lot; we're not stupid, but we're also not security and fraud experts.
posted by StrawberryPie to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any reason to believe you're, or will be, a victim of a identity theft? If so, first you should look to see if your credit card company offers any free protection services.

Honestly I'd just open an account at creditkarma and opt in for the email notifications when your credit changes. It's free.
posted by INFJ at 11:36 AM on August 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you're concerned, you're probably better off asking for a security freeze at the three credit bureaus individually. It's the main pain point of identity theft and what the monitoring services look at anyway.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 1:00 PM on August 22, 2016

Best answer: I have AllClear, their Identity theft, identity repair and credit monitoring services. I got signed up for them for free by a company I use who got breached. You may want to do a little digging about recent breaches and see who you've used that is offering this. I've had credit monitoring for most of the last 5 or 6 years and never paid for it. The business model for these companies seems to be offering to take the liability off companies like Target and TJ Maxx.

Free is fine, but I don't think I'd ever pay for it or rely on it. A few months ago some hackers ran a random number generator against my bank's credit card sequences, generating fraudulent charges on all my cards. I had to cancel them all and get new ones reissued. AllClear noted no suspicious activity on my account that month. So, I guess they're not monitoring for that. I don't know what level it would have had to have risen to to trigger their alerts, but this was a significant dollar amount across multiple accounts.
posted by IanMorr at 1:46 PM on August 22, 2016

I have been given free access to two of these services after breaches that may have involved my information - Kroll and AllClear. I periodically get emails from them notifying me that they have not seen any indications of identity theft. I don't think it would be worth paying for the services unless you have reason to believe you are at risk. They are pretty expensive. I agree that if you're worried, the credit freeze would be the place to start.
posted by jkent at 1:47 PM on August 22, 2016

Best answer: Credit monitoring services watch your accounts at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and alert you when an account shows new activity, such as your applying for a loan or when someone tries to open a credit card account in your name. They cannot prevent damage to your credit record, only notify you when there has been activity, legitimate or otherwise. It's then up to you to clean up the mess if there is one.

Like thewumpusisdead said, if you want to proactively prevent damage, a credit freeze is the way to go. There are factors to consider before freezing your credit accounts [PDF].
posted by davcoo at 3:17 PM on August 22, 2016

Response by poster: Sorry, in retrospect, I see I should have mentioned that we already established credit freezes...
posted by StrawberryPie at 5:19 PM on August 22, 2016

I watch my credit through multiple free sources: three of my credit cards offer the service; and its application will do the same (plus I get to monitor all of my financial accounts and play around with budgets and see where my money is going); and CreditKarma.

If someone tried to get credit with my personal information, I'd likely know within a day or two.

There's no reason to pay for a protection service.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 5:22 PM on August 22, 2016

I was a victim of the OPM breach, so I took them up on the offer of free identity monitoring through myIDCare. They can track a lot of stuff, so much stuff I honestly stopped checking on alerts when I get them. (The emails don't include specifics, just general "You have an alert!" which can mean anything from someone's opened a bank account with your SSN to that change of address form finally went through.) And I didn't even sign up for everything they offer because I didn't feel comfortable putting that info into the system. (I'm already a customer because of one data breach, I don't want to be victim of another.)

They provide a different service from your bank/credit card companies/agencies because they have access to different info. Your bank/cc can track spending habits and locations and flag things suspicious. The identity monitoring largely tracks use of your SSN and other identifying info for things besides credit checks. For example if a sex offender registers with my name, or someone tries to change and address associated with me. It monitors court records to see if anyone is claiming to be me.

So it's different from what the credit bureaus and the banks do, and I suppose potentially useful if you think you're likely to be targeted. If I was a journalist or a controversial/targeted public person I'd probably pay for it myself, but otherwise it seems more trouble than it's worth.
posted by Ookseer at 6:50 PM on August 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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