Is Identity Theft Protection Worth It?
Identity theft protection companies are becoming more and more prevalent, and they have a fair share of opponents who feel that the services they provide are not worth the money for consumers. It may be true that ultimately no one can prevent your identify from being stolen, but there are other points to consider. Ultimately, the decision as to whether this service is worthwhile is up to each specific consumer, but we’ve outlined some of the most common oppositions to identity theft protection services and provided some food for thought.
1. No one can prevent identity theft.
It’s essentially true that no one can prevent your identity from being stolen, no matter how hard they try or how many precautions they take. We live in an age where our private information can be obtained any matter of ways, including losing your wallet/purse, while shopping online, or stolen directly from your mailbox. Hackers target large companies and databases that store your information for you, like banks, retailers, educational institutions, and so many more. These cyber attacks, when successful, are referred to as data breaches.
In 2014, there were a record number of reported data breaches in the United States (approximately 780). In many of these breaches, the personal information of millions of people was compromised. You may not be able to prevent identity theft from happening, but you can act to fix or limit the severity of the damage if you move quickly. Oftentimes, identity protection companies can catch these incidents faster than you ever could, which is paramount when attempting to minimize harm done to your identity and credit.
2. Identity theft protection companies offer services you can do yourself.
For a long time this was true, and to some extent it still is. You can easily monitor your own credit and bank accounts, as well as take some of the precautions that identity theft protection companies use. Moreover, the resources are readily available to help reclaim your identity if it is stolen. In fact, if you’re interested in learning more about do-it-yourself identity protection, check out this article.
However, in order to protect yourself, you need to be self-motivated and establish a routine about monitoring your credit and accounts to ensure preventative measures are practiced regularly. If you are unable to devote yourself to the routine, then your work may prove useless should the breach occur during a lapse in your monitoring.
Additionally, identity theft protection companies have evolved over time to offer more services that may not be possible for the average consumer to complete on their own. Such services include monitoring of not just your credit and bank accounts, but public records, criminal records, other government databases, and even internet sites that are known to sell personal information. These companies will monitor all of this for your personal information, such as phone numbers, email addresses, Social Security numbers, and much more.
Most companies also have a team of specialists available to assist you in the event that your identity is stolen. No matter the case, you will have a lot of recovery work to complete yourself because creditors may only be willing to work with you directly. However, having an expert who can step in whenever possible and provide customized support to help guide you through your unique recovery process is a valuable asset to have.
3. Identity theft doesn’t affect very many people.
Again, there is also truth to this statement. As we said before, there were 13.1 million reported victims of identity theft in 2013. That may seem like a gigantic number, and it is, but when compared to the entire population of the country it only amounts to about 4% of the population affected by this crime. Not only that, but reported identity theft actually decreased from 2013 to 2014 by almost half a million.
However, this can be likely be attributed to the combined efforts of the industry, consumers, and more advanced monitoring and protection systems, which allows us to notice and correct fraud more quickly than ever. Just because there is an overall decrease and only a small percentage of the population is affected each year, does not mean that it isn’t a concern. In the past 10 years, 10% of American have been victims of identity theft at some point. Identity theft may have been down in 2014, but the total number of data breaches recorded actually increased by a drastic 27.5% over 2013. With each data breach, millions of people's personal information is compromised and an estimated 1 in 3 people who recieve notices of data breaches become victims of identity theft. It may seem like a small number of people are affected by these breaches, but there is still an identity theft every two seconds in the United States.
Whether you choose to pay for identity theft protection or plan to do it yourself, at least understand that the crime is a very real concern. “It probably won’t happen to me,” is a slippery slope of logic, so however you choose to tackle the growing concern of identity theft, don’t forget that it could happen to anyone at any time. Be prepared.