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How Does Identity Theft Protection Work?

As identity theft numbers reach record levels, more people are turning to identity protection services to help safeguard their financial reputation.

You've heard the commercials on the airways, seen the ads on TV, and likely know at least a handful of friends who are looking into (or already have in place) some sort of outside monitoring. However, if you haven't already investigated the available options for your own use, you're probably still curious about what these services include and whether you really need them.

To help you get started, the following paragraphs provide a brief overview of how ID theft protection services work and how you can determine which one is right for you.

What You Get For Your Investment

ID theft protection programs usually encompass various types of computer-detected "heads up" features. These may include everything from computer-generated notices regarding increased expenditures to a notification that your name has suddenly appeared in too many internet searches.

In addition, some services claim they can even prevent fraud as well as detect it. This feature could save ID theft victims dozens of hours and hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the legal fees it takes to unravel an ID theft mystery and undo the financial damage that often occurs.

Do it Yourself, or Call in the Pros?

Most of the services a typical ID theft protection program provides can be accomplished at home and for free. A few staunch (and detail-oriented) individuals do just that, obtaining credit reports, determining what companies offer fraud alerts, signing up, and contacting the appropriate companies one by one in the event of a theft or a lost wallet.

They also comb through statements for each financial account several times a month and make routine search engine checks to see where and how their names are being used on the internet. It's not difficult to set up your own Identity protection schedule, but it is time consuming. Your choice to do it yourself should be based on a realistic look at your time resources and whether you will be able to keep up with the intensive scrutiny that self-protection involves. If you're concerned about ID theft, but don't really have significant blocks of time to devote to tracking it, an outside protection service may be right for you.

Trust the Names You Know

There's nothing wrong with getting a great deal. In fact, we highly recommend doing some homework and finding a monitoring service that will pay itself back in the amount of time saved. Of course, a bargain is only a bargain if it works. A few names stand out from the crowd due to solid reputations, a long history in the industry, and certain advance features found in their products.

LifeLock was one of the true pioneers in the ID theft protection industry and has become a household name when it comes to credit monitoring. For as little as $120 annually per person, the company is still a top choice among most consumers.

Notifications such as home and mobile phone alerts, 24/7 daily credit repair help, and an emphasis on prevention make LifeLock an attractive choice for consumers. But by far the service's biggest draw is its Total Service Guarantee, which promises that the company will spend up to $1 million to repair the results if a thief does manage to steal your identity.

Another great option is TrustedID,which focuses on prevention much like LifeLock and costs around $13 a month per person with year's enrollment. In addiition, TrustedID scans the internet for misuse of your name and offers ID theft insurance up to $1 million through AIG and Lloyd's of London (don't forget to check deductibles and make sure the insurance is available in your state). Deciding to invest in a credit monitoring service is a difficult financial decision to make.

However, it's important to remember that it could save you a big headache, mounds of paperwork, legal fees, and the interim negative impacts on your credit when an unfortunate event occurs. In hindsight, the minimal monthly fees may look quite small. So, continue your research today, determine your needs, and make sure you find the ideal ID theft protection service for you and your budget.

on Tue, 2009-05-19 17:00