Best Identity-Theft Protection 2017

Product Use case Rating
LifeLock Ultimate Plus Best Overall 9
IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit Runner-Up 8
Identity Guard Platinum 8


More than 17 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2014, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The crimes against them ranged from simple credit-card fraud, to misuse of Social Security numbers, to full-on impersonation.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to protect your identity, such as frequently checking your bank and credit-card statements, receiving free credit reports three times a year or asking the credit agencies to put a fraud alert on your records.

But such vigilance can be time-consuming, which is what makes a paid identity-protection service an appealing option for many. For a monthly fee, these services will monitor your personal information and alert you if suspicious or fraudulent activity is occurring.

Based on our more than three months of testing, the best identity-theft-protection service is LifeLock Ultimate Plus. LifeLock offers comprehensive monitoring of your financial activity and personal information, and provides monthly updates to your credit scores and reports. The service also delivers extensive email and SMS notifications. No other service provided protection that was as robust.

MORE: Identity Theft vs. Credit-Card Theft: What's the Difference?

Are identity theft protection services really worth the cost? Yes — particularly if you know your personal information has been compromised due to a data breach or other leak. You can (and should) keep a close eye on your credit-card statements and other financial information, and can normally obtain a credit report for free, but it might take lots of your time and energy to determine whether someone has opened a line of credit in your name if you aren't using one of these services.

Identity Alerts and Threats

— The makers of an Android keyboard app called AI.Type left unguarded an online database containing the personal details of 31 million customers, including full names, email addresses, location, phone ID numbers, Google profile photos and Wi-Fi IP addresses, plus those customers' contact lists. ADVICE: Ask yourself whether you really need a third-party keyboard app.

— A flaw in the desktop-sharing software TeamViewer lets the person whose desktop is being shared "dial back" and see the other person's desktop. For example, an IT technician helping a client with a computer problem may suddenly find the client viewing the IT technician's desktop as well. ADVICE: Patch your copy of TeamViewer with the latest software update.

— Faulty implementation rendering of non-English characters in email addresses and subject lines can let "spoofed" emails bypass security sensors, creating opportunities for identity thieves and malware distributors. Gmail is immune to this flaw and Yahoo Mail has been patched, but Microsoft Outlook and Apple Mail are among those still vulnerable. ADVICE: Until your vulnerable email client is patched against this flaw, set it to forward messages to a Gmail account, then check the messages in Gmail.

 

How We Tested and Rated

Our testing and analysis focused on how well each service monitors three main areas: your credit reports, your financial activity and your personal information. We rated each service for the amount of information that each provides about your credit report and whether or not they display your credit score. (Free annual credit reports don't include your credit score.)

We also gave extra weight to services that offer tools to help you improve your credit score. We penalized services that do not display your credit report for all three credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian), or that charge you a fee to see your credit score.

We also rated each service for the number of credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts that it monitors. We paid particular attention to whether or not the service provides email or SMS notifications for the following events: if there were large changes to our account balance or if we incurred large expenses on our credit card.

We penalized services that didn't allow us to add personal information beyond our Social Security number, such as our driver's license number, phone number or multiple email addresses. Each can also be used to steal your identity. We gave extra points to services that detected any compromised personal information.

MORE: How to Protect Your Identity, Personal Data and Property

Finally, we gave a service extra points if it provided tools and utilities, and penalized services that did not offer any identity-theft insurance policy.

Our testing period lasted three months. To test the services, we made large purchases using our credit card and moved large amounts of money into and out of our bank account. We also opted into email, SMS and phone alerts (when applicable), and regularly checked our credit reports to monitor any changes.

LifeLock Ultimate Plus: Best Overall

LifeLock Ultimate Plus has the priciest plan we've reviewed, but it also provides the most comprehensive protection, with robust monitoring of your personal information and financial activity, monthly credit reports and scores from all three credit bureaus, and frequent email and SMS alerts. LifeLock recently added a traditional $1 million identity-theft insurance policy, similar to those of its competitors, and the company will also spend up to $1 million on legal fees, application fees and other expenses to restore your identity.

Credit Scores and Reports: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion
Financial Activity Alerts: Email and SMS
Identity Protection Alerts: Email, SMS and Phone
Insurance: $1 million (LifeLock will also spend up to $1,000,000 in restoration)

Read the Full Review for LifeLock Ultimate Plus

IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit: Runner-Up

IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit was a close contender for our Editor's Choice award because it provides excellent protection at a reasonable monthly rate. IdentityForce offers monthly credit scores and reports from all three credit bureaus, robust personal-information protection and a host of helpful utilities, such as a credit-score simulator and anti-keylogging software. However, it doesn't provide quite the same level of financial-activity monitoring as LifeLock, and it rarely sent us email or SMS notifications.

Credit Scores and Reports: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion
Financial Activity Alerts: None
Identity Protection Alerts: Email and SMS
Insurance: $1 million

Read the Full Review for IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit

Identity Guard Platinum

Identity Guard Platinum is an excellent identity-theft-protection service. It offers monthly tri-bureau credit scores and reports and a bevy of utilities such as a credit-score analyzer, anti-keylogging software and an antimalware suite. However, Identity Guard Platinum is almost as expensive as LifeLock Ultimate Plus, yet provides less-robust personal-information protection and financial-activity monitoring. For that price, we recommend LifeLock Ultimate Plus.

Credit Scores and Reports: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion
Financial Activity Alerts: Limited
Identity Protection Alerts: Email and SMS
Insurance: $1,000,000

Read the Full Review for Identity Guard Platinum

ProtectMyID: Not Recommended

Despite its affordable price, ProtectMyID from Experian falls short of the competition. Unlike the other identity-theft-protection services we reviewed, ProtectMyID charges you a fee to see your credit scores and reports. The service's personal-information and financial-activity monitoring is rudimentary compared to those of other services. On the positive side, ProtectMyID will alert you if a credit report is issued in your child's name.

Credit Scores and Reports: None
Financial Activity Alerts: None
Identity Protection Alerts: Email and SMS
Insurance: $1,000,000

Read the Full Review for ProtectMyID

New and Notable: IDShield

IDShield is an online identity-theft protection service that goes well beyond mere monitoring. Starting at an affordable $9.99 per month for two adults, IDShield stands out with its consultation services, which pair you with licensed private investigators who have an average of seven years' experience. You can ask about pretty much anything, including how to respond to a data breach; think of it as an ID concierge. And if your identity is compromised, your private investigator will work on your behalf to completely restore it. You can protect your entire family for a reasonable $19.95 per month.

Credit Scores and Reports: Experian (scores provided); Equifax and TransUnion added if victim of ID theft
Identity Protection Alerts:
Email and App
Insurance:
$5 million service guarantee (will spend up to that amount to restore your identity)

MORE: IDShield Identity Theft Protection: Overview, Pricing and Features

More About Identity Theft:
Identity Theft Victim? Here's 6 Things You Need to Do
What to Do If Your Social Security Number Is Stolen
What to Do After a Data Breach
How to Avoid Tax-Refund Identity Theft
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  • dc.clint
    Hi there... Consumer Reports says that for the vast majority of people, credit monitoring services are a waste of money. What are your thoughts?
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  • rgd1101
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-27/equifax-will-offer-free-credit-freezes-for-life-new-ceo-says
    Free credit lock
    TransUnion TrueIdentity
    and coming next year something similar for Equifax
    nothing for Experian
    0
  • guide_2
    Anonymous said:
    We tested the six most popular identity theft protection services over a three month process. Here are the services that protect you the best.

    Best Identity-Theft Protection 2017 : Read more


    David, I tried to use the link yesterday (Sept 28, 2017) for Identity Force special pricing at $19.95/month. The link takes me to Identity Force, but their price is $23.95 so either your link is not working ...or they won't honor your pricing. Can you please let me know whether you can fix this? Thanks, Colleen
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  • rgd1101
    look fine to me
    0
  • guide_2
    David, I cleared cookies on my computer, then tried your link again. Still got the $23.95/month price. I ended up calling the Identity Force Help line and told them the difficulty I was having through the Tom's Guide link. They honored your pricing and enrolled me at the $19,95/month price, so thank you for making this offer available. I just wonder how many other people have gone through this difficulty too.....
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