Best Identity-Theft Protection 2018

Product Use case Rating
IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit Best Overall 4.5
LifeLock Ultimate Plus Best Data Monitoring 4
Identity Guard Platinum Best Tools 4
IDShield Individual Best for Families 3.5
Credit Sesame Platinum Protection 3.5
ID Watchdog Platinum 3.5

A private study conducted by Javelin Strategy & Research found that $16.8 billion was stolen from more than 16 million U.S. victims in 2017. (An identity-protection service paid for the study.) The crimes involved range from credit-card fraud to misuse of Social Security numbers to full-on impersonation.

Based on our three months of undercover testing, which involved signing up and paying for each service, bothering their customer-support representatives with questions about the Equifax data breach, and putting personal information into their credit-score simulators, we conclude that the best identity-theft-protection service is IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit.

IdentityForce offers comprehensive monitoring of your financial activity and personal information and provides quarterly updates to your credit scores and reports. The service delivered a rather small number of email and SMS notifications, but you can adjust how many alerts you receive.


LifeLock Ultimate Plus provided the most comprehensive monitoring of personal accounts, including financial and investment accounts, but it isn't generous with credit reports, and it has a lot of negative feedback from both users and federal regulators.

Identity Guard Platinum provides new credit reports every month and comes with antivirus software and a password manager. Yet, it neglects to monitor many categories that other services do keep an eye on, including bank and credit card accounts. That may change once Identity Guard implements the IBM Watson artificial-intelligence platform on all its plans.

Identity Alerts and Threats

— Adobe released an emergency update for Acrobat and Reader to fix flaws that could permit hackers to execute code and steal data. ADVICE: Go to Help > Check for Updates in Acrobat and Reader to start the update process, which will then happen automatically.

— Online computer-parts retailer Newegg.com found that data thieves had compromised an unknown number of transactions. ADVICE: If you shopped at Newegg between Aug. 14 and Sept. 18, check your credit-card statements for the next few months.

— The volume of malware targeting smart-home and other "Internet of Things" devices tripled in the first half of 2018, Kaspersky Lab found. ADVICE: Make sure that none of your smart-home or networking devices – routers, smart TVs, DVRs, voice assistants – uses factory-default passwords, and try to make sure their firmware is up to date.

Why Identity Protection Services May Be Worth It

Are identity-protection services really worth the cost? Yes, particularly if you know your personal information may have been compromised due to a data breach or other leak.

There are several things you can do yourself to protect your identity, such as frequently checking your bank and credit-card statements, receiving a free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) once a year, and 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 a monthly fee, these services will monitor your personal information and alert you if suspicious or fraudulent activity is occurring. Most of the services will also help you restore your credit if your identity is stolen.

What to Look For

The six services we tested have a lot in common. All monitor your files with least one of the major credit-reporting agencies. And all watch the "dark web" and other areas of criminal activity for mention of your name, Social Security number, and credit-card and bank-account numbers.

In addition, each of these services sends you alerts via email and SMS text messaging; all have iOS and Android mobile apps, and if your identity is stolen while you're paying one of these services to watch it, each will spend a lot of money doing the dirty work of restoring your good name and credit.

But identity-protection services vary in the number of credit agencies they work with and in how often you'll get credit reports and scores. Some services monitor your bank, credit-card and investment accounts, but others don't. The credit-restoration coverage may not include reimbursement of lost wages or stolen funds. Last but not least, only two of these six services let you protect your account (and the highly sensitive information therein) using two-factor login authentication, which many other online services offer as a valuable security precaution.

Best Overall: IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit

Best Data Monitoring: LifeLock Ultimate Plus

Best Tools: Identity Guard Platinum

Best for Families: IDShield Individual 

Other ID Protection Services Reviewed

How We Test and Rate Identity-Protection Services

Our testing and analysis of identity-protection services focused on how well each one monitored credit reports, financial activity and personal information. We rated each service for the amount of information that it provides about your credit report and whether or not it displays 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.

We also rated each service for the number of credit cards, debit cards and bank accounts that it monitors. We paid attention to whether or not a service provided email or SMS notifications for  large changes to an account balance or large expenses on a 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 of those numbers 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

Our testing period lasted three months in the fall of 2017. During that period, our reviewer used his credit cards and bank accounts as usual. He opted into email, SMS and phone alerts (when applicable) from the services, and regularly checked his credit reports to monitor any changes.

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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8 comments
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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?
  • 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
  • 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
  • rgd1101
    look fine to me
  • 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.....
  • liveraquel
    I would like to know if there any good ones for free. As per right now, I am just using VPN. Would it be enough could I combine it with any free identity-protection service?
  • podisc
    You are wrong about Identity Guard. They monitor bank account and credit cards as well and have done for years.
  • test_purch1
    Test Automation comment 1525959104299