What is identity monitoring or "identity theft protection" service?

Identity monitors scan personally identifiable information in credit applications, public records, websites, and other places for any unusual activity that could be signs of identity theft.

Some services may help you correct problems if identity theft occurs. They may also offer identity theft insurance generally covering:

  • Certain out-of-pocket losses
  • Chat room monitoring
  • Public record searches
  • Monitoring of black market websites
  • Virus protection software

They often include a credit monitoring service that monitors your credit history and provides periodic credit scores.

Prices and services offered by identity monitors vary widely. The cost of identity monitoring services varies from as little as a few dollars a month to over $15 per month.

You should be aware that free and low cost services are also available to protect consumers including:

A security freeze. Putting a security freeze on your credit report will generally prevent new credit from being opened in your name. Just remember that if you put a security freeze on your credit file, you’ll need to unfreeze your file before you can open new accounts in your name.

Each state has its own rules about credit freezes and how much you pay for them. In most states, you can file a security freeze for less than $10, and if you are an identity theft victim, you typically can place a freeze for free.

A fraud alert. If you believe that you’ve been the victim of identity theft or fraud (or are about to become one), you can place a fraud alert on your credit report. Note that a fraud alert does not prevent a lender from opening credit in your name, but it does require a lender to take certain measures to verify your identity first.

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