We’re all looking for ways to save money, which means non-essential services take a backseat. For some people, that means forgoing professional identity theft protection.
Do you really need professional identity theft protection, or can you do-it-yourself?
The benefits of DIY identity theft protection
The biggest benefit of DIY identity theft protection has been mentioned already, and that’s the fact that DIY protection is absolutely free. That’s an extremely important consideration for families that are on a tight budget.
- Obtain your free credit report – You’re entitled to one free credit report each year. Just make sure you’re careful about where you obtain that report as some claim to be free, but aren’t. Visit annualcreditreport.com for a free report that you can carefully review for discrepancies, like accounts you never opened.
- Ask the credit bureaus to stop sending your information – By making this request, you can drastically cut down on junk mail, which keeps your information out of the wrong hands. It’s as easy as visiting optoutprescreen.com.
- Get a P.O. box – If you’re worried about the possibility of your mail, and subsequently your identity, getting stolen, get a P.O. box. There’s no better way to keep thieves from stealing your mail.
- Get a paper shredder – When you’re done looking at your mail, it can still end up in the wrong hands. Send anything containing personal information through the paper shredder first.
- Recurring fraud alerts – If you really want to protect your credit, call each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) and put a fraud alert on your account. This requires creditors to verify your identity before awarding a new credit line in your name. The catch is that you have to call and reinstate the fraud alert with each bureau every 90 days.
- Credit freeze – This is an option, but only if you don’t want to obtain any new credit yourself. A freeze must be placed with each bureau, and it will require a small fee. A small fee will also be needed if you ever want to unfreeze your accounts.
What if you experience identity theft anyway? You can still obtain help by contacting the Identity Theft Resource Center.
The benefits of professional identity theft protection
If you can do all that, why in the world would anyone pay for professional identity theft protection?
Even if keeping track of all that on your own is a great way to be in tune with your personal information, it can take a lot of time, and it can be very inconvenient. Pouring over credit reports and calling each of the credit bureaus can be a real hassle. And who wants to visit a P.O. box every day, not to mention that costs extra money that you thought you were saving by doing it all yourself!
The fact is, you can’t do it all on your own. There are many ways an identity thief can get a hold of your information. So many ways, in fact, that you literally can’t keep track of it all! A professional identity theft protection agency can by monitoring:
- Social Security accounts
- Black market websites
- Public records
- And more
Professional protection will cost you, but it doesn’t cost as much as you might think. As a matter of fact, competitive plans start at just $9.99 each month.
Things to keep in mind
If you do decide to go with professional monitoring, it is extremely important to understand that they aren’t able to prevent identity theft from happening. However, they can alert you to potential theft immediately, which makes regaining your identity much easier. Many companies will also help you solve your identity theft problems at no additional cost, but you should look carefully at your policy to make sure that this is the case.
The choice is ultimately up to you. If you do decide to go with a professional service, make sure you shop around. There are so many to choose from!