Just as a reminder, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the U.S. with over 12 million victims annually. Hopefully, readers have taken note of information found within the past two weeks' columns, especially provided by agencies "in the know," such as the Consumer Federation of America, the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General. One of the major tips refers to watchdog groups that promote ID theft protection for a membership fee. Obviously, some of these organizations are better than others; while today's final column in this series points out several of the top-rated (and in no certain order of importance), it doesn't include all good monitoring services. Your best bet always is to shop around and ask friends and co-workers what has worked best for them.
1. Equifax Complete Premiere, although a bit pricey, provides a useful combination of credit and identity theft protection features.
2. Identity Guard features full credit report monitoring, free Internet security, free 30-day trial and a 25 percent discount.
3. IDFreeze, while a good value, doesn't offer credit monitoring; on the other hand, it does give a 14-day trial and a 10 percent discount
4. LifeLock doesn't offer credit scores monitoring but does give a 30-day trial and a 15 percent discount (second best rate after Identity Guard).
5. Protect My ID by Experian has great value for protection with credit report monitoring and a whopping 35 percent discount.
Insurance policies vary by company in the ID theft protection game. Check with yours to compare.
(P.S. Just this week I found a great tidbit for our military folks. Protect yourself by placing an active duty alert on your credit reports. This will help to minimize the threat of ID theft when you're away from your usual duty station. This alert, which can also be placed by your representative, removes your name from the credit report companies' marketing list for pre-screened credit card offers for two years, unless you go back before the time expires to delete your name.)
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday and she may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org