Identity theft is rife today. It happens when a crook steals another individual’s critical information, such as ID number, address, driver’s license or similar information.

By Simon Campbell-Young, CEO of Intact Distribution

The crook can use this information for his own benefit – usually financial gain of some sort.

Unfortunately, there are many instances where individuals have no idea that their identity has been stolen until it is too late, and the damage has been done. There are several solutions available today that help to monitor identify theft and protect against it, but are they all they’re cracked up to be?

There are some clear advantages to using identity monitoring and protection. These solutions carry out continual monitoring for any unauthorised or anomalous use of the individual’s identity. This entails checking credit reports from the various credit bureaus, and letting the individual know if there are any changes. Some solutions check for any use of a person’s ID number, credit and debit cards, and even any activity that might indicate someone has taken out a large loan in their name.

However, there are down sides too. Firstly, they are costly in comparison to the level of protection they provide, and there are many types of identity theft they simply cannot protect the user against. For example, if someone opens an unauthorised cellphone contract in your name, or applies for a job using your details.

Moreover, many of these services can’t prevent the actual identity theft. They can only help after the fact, which is often too late. Some services use a mass of legal jargon and confusing terms, which if not scrutinised thoroughly, could leave the individual insufficiently covered for certain types of losses, or even not covered at all.

Identity theft monitoring services can be highly effective in lowering the impact of new account openings by criminals, but these sorts of cases make up only a fraction of cases. More often than not, ID thieves abuse existing accounts, and often the institution will offer protection already.

The bottom line is this: go into ID theft protection services with your eyes open. Do not go for the cheapest option, but rather look for the best option. Understand that the threat is real, and certain services, while not a silver bullet, could be helpful in the event of ID theft.

What you should be looking for out of ID theft protection services is a proactive solution that can identify when your identity has been compromised and prevent it from being used by criminals. A good, proactive solution should be able to provide  details of how much risk you are facing as a result of the identity theft, and what remediation measures you should follow.

Despite the drawbacks, the price tag of identity theft protection is worth it, both for the protection it offers, and the sense of security in knowing you are covered should you fall victim to this scourge.