What is your identity worth? According to the Global Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec, credit card numbers go for as little as 40 cents on the black market. Complete access to a bank account? Just $10.
Not so long ago, one's identity didn't involve so many dollars and cents. Discussions of privacy seemed better suited to the realm of academic debates or conspiracy theories. Today, unfortunately, the context is too often one of ripped-off consumers, with tales of swiped credit card numbers, false mortgages, and employment fraud leading to many cumulative hours spent, perhaps over years, trying to clean up the mess.
Of course when someone comes gunning for granny's life savings, "good Samaritans" won't be far behind.
Take identity theft monitoring service providers. The pitch? Give us your Social Security number and notification of suspicious identity activity is only an e-mail alert or phone call away. These services, which typically cost $10 to $20 per month, offer to guard your identity by monitoring the three credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), cell phone applications, government databases, and public information. Some also provide insurance (subject to underwriting, and not valid in every state) to help defray costs associated with recovering from identity theft cases.
5 (Mostly) Free Alternatives To ID Theft Monitoring Services
What No Identity Theft Monitoring Can Catch
Others offer even more. For example, Intersections' Identity Guard ($17 per month for the "Total Protection" plan) says it uses "patented scanning technology" to maintain "daily surveillance of the Internet's 'back alley' chat rooms and news groups" and see if your identity is for sale. Secure Identity Systems ($7 per month) says it "tracks hundreds of databases that use Social Security numbers, including utilities, DMV records, financial institution records, and more."
MyPublicInfo ($80 for a six-month "Public Information Profile") watches criminal records and real estate reports. Debix ($99 per year) automatically calls you at home or on your cell phone the moment someone obtains new credit in your name. LifeLock ($10 per month) requests "that your name be removed from pre-approved credit card and junk mail lists, and we keep making the requests as they expire," so would-be attackers can't swipe credit card offers from your mailbox. According to LifeLock, "we've got your back."