An identity theft protection service alerts customers when their private information has been leaked so they can act quickly and avoid long-term damage. Such a service doesn’t prevent identity theft or fraud, nor can it remove your information from the dark web or stop a data breach in progress. It does make it easier to deal with the aftermath though.
Identity theft happens when attackers steal your personal identifiable information (PII), such as your credit card or Social Security numbers, and use it to commit a range of crimes including fraud. Finding out quickly that your PII has been exposed online is key to limiting damage, and this is where identity theft protection helps.
Identity theft cases increase yearly, but why? Precarious online hygiene of Internet users, data breaches, leaks, you name it. Financial gain is the attacker’s goal. Victims can suffer an array of consequences, including denied medical coverage, unsolicited bills, a drained bank account, a damaged credit score or denied loans.
The damage is not just financial. Once identity thieves gain access to PII such as your passwords, email addresses and social media accounts, they can seriously harm your reputation by creating fake accounts and using them to scam your friends, family and others. Identity theft can inflict a great emotional cost on victims.
Most Identity theft protection services provide credit monitoring, ID theft monitoring and offer help in canceling unauthorized accounts and cleaning up damages. However, it’s very hard to monitor for all the different ways a thief can take and use your information. A company can monitor a credit report to check for new-account fraud, but will it still catch a criminal when he uses your PII to obtain medical services or files a fraudulent tax return?
It’s vital to understand that identity theft protection is less about stopping cyber criminals from using your information, but more about knowing when your PII has been exposed and taking appropriate actions and measures to minimize financial and reputational losses caused by its misuse.