We’re often asked whether identity theft protection services are worth the cost. While the Attorney General’s Office neither endorses nor condemns such programs, we are concerned that some charge for work you can do yourself.
The Consumer Federation of American recently examined the Web sites of 16 for-profit identity theft services and found that the descriptions of how they help consumers are often confusing, unclear, and ambiguous. Furthermore, CFA says these services may not always offer the protection that consumers are led to believe they will get.
The organization did not actually purchase or test any of the services as part of its latest study, but uncovered “troublesome practices” such as overly broad claims about their ability to prevent consumers from becoming fraud victims. According to the report, some identity theft services provide credit reports to customers by requesting the free reports that consumers are entitled to once a year under federal law, preventing them from being able to get their free annual reports on their own. Many services attempt to limit consumers’ legal rights by requiring mandatory binding arbitration for disputes.
When considering purchasing identity theft services, CFA recommends consumers whether the service monitors more than your credit reports and how it will help you if you becoming a victim. Always ask about program costs.
Read our tips for preventing identity theft and protecting your privacy.