Free identity theft protection offers grow: Are they any good?

Sony, Comcast, and your local bank are now offering free identity theft protection. Should you trust free services?

By David Daw, PC World |  Security, identity theft

The service doesn't monitor credit bureaus or give you automatic alerts. Instead it offers basic protections that it calls "lost-wallet protection" for your personal data. That is, if your credit card info is stolen--physically or digitally--the service will help with replacing your cards, by contacting your credit companies. Comcast also provides access to identity theft protection experts who can give counseling on how to repair a stolen identity.

Comcast's suite of ID theft protection tools serves more as marketing for its full, premium ID theft plans, which range between $8 and $13 a month.

Last year AOL began offering paying dial-up customers (those who pay $26 a month) free identity fraud protection from LifeLock. For those still subscribing to AOL dial-up service, the protection service is a great deal, providing credit bureau monitoring and alerts along with lost-wallet protection, cybermonitoring, and million-dollar identity theft insurance.

Banks

Many smaller banks and credit unions offer free ID theft protection as a way to stand out from the pack. Plans vary, but programs such as the one from Canandaigua National Bank and Trust in New York offer surprisingly strong protection to customers. Open a checking account at Canandaigua National Bank and Trust, and you'll receive both credit bureau checks and alerts (as security experts recommend) at no additional cost.

In 2007 nearly 130 banks and credit unions in the United States offered free ID theft protection. Four years later it's worth asking your bank about ID theft protection. The programs we spotted won't cost you anything, but do require you to explicitly sign up for the services.

Sony

After 77 million accounts on Sony's PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment had their personal identification exposed to hackers, Sony offered its users free ID theft protection for one year. Sony customers have until July 31 to sign up for the offer.

Sony offers its ID theft protection through a company called Debix and its AllClear ID Plus plan. The offer meets security experts' recommendations, supplying both credit bureau monitoring and alerts should a red flag pop up.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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