According to the Federal Trade Commission 9 million Americans on average, fall victim to identity theft each year. While this sounds like a large number, it isn’t. Of the total American population, identity theft affects barely 3% of people. One-quarter of those affected people face credit-card fraud, not complete identity theft.

Identity theft is when another person steals your personal information with criminal intention. Identity thieves often use their victim’s information to secure loans, make large purchases and obtain credit lines.  Unlike identity theft, credit card fraud is when a thief uses your credit card to make purchases. Identity theft is a more serious concern, if accounts or loans are opened in your name it can take months, or even years for your name to be cleared and your credit restored.

Do You Really Need to Purchase Identity Theft Protection?

Before seeking out identity theft protection services, make sure you are following these free guidelines:

Use Your Personal Information Wisely Online

  • Always logout from your accounts, never let sites remember your password and clear your search history often. For things like online banking you should change your password monthly.
  • Always use your credit card for online purchases; it is protected better under federal law than your debit card, or other online payment methods like PayPal.
  • Be wary of phishing tactics and never click on a link you don’t recognize or trust. Always be sure you are on the correct site before entering any login detail, if you aren’t sure, carefully check the URL.

Pay Attention to Your Bank and Credit Card Statements and Shred Old Documents

Investigate anything that looks off and any purchases you don’t remember making. For instance, out of state purchases, or purchases from local businesses that you don’t shop at.

Don’t just drop your old bank statements or credit card applications in the trash. You should thoroughly shred them before throwing them away. This also applies to any junk mail or documentation with your personal information on it.

Check Your Credit Report Every 4 Months

By law, the three credit bureaus Equifax, Experian and TransUnion must each provide you the option for a free credit report yearly. Every 4 months you should request one, switching bureaus each time. Look over your credit report and check it for discrepancies, or suspicious activity. You can request your free credit reports at Only use this URL, there are a lot of fake knockoff sites.

Is purchasing identity theft protection really worth it if you take all of these precautions? For most people the answer is no, but if you do very large amounts of online shopping, or you don’t want to take the time to monitor your own credit, it may be worth it.

Identity theft protection will cost you a minimum of $150 dollars a year. Before making the decision to purchase, remember the odds of having your identity stolen are very low and even with identity theft protection you’re not always fully protected.