Identity theft protection is big business — just take a look at our best identity theft protection guide — but despite that, there are a lot of steps you can take on your own, for free. Although free identity theft protection services won’t take you as far as a paid plan, there are options available.
In this guide to the best free identity theft protection, we’re going to run down five options that will keep your identity safe without compromising other aspects of online security. After all, trusting a company with your social security number and bank account information for a free service shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The options below will protect you for free, but often come with advertisements to upgrade or other stipulations for service. That said, you won’t have to pay a dime to stay safe. Read on to find out our best free identity protection picks, as well as some options to tackle the problem yourself.
Choosing the Best Free Identity Theft Protection
Choosing free identity theft protection is like trying to traverse a minefield. Any service claiming to be free while asking for sensitive information like your social security number is suspect. We questioned each service we encountered multiple times to ensure that there isn’t any funny business going on with your data.
That said, if you’re concerned about the safety of your data, it’s best to go with a paid service. As you can see in our IdentityForce review, paying brings with it certain benefits, including more coverage, better learning resources and more robust monitoring. If you’re strapped for cash, there are ways to get free protection, though.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as finding a free service and going with it. As we’ll see shortly, most options should include an asterisk. They’re technically free, but they may not offer full protection or might require you to already have some other subscription.
During our search, we also had to question what identity theft protection is. It’s a broad term, and when looking for free services, we had to get creative. For the purpose of this guide, we didn’t necessarily find providers that offer comprehensive protection. That’s a lot to ask of a free service, after all.
Rather, we looked for services that could offer at least one part of identity theft protection, such as credit monitoring or identity restoration. There are a few that cover all bases, but most don’t. If that’s what you’re looking for and you’re willing to pay for your protection, be sure to read our Identity Guard review.
The Best Free Identity Theft Protection: AAA ProtectMyID Essential
AAA’s ProtectMyID is a paid identity theft protection service, there’s no way around it. Although not as expensive as LifeLock (read our LifeLock review for more on that), ProtectMyID runs at least $11 per month for full coverage. That said, if you’re already a AAA member, you can get basic protection with the “essential” plan for free.
The “essential” plan is not the full protection suite, but it’s still suitable for a free package. It includes credit monitoring with Experian, a credit report upon enrollment, fraud resolution support and $10,000 in identity theft insurance.
It’s nothing compared to the $1,000,000 in coverage offered by ID Watchdog, but for the low price of free, it’s hard to complain (read our ID Watchdog review). Outside of that, the plan is barren. “Essential” includes lost wallet protection, but that’s about it. Even so, for monitoring your credit and receiving a full report, ProtectMyID “essential” isn’t a bad option if you’re already a AAA member.
Other Reasons We Like AAA ProtectMyID Essential
If you decide you like AAA’s ProtectMyID identity theft protection, you can upgrade to “deluxe” or “platinum.” The “deluxe” plan expands the credit monitoring to include Equifax and TransUnion, and it comes with an Experian VantageScore, to boot. Additionally, the insurance is upped to $1,000,000 and dark web monitoring is included.
For $11 per month, “deluxe” is a good deal. You can get cheaper identity theft protection — read our ADT Identity Theft Protection review for an example — but not with the features offered by AAA. If you’re protecting a family, you can also add up to 10 children to your account for $3.95 per month each.
At the top of the range is “platinum,” which is only $5 more than “deluxe.” It adds only a few more features, though. Credit monitoring is extended to offer usage alerts, your social media is monitored and AAA will watch payday loan services and sex offender lists for your information.
Regardless of which plan you choose, AAA Premier members receive a discount on “deluxe” and “platinum.” If you’re already a AAA member, there’s no harm in trying out the free service. If you like it, an upgrade is well worth the price.
- $10,000 in coverage
- Full credit monitoring
- Options to upgrade
- Only for AAA members
TrueIdentity is a service offered by TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus. Unsurprisingly, the protection only relates to your TransUnion report, so if you’re looking to monitor your score with Equifax and Experian, you’re out of luck. Even so, TransUnion reporting is usually a paid service (read our myFICO review for an example of that).
Calling TrueIdentity an identity theft protection service is a bit generous, though. TrueIdentity doesn’t offer any deep scanning. Rather, it focuses solely on your TransUnion report, monitoring it for any critical changes to your score. That said, you’re offered unlimited refreshes on your score.
The protection aspect comes into play with its one-touch credit lock, which allows you to lock down your credit with a single click or tap. Of course, this only applies to your TransUnion report, but it’s better than nothing. The site also says you can receive up to $25,000 in insurance, but looking through the terms of service, there’s no mention of it.
Other Reasons We Like TrueIdentity
That’s ironic, considering a big part of identity theft protection is opting out of marketing offers. Even so, beggars can’t be choosers. Although TrueIdentity is monetizing your data, it’s offering identity theft protection and up to $25,000 in insurance in return.
If you decide you need more coverage or want to monitor Equifax in addition to TransUnion, TrueIdentity also offers Credit Lock Plus. It’s expensive at $24.95 per month, but it comes with $1,000,000 in coverage and the ability to lock your credit at multiple bureaus.
- TransUnion service
- $25,000 in coverage
- Options to upgrade
- Sells user data
Founded in 2010, Credit Sesame is one of the oldest free credit monitoring services around. It also offers free identity theft protection, though. The free membership is, unsurprisingly, restrictive, offering monthly credit scores from TransUnion and single-bureau monitoring. However, it also comes with $50,000 in identity theft insurance.
Although not ideal, we can get behind that, especially with how much Credit Sesame offers. You’re restricted to solely credit monitoring, but with $50,000 in coverage at the ready, it’s hard to complain.
Other Reasons We Like Credit Sesame
Credit Sesame splits its paid packages into three tiers. If you’re inclined to upgrade to a premium plan — that seems like Credit Sesame’s goal, after all — with the “advanced” plan you get access to daily credit scores and monthly credit reports from all three bureaus, and with the “pro” plan you also get 24/7 fraud resolution assistance.
However, only the most expensive plan offers full identity theft protection. The “platinum” plan comes with dark web, public record and social security monitoring, though at a fairly high price.
Although we like Credit Sesame’s free plan, the paid “platinum” option is too expensive at $20 per month. If you’re interested in a paid package, be sure to read our EverSafe review.
- Up to $50,000 in coverage
- Options to upgrade
- Full credit monitoring
- No fraud resolution on the free plan
Credit Karma is another popular credit checking tool. It’s free, allowing you to check scores from Equifax and TransUnion as much as you want. That said, it’s not technically an identity theft protection service.
Rather, it’s a credit monitoring tool, and a credit monitoring tool alone. That said, for free, it’s a good first step in protecting your identity. Credit Karma provides detailed reports from two of the three major bureaus, allowing you to stay up to date on what’s impacting your credit score. If anything shows up, you can start the restoration process right away.
For those who are looking to protect their identity for free, Credit Karma is one of the most effective routes. Although it won’t monitor your credit for you — or the dark web, for that matter — it lays out your credit report in an easily digestible manner. Furthermore, Credit Karma provides suggestions for improving your credit.
If your identity is stolen, Credit Karma can still help. From your dashboard, you can view recent data breaches and activate credit protection. The latter features will lock your credit with Equifax and TransUnion, meaning no one can open an account using your name.
Other Reasons We Like Credit Karma
As a financial success tool, Credit Karma goes beyond simple credit monitoring. Using your report, Credit Karma allows you to browse loan, auto loan and credit card opportunities. Although it doesn’t guarantee approval, Credit Karma makes recommendations based on your score, credit utilization and credit history.
Furthermore, there’s a slew of resources for understanding your finances on a deeper level. Credit Karma provides loan calculators, a credit score simulator and an unclaimed money search. All of these tools are easily accessible from your dashboard and, of course, are offered for free.
That said, “free” is the limit for Credit Karma. Unlike true identity theft protection, Credit Karma doesn’t offer any advanced monitoring or scanning. You’ll have to do all the leg work, and there’s no upgrade path.
- Easy-to-use dashboard
- Loan comparison calculator
- Easy credit protection
- No identity theft coverage
Doing It Yourself With the Federal Trade Commission
You can always protect your identity yourself, too. Although the DIY approach requires diligence and work, it can be done. A credit monitoring service, such as Credit Karma, is a good first step. However, there are other security measures you should have in place.
First, ensure each of your online accounts has a random, unique password. You can use our own password generator tool to create one and our best password manager to store it. Our top-rated provider is Dashlane, which also happens to make our list of the best free password managers (read our Dashlane review).
Passwords are usually the key to identity theft in the modern age. Once an attacker has one of your passwords, your online accounts and personal information can unravel like a spool. Thankfully, when using unique, random passwords, the chances of that happening are slim to none.
Outside of setting strong passwords, you can also protect your identity with malware protection. Our best antivirus software will help shield you locally, but there are a slew of free tools you can use, too. Read our 99 tools to protect your privacy guide to learn about those.
Other Reasons We Like Doing it Yourself
Unfortunately, even if you take all of the proper steps, identity theft can still happen. Although unlikely, it’s possible. If you’re in the U.S., though, there are steps you can take to stem the bleeding. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a website you can use to report identity theft. After answering a few questions, the FTC will help you put together a recovery plan.
In addition to providing recovery plans, the FTC also maintains a recommendations page for securing your identity. Although the process isn’t as seamless as it is with paid identity theft protection services, the FTC provides valuable and free resources for victims of identity theft.
- FTC recovery support
- No need to trust someone else with your information
- Full control over identity protection
- Requires a lot of effort
What Is Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft protection is a bit of a vague term, and we had to stretch the definition for the purposes of this guide. In general, though, identity theft protection consists of credit, dark web, social security and bank monitoring, as well as some form of identity theft insurance. That said, identity theft protection can have a more broad definition.
In short, identity theft protection is anything that helps you become aware of someone using your personal information. Paid and free services are responsive measures, providing you with the tools to identify and respond to identity theft. Many of the proactive measures you can take against identity theft are completely free.
The best way to think of identity theft protection is like insurance. It covers you, monetarily and otherwise, in the event your identity is stolen. It’s not a foolproof system, though. You can reduce your chances of identity theft, but there isn’t a magic tool that can protect you full-stop.
Do I Need Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft protection, in most cases, is worth it. Although there are plenty of steps you can take on your own, fraud resolution and insurance should be purchased. There are free options that provide a glimpse at that. However, if you’re looking to protect your identity, paying for a service if your best bet.
As mentioned, you can monitor your credit, bank account and even the dark web on your own for free. It’s not easy, though. Insurance and fraud resolution are big aspects of identity theft protection. However, the importance of having a centralized location for your monitoring can’t be understated.
Overall, identity theft protection is something that you shouldn’t need, but you’ll be glad it’s there if you do. We recommend finding a service that can easily fit in your budget, as the goal is to continue paying without having your identity stolen.
If you’re trying to save money, the best route for identity theft protection is doing it yourself. However, we like ProtectMyID “essentials” for AAA members, and Credit Sesame isn’t bad, either. That said, they’re not as comprehensive as paid services and can put your personal information at risk of data mining.
How are you protecting your identity? Are you going with a free option or a paid one? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.