If you think someone is hot on your heels, you're not paranoid; you're right. In 2011, identity fraud increased by 13 percent. More than 11.6 million adults in America became a victim of identity theft, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.
Should you pay for an identity theft service? Protection can include monitoring bank account and credit card activity, the use of your Social Security number, assistance in restoring your identity and more. "For about $10 a month, they are worth it," says www.IDTheftSecurity.com CEO Robert Siciliano.
However, says Diane Sacks, of Zander Insurance in Nashville: "There is not a company out there that can prevent identity theft from happening. Any company that implies they can 'stop it in its tracks' is misleading the consumer."
Look at the company behind the service. "Google the company's name along with the word 'scam.' Check with the Better Business Bureau," advises Sarah Downey, an analyst for Abine, a Boston online privacy firm.
Other tips: Shred bills and financial statements, and check a credit report annually.
"Leave unnecessary credit cards and critical documents in a discreet, burglar-proof location in your home. Don't disclose personal information and credit card and bank account details if you receive an unsolicited request," says Joe Reynolds, identity fraud product manager at Travelers in Hartford.
For those not up for minding the store, Leslie Tayne, a Melville attorney specializing in debt issues, says a protection service "can buy peace of mind and be a worthwhile investment."