Identity theft has become one of America's biggest financial fears. Many people worry that it's no longer a matter of if their identity will be compromised, but when.
Several companies promise to protect people from this 21st century scourge. For a fee, they take steps on a customer's behalf to reduce the risk of identity theft.
Many of these companies also agree to repay customers' losses and to help victims clear their names if their identities are stolen.
Adam Levin, chairman of Identity Theft 911, says identity-theft protection services are responding to a threat that continues to grow.
"(Identity thieves) are very, very dangerous people," he says. "They're very well-funded and are hacking more and more databases."
|You can hire help, help yourself or do nothing and hope for the best.|
However, some consumer advocates argue that such identity theft protection services are unnecessary and cause people to spend hard-earned cash needlessly.
Jeannine Kenney, senior policy analyst for Consumers Union, cites the example of LifeLock, one of the best-known identity-theft protection services.
"Every one of (LifeLock's) services -- fraud alert, free credit report, removal from prescreened credit card offers and junk mail lists -- are available to the consumer for free," Kenney says. "And all but the last are available as a matter of right under federal law."