"There have been more victims of identity theft in the last year than any other time in the past six years, and consumers repeatedly rank identity theft as a top concern because of the substantial remediation costs," said Todd Gebhart, executive vice president of McAfee consumer, mobile and small business, in a statement.
To help, the McAfee product promises to provide "proactive identity surveillance … by providing multiple layers of protection." That includes daily monitoring of the three major credit-reporting agencies, a variety of public records, as well as Internet scanning of "millions of Internet black market sites, chat rooms, blogs, and emails where identity thieves obtain stolen personal information," and suspicious activity alerts.
When someone's personal information gets misused, spotting and addressing the fraud quickly can help mitigate the resulting cleanup time and cost. So says a Javelin Research study referenced by McAfee, which found that "individuals who took six or more months to detect fraud suffered more than 14 times the cost of those victims who discovered fraud in its early stages."
McAfee's service will also cancel stolen credit or debit cards and order new ones, provides unlimited credit reports from Experian, as well as phone-based help for fixing identity theft fallout.
McAfee Identity Protection is priced at $10/month or $110/year, or for a family plan, $17/month or $200/year. McAfee also plans to bundle the service with some of its core security software products.
Of course, numerous companies -- including Debix, LifeLock and TrustedID -- already offer identity theft monitoring or prevention services, the precise definition of which differs by vendor. So for consumers interested in such services, what's the best way to evaluate them?
According to Jay Foley, executive director for the Identity Theft Resource Center, count the layers of monitoring: credit, personal information in the public domain, online activity containing your information and so on. "The more layers you have, the better the product does," he said. "Is it absolutely 100% foolproof? No, but then identity theft isn't just about the online or financial arena."
For example, if someone faking your identity gets a speeding ticket, receives expensive dental treatment, or writes and cashes a fake check, no identity theft service will prevent you from at least initially being on the hook.
"Does this help out? Yes. Is it complete? No, but then it's better than nothing," said Foley.