NEW YORK (MainStreet) — With Internet fraud becoming increasingly prevalent, many Americans have signed up for identity theft monitoring services.

According to a new study from Javelin Strategy and Research, the ID protection market will be worth $3.5 billion in 2011 with 25.1 million consumers enrolling in some sort of credit monitoring program and 20.7 million opting for identity theft insurance.

The growing market has lead to an influx of products that can be difficult to differentiate.

“This a new industry,” Phil Blank, senior security and risk analyst for Javelin, told MainStreet.“Many of these services are very poorly defined.”
Javelin therefore decided to analyze 24 of the most popular identity theft services out there to find out which offer the best protection to their customers.

Similar to a study it did earlier this year that looked at the safest credit card issuers, Javelin ranked identity theft providers by their ability to prevent, detect and resolve fraud for their users. Rankings were based largely on four separate online and telephone surveys with more than 5,000 participants.

Javelin broke up providers into three major categories: Independent ID theft protection providers, credit bureaus and financial institutions. Vendors were scored on a percentage of the 115 points that they managed to get.

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Of the 24 products included in the study, Identity Guard Protection received the highest score of 73%, thanks to its consistent performance in all three categories.  It was followed by All Clear Pro ID (71%) and Identity Force (68%), also independent service providers.

The fourth place spot went to Bank of America’s Privacy Assist Complete, the highest ranked financial institution service. The highest ranked credit bureau service was TransUnion’s TrueCredit, which placed 6th overall with a score of 64%.

The lowest score in the study came from Identity Protect, a service from independent provider Intelis. The product scored only 44% thanks to shoddy performance in all three categories. Just above it was Citi’s Identity Monitor Service (46%), which performed poorly in the prevention category and didn’t score any points in the personal information protections subcategory.

Javelin said rankings are meant to help consumers weigh their options and help them find a product that offers exactly what they need in light of a lack of uniformity in the industry.

“Many of these are good services,” West says. “Your out-of-pocket loss after experiencing fraud is much less when you have them than if you were on your own.”

However, he adds, “you have to do your homework.”

Javelin suggests that consumers make sure they know the product and what services it offers before they buy it and opt for one that offers multi-layer protection from fraud. It also encourages consumers who are wary of spending funds on identity theft services to use the free services at their disposal such as the free credit reports offered by many of the credit bureaus.