Identity theft is a big problem that just keeps gaining momentum.
According to the 2017 Identity Fraud Study by Javelin Strategy & Research, 15.4 million Americans experienced some form of ID fraud, with $16 billion lost in the process. That's up from 13.1 million victims and $15.3 billion in losses in 2015.
The issue is so troubling that many people are turning to identity theft protection - a $3 billion market, according to IBIS World, with up to 60 marketplace providers. Growth is on the upswing, too. According to a 2016 report from Smithers Pira, the identity protection market is expected to grow to $9.7 billion by 2021.
For consumers who are new to the ID protection game, a few key points are advised.
"True" identity theft protection gives you full monitoring, assistance with the credit bureaus and local and federal agencies, and goes so far as to insure money that has been stolen," says Michael W. Steuer Jr., assistant vice president at Credit Union Insurance Group.
The downside is that identity theft protection "may not be affordable and or available to everyone," he adds. "While certain credit card companies have their own identity theft protection, it is only for that account and does not cover other accounts. But there are more pros than cons."
Americans who have ID protection tools and services seem to agree.
"In today's environment, I don't think it's a matter of if your personal information is stolen - it's really just a matter of when," says Rhonda Boyle, founder of Oklahoma-based Rhonda Knight Boyle LLC, a management consulting firm.