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A new approach to identity theft protection
Remember how in old movies the cat burglar would use a glass cutter to silently cut a hole through their victim’s windowpane, sneak in undetected, use their safecracking skills to noiselessly open the strongbox, and make off with the contents?
The digital equivalent of that happens to 9 million Americans each year.1
Identity theft is a huge problem globally, and it’s only getting worse. Thanks to the continued proliferation of internet use, fraudsters and scammers are constantly finding new ways to steal identities. If you want to stay protected, you’re going to need identity theft protection that can stay a step ahead of those criminals.
Pro Tip: Don’t think your children’s identities can be stolen because they don’t have online presences or bank accounts? Think again. Children are among the most at-risk for identity theft, because the crime is unlikely to be discovered for years. Check these five sobering child identity theft statistics for more information.
Established in 2019, Aura is one of the fastest growing identity protection services in the country, and that might have something to do with the level of protection it provides. Aside from robust identity and credit monitoring, Aura offers comprehensive digital protections to safeguard its users from existing and emerging online threats.
Most recently, Aura expanded their services to include additional family protections. Specifically, they bought Circle Parental Controls, a platform that allows parents to create customizable content filters and set screen time limits.
FYI: Aura subscriptions also include malware protection, a safe browsing tool, and access to a virtual private network.
Now, here’s the all-important question: Does Aura work? We won’t keep you in suspense. It definitely does. And, that’s not the only good news. In recent months, Aura has added new features and cut its prices across the board. Want to know more? We’ve got all the details below.
We’re going to start with the Aura purchasing process in just a second, but first, here’s a quick overview of the service’s pros and cons so you can get an idea of what we’re looking at.
So from 30,000 feet, Aura is looking pretty good. They’ve got a mile-long list of features and their comprehensive suite of protections have you covered from nearly every angle including identity theft protection, fraud protection, antivirus protection, and even access to a virtual private network.
Add to that, the list of cons seem relatively negligible, and it’s mostly things we can live with. The biggest drawback is the price, really, but if you’re strategic about how and when you make your purchase, you can definitely save a few dollars. More on that in just a bit. First, let’s talk about our virtual unboxing of Aura.
Right off the bat, we were impressed with the simple layout of Aura’s website and purchasing portal. Some of the identity theft protection services we’ve reviewed in the past have been a little unorganized in this regard, so it’s refreshing to see all of the information presented in such a clear-cut way.
First things first: what kind of coverage options does Aura offer? You can choose between three separate plans. The first of these is the aptly named Individual plan. It covers–you guessed it–individuals. Aura also offers a plan for couples, called–wait for it–the Couple Plan. Finally, the company has a Family Plan that covers up to five individuals. OK, so the naming conventions here aren’t particularly inspired. The point is that Aura makes it easy to get exactly the amount of coverage you need.
There’s one important detail to note here, though. Child identity protection differs from the identity protection that adults get. Mainly, Aura monitors the Social Security numbers of children, as that is the most-targeted piece of information of children under 18, but nothing else. On the bright side, you can add any number of children to the Family plan, provided that they live with you. The five-member limit applies to adults only.
From the outside looking in, Aura’s pricing is more than reasonable. An individual can get all-around coverage for $13 per month, and the value further increases as you add more people to your subscription.
|Home Title Monitoring||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Criminal Record Monitoring||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Investment Account Monitoring||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Annual Credit Report||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cost per Month||$13/mo||$18/mo||$39/mo|
|Cost per Year||$120/year||$216/year||$348/year|
We provide more details later in our guide to Aura’s pricing packages, but a few quick notes here right off the bat.
First, the Family plan is versatile and inclusive. It covers five individuals, and one of the best things about it is that it protects children’s SSN but doesn’t count them against the user limit. That’s great for big families, but it’s still affordable for families that are just starting. For reference, most identity protection services with family plans only cover two adults and a certain number of children, so Aura really outdid itself here.
And as we mentioned earlier, Aura has added parental controls to the Family plan following its recent acquisition of Circle. With this plan, you will now have access to features for monitoring your childrens’ digital use. For example, you can block and filter content, set screen time limits, and track their internet usage.
The second thing worth noting is that Aura provides its subscribers with access to both antivirus software as well as a virtual private network. This is important because unsecured devices are a primary attack vector for identity thieves. They also use malware and online scams that can be detected through Aura’s software.
With Aura’s device digital protection, you can protect up to 10 devices per user. That means if you’re on the Couple plan, you and your partner share a 20-device limit. If you’re on the Family plan, the number of devices you can protect depends on the number of registered users, not counting children. For example, 30 devices if there are three members, 40 devices for four members, and so on.
The purchasing process for Aura was a breeze. We selected the Individual plan, noting that Aura offers 24/7 customer support and a 30-day money-back guarantee. Then we went about setting up our account.
First, you’ll be asked to enter your email address and to create a password, followed by a prompt to enter your personal information. Name, address, Social Security number — all the usual suspects. No big surprises here.
Once that’s done, you’ll enter your credit card information. Something to note here: If you decide that Aura is the right solution for you, you might consider purchasing an annual plan rather than a month-to-month subscription. You’ll pay the full balance upfront, but you’ll save $36 in a year with the Individual plan, or up to $120 with the Family plan. Just something to consider.
Once you’ve purchased your plan, you’ll move on to the easy setup process.
The dashboard was refreshingly simple, although you’ll still probably need a little guidance because of the sheer number of features offered by the service. We’ll go through its features so you can get an idea of what they are protecting.
The first tile is your credit profile. This automatically configures itself based on the personal information you entered during the setup process, but it takes a while for it to come online. This is likely because Aura has to connect with the credit bureaus and compile a tremendous amount of information. Aura says the configuration can take up to a few hours, but in our experience, that was more like half an hour. Click on ‘activate’ to start the setup process.
Aura starts by asking you information that only you should have the answer to based on your credit file. That could be anything from addresses you’ve been associated with to the approximate payment for a particular loan in your name. Once that’s complete, your credit monitoring will be activated.
Pro Tip: You should always keep an eye on your credit files — go over them at least once a year. Consumer Reports estimates that about 1 in 3 people has significant errors in their files that can lead to diminished credit scores.2
Right out of the gate, Aura’s credit monitoring is pretty powerful. They keep an eye on all three of your credit files — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. That’s good news since discrepancies can show up on one file and not another, and one file might be pinged before the rest if a fraudster tries to take out a line of credit in your name. For another credit monitoring powerhouse, check out our review of IdentityIQ. They’re our favorite for keeping an eye on your credit.
That said, Aura also gives you the ability to lock your Experian credit file. You should always keep this function engaged unless you are applying for a credit card, shopping for a mortgage, or looking to take out a car loan.
A credit lock essentially makes it impossible for a lender to access your credit file while it’s engaged. This means an identity thief looking to take out a loan or open a line of credit in your name will immediately be stopped in their tracks. This is an extremely powerful tool against financial identity theft and one we would recommend to anyone.
Pro Tip: There are two ways to block your credit file — a lock and a freeze. A lock can be instantly toggled on and off, while a freeze takes longer to set up and undo.3 You can have either set up by calling the major credit bureaus.
Aura also offers a credit score tracker, which shows your progress over time, and gives you information as to why your score is what it is. This is a great tool for anyone looking to re-establish their credit after a financial hardship or boost their credit to secure a loan at a lower interest rate.
The tracker is down at the bottom there. It doesn’t have any information in it yet, but after you use the service for a few months, you’ll see the dot move, plotting out your (hopefully) increasing score.
Moving on to the next tile, you’ll be able to link your accounts to Aura, which will then monitor them for suspicious activity, like large withdrawals or money being shuffled around. Aura uses Plaid — a third-party middleman which uses heavy-duty encryption to connect vendors to bank accounts — to connect to your accounts. We always like it when they show up; they’re extremely trustworthy.
Once you select your bank and enter your username and password, you’re ready to go. Once connected, Aura will monitor all connected accounts for transactions beyond a certain threshold that you set. Click on the little alert icon in the top right-hand corner of the Transactions page to play around with this.
FYI: We typically keep all of our transaction alerts at or around $300. That way we’ll know if serious money is moving, but we won’t be bombarded with alerts every time we buy lunch.
Moving right along, the next section is all about identity monitoring. This covers everything from dark web marketplaces, public records, new accounts being opened using your information, and data broker sites. For that last one, Aura even offers to get your information removed from risky data broker sites, reducing your information’s exposure.
To monitor for your identity, Aura uses the information you provided during the sign-up phase, but you can always add more information later on. In fact, we recommend that you do. Aura can only monitor what it knows, so you have to make sure to give Aura all the pertinent details about yourself.
As an aside, we’ve reviewed a lot of these services, and this is one of the most extensive lists we’ve found so far. You might want to head over to our IdentityGuard review if this list piques your interest; they’ve got comparable protections, but keep in mind the providers of Identity Guard are the same people bringing you Aura.
That said, boy does Aura’s identity monitoring ever work. We immediately had 23 notifications that our credentials were found on the dark web.
If you have the same experience, though, don’t panic. We’ve reviewed dozens of identity theft protection services, and this is extremely common. Ninety-nine percent of the time the credentials won’t match up, or the alert was from such a long time ago that it’s nothing to worry about.
Moving on, though, we want to highlight three of the most interesting and unique features Aura offers: malware protection, Wi-Fi security, and its most recent addition, a password manager.
Malware protection is essential antivirus software. What do viruses have to do with identity theft protection you might be asking yourself? The answer is “quite a lot.”
Malware comes in all shapes and sizes and can do anything from brick your computer to logging your keystrokes. Think about that for a second — if there’s a keylogger running in the background that you’re unaware of, it’ll be able to pick up everything you’re typing, including your passwords. Putting two and two together?
Good cybersecurity practices go hand in hand with identity theft protection. In our in-depth look at NortonLifeLock, we found they really get this, too. You always want to make sure you’re using strong passwords, avoiding sketchy sites, and being discerning about the online vendors you do business with.
Pro Tip: Sometimes protecting your identity has nothing to do with you. If you give your personally identifying information to a company and they suffer a data breach, you might become a victim. There were approximately 37 billion records breached in 2020 alone.4 Always stay vigilant.
One thing to note: Aura’s malware protection is not currently available for iOS. We hate to do it, but we’re gonna have to ding them a little for that. Although iOS is more secure than other platforms, it still needs some sort of malware protection, as cybercriminals can use social engineering (e.g. phishing, malicious sites, email attachments) to target iOS users.
Now let’s talk about this virtual private network Aura offers. The VPN is available on all major platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android.
FYI: Virtual private networks work by creating a secure tunnel from your device to its digital destination through the internet. It then encrypts the traffic traveling through that tunnel, effectively making you invisible online. If you want to know more, check out our guide to VPN functionality.
We tested it on our iPhone, and it worked pretty well. There wasn’t a whole lot of latency — something you can expect when running a VPN — and it didn’t appear to be leaking DNS requests — a techno-jargon way of saying “it works.”
Now, why do you need a VPN coupled with your identity theft protection? The same reason you want to package antivirus software with it. The point is that there is no silver-bullet approach to this, and you want to protect yourself from as many threat vectors as possible.
For example, you never know who is sharing that unsecured Wi-Fi network with you at the hotel, and if you decided to do some banking from your room, a bad actor might be sniffing for login credentials. That could cause some pretty serious problems, right? If you’re running a VPN, though, you’re a ghost to them.
Finally, within the last several months, Aura has also added a password manager to its comprehensive list of extras. As we note in our guide to creating passwords, it’s a good idea to use different passwords for all your many accounts. That way, if a hacker should manage to figure out one password, they won’t be able to access all of your accounts. No one has the brain capacity to remember all those passwords, though, and writing them down on a notepad leaves them vulnerable should someone break into your home. A password manager lets you keep track of all your passwords in one secure location. You only have to remember the one password that unlocks the manager.
So that just about covers everything there is to say about Aura. With all this in mind, let’s put it all together.
Overall, we loved Aura. Their credit protections are comprehensive, their identity monitoring is robust, and their bonus features — the malware protection and the VPN — put them head and shoulders above many other identity theft protection services we’ve reviewed so far.
We also loved their design. A lot of these services feel a little dated when you use them (like their dashboards were designed in 1996 and haven’t been updated since). Not so with Aura, which felt sleek, modern, and responsive. So overall, Aura is a great product that offers all-around protection.
That said, be sure you breeze through our guide to this year’s best ID theft prevention products before making your final choice.
Yes, Aura monitors reports from TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.
Yes, Aura keeps an eye on dark web marketplaces, chatrooms, and forums for your personally identifying information.
Yes, in our testing we found that Aura’s VPN worked well.
No, Aura’s VPN is not available for Chrome.
For individuals Aura costs $15 monthly. For couples, it’ll be $29 per month. For families of five or less, it costs $50 per month. And remember, you can save money if you pay one year in advance.
*The score you receive with Aura is provided for educational purposes to help you understand your credit. It is calculated using the information contained in your TransUnion or Experian credit file. Lenders use many different credit scoring systems, and the score you receive with Aura is not the same score used by lenders to evaluate your credit.
Crime Museum. (2021). Identity Theft.
Fox, Michelle. (2021, Jun 11). A third of Americans found errors on their credit reports. Here’s how to fix those mistakes. CNBC.
Equifax FAQ. (2021). What's the difference between a credit report lock and a security freeze? Equifax.
Whitney, Lance. (2021, Jan 21). 2020 sees huge increase in records exposed in data breaches. TechRepublic.