Alternatives To Lifelock
I'm considering LifeLock identity theft insurance, but are there other companies I should consider? And I've heard about do-it-yourself identity theft protection... is that a realistic alternative?
What Are My Alternatives To Lifelock Identity Theft Protection?
"Many people have their identities stolen each year. An ID theft wreaks enormous havoc. You will spend months, even years, restoring your credit rating and employment reputation. You may even find yourself arrested for crimes you did not commit. Many people turn to companies such as Lifelock for protection against ID theft.
Lifelock charges $10 per month for its guardianship. It monitors all sorts of financial activity that you or an ID thief may be doing, i.e., credit card applications; bank check orders, etc. It monitors the unauthorized selling of your personal information. It monitors postal changes of address in case someone tries to divert your mail. It will help cancel credit cards if your wallet is lost or stolen. Basically, Lifelock is in the insurance business, selling peace of mind.
Although LifeLock is probably the most well known provider of identity theft protection, there are others, and you can also do it yourself. Read on for the full scoop on your options for identity theft protection.
- Trusted ID has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, Time magazine, and on CNN. The company's Better Business Bureau report shows minimal customer complaints. Its regular price is $99 per year for an individual or $190 per family, but as of this writing a 15 per cent discount is available, with a 30-day free trial.
- ProtectMyID is a division of Experian, the massive credit reporting agency. It does a good job of monitoring credit but has an indifferent reputation for other forms of ID theft protection, i.e., monitoring postal address changes or bank check orders, and its customer service is (or should be) an embarassment to the company. It costs $9.95 per month (or $99.95/year) with a 30-day free trial.
- Equifax, another major credit reporting agency, offers ID theft insurance that lacks services like telemarketing list removal, full family coverage, and e-mail support.. But for some inexplicable reason, Equifax thinks it's worth $14.95 per month.
- Identity Guard Total Protection is one of the more expensive options at $14.99 per month, and gives your PC protection against hackers and viruses as well as protecting you against ID theft. It appears that the extra money is buying an annual subscription to some version of Zonealarm, a decent firewall/antivirus program.
- ID Watchdog is a relative newcomer to the field of ID theft insurance, but it tries harder than the big credit agencies. The latter will never help you clean up pre-existing identity theft messes, but ID Watchdog will. $19.95 per month, 30-day trial. Sound familiar?
Do I Really Need Identity Theft Insurance?
Identity theft insurance, like all insurance, is a gamble. You're betting that you will need services and the insurers are betting that you won't. They have all the actuaries and statistics with which to place the shrewdest bet, you don't. Guess who is going to win this bet? That's right, most people buy far more insurance than they ever use. A Forbes magazine study found that, over a ten-year period, a typical family of four spends $19,000 on insurance premiums and files only $1,200 worth of claims - some of which are denied, of course.
You'll have to decide if identity theft insurance is right for you. To a large degree, it depends on how often you use a credit card, both online and in retail establishments. Another factor is how gullible or careless you are. If you, your spouse, or kids are likely to hand over the keys to the kingdom to online scammers or telephone solicitors who ask for social security numbers or credit card details, then it might be a good idea to protect yourself.
I personally use LifeLock, because I spend all day on the Internet, and I have kids who might not always click on the right things. But to be honest, in 18 months I've never had anyone attempt to steal my identity or open an account in my name. And sometimes it's a hassle. Department stores will offer tempting discounts like 20 or 30 percent off your purchase, if you sign up for a store credit card account. In the past, I've done this, paid off the bill right away, then cancelled the account. But with LifeLock, every time I try to open a new account, the clerk says "You have a fraud alert on your credit file... we can't complete the application." Some stores are savvy enough to walk through the necessary steps to verify my identity, but on several occasions I was not able to do so, and had to forego a considerable discount.
Do It Yourself Identity Theft Protection
Here's the good news... If you're willing to take several steps to protect your privacy and security, some of which require ongoing vigilance, you can protect yourself from identity theft on your own, for free. The bad news is that you have to take several steps to protect your privacy and security, and it requires ongoing vigilance. Here's what you'll need to do if you want to try the do-it-yourself identity theft protection method:
- Get a copy of your credit report on a regular basis, so you can check for red flags. Because of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, it's free for US citizens. My article Free Credit Reports Online explains how to get three free credit reports per year.
- Cut down on junk mail, which often include credit card offers that can be stolen from your mailbox and used by bad guys. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse will show you how fight unwanted junk mail.
- Opt out of credit card offers. Use the OptOutPrescreen website to prevent credit bureaus from providing your credit file information to companies that use it to send you those annoying credit card offers.
- Opt out of "convenience check" mailings. If a thief steals them from your mailbox, they can easily run up a tab on your account. Call your bank and tell them you don't want any more.
- Keep important documents, such as passports, tax returns, social security cards, and financial statements secure at home, and use a shredder before disposing of papers that can be used by crooks to glean your personal information.
- Place Fraud Alerts at the three major credit bureaus, to prevent anyone from opening new credit accounts without your knowledge. Call Equifax at 800-525-6285, request a Fraud Alert and they will contact both Experian, Trans Union on your behalf. Note this this must be repeated every 90 days, it's not permanent!
- Consider a Credit Freeze. This will completely lock down your credit file. The downside is that it may interfere with approval of new loans, insurance, employment screening, establishment of telephone or utility service, and other transactions. A pin number can be used to temporarily unfreeze your credit file. Unlike Fraud Alerts a freeze is permanent, or until you remove it. (Some states limit it to 7 years.) And it may not be free, depending on your state of residence. Another important difference is that you must contact all three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union separately.
Do you have something to say about identify theft protection? Post your comments and questions below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 17 Sep 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Alternatives To Lifelock (Posted: 17 Sep 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved