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)
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Most recent comments on "Alternatives To Lifelock"
17 Sep 2009
Lifelock have been getting lawsuits thrown at them left right and center including false advertising claims by among others the state of NY (which accounts for the new marketing manager they just announced).
The guarantee isn't worth a light as the small print says 'if losses are due to a fault with their service' Trouble is they don't provide a service anymore. Not since a Judge ordered them to stop placing fraud alerts illegally.
Its up to you dude but I wouldn't give them 10c a month never mind 120 bucks a year. At least read the stuff at Lifelock Scam before deciding. http://lifelock-scam.com
EDITOR'S NOTE: I agree, everyone should do their research. I don't have a vested interest in ANY of the players.
18 Sep 2009
The best DIY protection: common sense.
Don't carry your checkbook everywhere "just in case".
Don't use a debit card as you are more vulnerabble to loss. Use a credit card instead.
Pay bills electronically, preferably on your own computer.
If you pay bills via the Post Office, put the envelopes in a secure mail box as close to pick up time as possible.
Learn more about this on FTC.GOV, and other government agency based web sites.
Read books by Frank Abagnale.
Tom, volunteer identity theft investigator at my local PD
18 Sep 2009
I once heard a security professional recommend debix.com in a convincing manner. It's cheaper than most of the services listed above. I haven't had any problems since signing up with them - but I didn't have problems before joining their service either.
18 Sep 2009
I spent a total of 28 yrs working for American Express as a credit analyst. I also worked for department stores and their credit problems. We never charged anybody the maximum $50 limit for fraud. I believe that any fraud is usually started in a dept. store, or by postal thieves. Still, I do not see any reason a lawful charge should be incurred by a consumer. It is my understanding that this is industry-wide. A note to people who use the credit reports, and find derogatory reports, has the right to put their own note in the file, along with a copy of a police report (if there is one). Re-check with them at least every 90 days to make sure your note is posted, as this information should be known to anybody who has a reason to check up on you.
19 Sep 2009
Why not look into Pre-Paid Legal Services and Identity Theft Shield. These are two nationwide services that offer much more than any of the services listed above. A good identity theft protection service should: be able to identify the problem, stop it and restore the identity as if it had never been stolen in the first place. Identity Theft Shield is the only service that really restores it. I am a Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialist and a Pre-Paid Legal Services associate.
21 Sep 2009
I heard that Lifelock merely puts a lock on your credit with the credit reporting agencies, which prevents anyone from opening new credit on your account. In many States, including Georgia, consumers can now do this themselves for a modest fee of about $10, and also unlock the file for another modest fee.
I like to use Cards that offer VIRTUAL account numbers--e.g. Citibank and Discover. With these, if the number is stolen it has limited use for the thief. For Citibank, the number is good for one time use only and expires in 30 days; for Discover, it is good that that merchant only but does not expire until the card does.
With both program, you install a small program on your computer and click to create a virtual account number.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Lifelock does a Fraud Alert, which anyone can do for free, but it expires every 90 days. A Credit Freeze is different. See the article for more info, as I discussed it in detail.
21 Sep 2009
If you lose your debit or credit card, whoever finds it can use it to go shopping. Stores are supposed to ask for ID, but they rarely do...since they know they'll still get the money from the sale, as the banks will not demand reimbursement from the stores that illegally process the card. If banks *did* make the stores culpable--and they should--you'll see a sudden change in behavior: all shops will demand to see your ID before processing a purchase. This will make customers much saver from theft, whenever they lose their debit or credit card...or have them stolen.
BTW, I only have a debit card, never used a credit card in my life. Nonetheless, I am just as well protected as if I owned a credit card. This is true for most debit cards, as they are Visa or Mastercard secured.
EDITOR'S NOTE: As a merchant who accepts credit cards for quite a few years, I can tell you that card issuing banks almost ALWAYS side with the consumer. The merchant almost always has to eat the loss.
21 Sep 2009
I have both a MasterCard and a Visa credit card. Here are some things I have been able to do in order to protect my accounts in case of the physical loss of the cards, or in case someone gains access to the account numbers.
I have not signed the backs of my cards, but instead have written "See photo ID." At any local store that accepts my card without looking on the back, I immediately call for the manager and politely request that they change their store policy. If, within 6 months, they have not, that store is added to a list, held by the card companies, of stores at which purchases on my account are not authorized. I have been especially diligent in targeting high-dollar and electronics stores, as these are often the places where stolen cards are used. The few places who have not complied do not put much of a crimp in my shopping habits. This probably would be more difficult if I lived in a city with a million or more people.
All online and out-of-town purchases, except gasoline, must be pre-approved by me with a phone call to the card company, and I must give them my home phone number (which is not written anywhere in my purse or in my house), and a PIN that is stored only in my head.
When my purse was stolen several years ago, my credit card companies reported one attempt to use each card, but the purchases were denied. Hopefully it was because of my precautions.
22 Sep 2009
I recently purchased indentity theft protection through my homeowners policy with State Farm for $25.00 per year.. It has all the coverage that most all the others offer.
25 Sep 2009
Lifelock digusts me. Their dubious far-fetched stories like the one from a police officer who had unauthorized transactions appear on his credit report for 8 yrs...hmm.
I do not buy it, or he's dumber than a bag of hammers. A cop? Though not usually the brightest crayons in the box, but oh please. He should be fired for being stupid.
The rest of the 'stories' sound like a crock as well. I have never known anyone who this has happened to and yes this service is available through my homeowners for a fraction of what these fear mongering thieves charge.
09 Oct 2009
If ID Watchdog charges $19.95/month, how can Identity Guard Total Protection which costs $17.99 per month, be "the most expensive of the services mentioned here"?
20 Jan 2019
Please note that when I signed on to LifeLock, it stated a new updated policy was in force--you had to click on submit to even access your account. By clicking, you agreed to their new (2018) terms:). BY ENTERING THESE SERVICE TERMS, YOU AGREE TO RESOLVE ALL DISPUTES WITH LIFELOCK THROUGH SMALL CLAIMS COURTS OR THROUGH ARBITRATION ON AN INDIVIDUAL BASIS RATHER THAN JURY TRIALS OR CLASS ACTIONS (SEE SECTION 17 BELOW). Guess what? You may have $1,000,000 in coverage, but, if you dispute that they did not do what they promised, our local small claims court is capped at $10,000!!! People REALLY need to know about this!!!