Will LifeLock Save Your Bacon?

Category: Finance , Security

If you're worried about identity theft these days, you're not paranoid. Frequent and massive data breaches provide scammers with the personal information they need to pull it off. If someone assumes your identity they can open new credit cards, raid your bank accounts, ruin your employment prospects, or even commit crimes for which you are blamed. With so much at stake, many people are paying $20 or more a month for identity theft protection services. But are they wasting their money? Here's the scoop…

Is Identity Theft Protection Effective?

Todd Davis, founder of identity theft protection service LifeLock, became famous for billboards that bore his Social Security Number and a dare to ID thieves: "Steal my identity" which was protected by LifeLock, of course. Well, it turns out they did, at least thirteen times! In 2010, LifeLock was ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to pay more than $12 million in fines for false and misleading adverting.

Although LifeLock has since changed their advertising and the means they use to spot identity fraud, no identity theft protection service can absolutely ensure that your identity will not be stolen! In fact, LifeLock's own advertising carries the disclaimer that "no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses." (LifeLock was acquired in 2017 by Symantec, makers of Norton computer security products, and is now called NortonLifeLock.)

The problem is that your identity can be vulnerable to theft from sources far outside of your control, or even sources that you don't know about. Most data breaches occur at merchants, service providers, government agencies, and other institutions to which you have given your personal information, and at still others to whom those entities have given your information without your knowledge.

Lifelock Identify Theft

Most people's identities are exposed to theft in so many different places that it is impossible to protect them all. You have to rely upon the security measures taken by those entities to protect you. Until recently, many business, government offices, and even one credit bureau were lax about protecting personal information from theft. (See Equifax Takes The Data Breach Cake.)

According to researchers, about 10% of Americans fall victim to identity theft each year. The Identity Theft Research Center reports that there were 1,860 data breaches involving the theft of hundreds of millions of sensitive records in 2020. Major retailers, banks, government agencies, utility companies, schools, and other institutions left the doors open in often stupendously stupid ways. There is nothing that LifeLock or any other identity theft protection service can do to force third parties to protect your data. So what do you get for your subscription fee (or "insurance policy")?

See my related article Do You Know the Signs of Identity Theft? to learn the signs of possible ID theft, steps you can take to prevent it, and how to respond if it happens to you or someone you know.

What Protection is Actually Offered from Identity Theft?

LifeLock and its competitors monitor the activity of your identity online and in the economy. They monitor applications for credit cards, bank accounts, and other financial instruments made in your name. They look for "unusual activity" and alert you to it; effectively asking, "Hey, did you really do this?" If you didn't, then some thief may have, and it's time to hit the panic button.

If it appears that your identity has been stolen and is being misused, LifeLock can take care of alerting credit card companies and other institutions for you. Accounts can be locked or closed; new credit cards issued; and other measures taken to thwart thieves' use of your identity. But that won't stop a shoplifter who's caught by police from giving them your name and address as his own.

Repairing the damage done by identity theft is a years-long, painful, and expensive process. Some things that you never did may remain on your record forever. In one case, a sex offender used another man's identity, and the innocent man was told by authorities that his name can never be removed from databases of sex offenders.

LifeLock and others in the fraud protection business promise to help you repair the damage if you are a victim of identity theft. But how far they'll actually go depends on where you live, and the plan you've selected. The NortonLifelock Licensing and Service Agreement is 11,377 words of legalese, and the document entitled Evidence of Coverage: All Members Except NY and WA State Residents spells out how much they will pay out to help you, based on your membership in one of the 24 plans listed. (See the Legal Information and Resources page if you live in New York or Washington State.)

Interestingly, in the Exclusions section, you'll find that the policy does not cover losses arising from nuclear radiation, radioactive contamination, terrorism or "loss or damage resulting from or arising out of a Cyber Attack." Hmmm, identity theft perpetrated via the Internet sounds like a cyber attack.

I don't personally know anyone who has suffered from identity theft while a LifeLock subscriber, and then tried to submit a claim for help. I do know one person who suspected that her mother (a LifeLock subscriber) had become an ID theft victim. Fortunately, it was a false alarm. But she says that LifeLock certainly did everything she would have wanted, when it came to investigating the situation, and that gave her confidence that LifeLock would have honored their guarantee if there had been a real problem.

Here's the bottom line… Identity theft protection services can provide you with some protection from identity theft, but they cannot guarantee that it will never happen. And if it does, they will provide some assistance in cleaning up the mess, but don't expect them to make it like it never happened. You'll have to decide if that's worth the $10 to $49 a month that may cost.

Do you have something to say about identity theft? Have you had an incident that was successfully resolved by an identity theft protection provider? Post your comment or question below…

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Most recent comments on "Will LifeLock Save Your Bacon?"

Posted by:

18 May 2021

Do you use NortonLifeLock or one of its competitors? If not, how do you protect yourself from ransomeware?

Posted by:

18 May 2021

One thing I do is keep credit files at Equifax, Trans Union, Experian and Innovis frozen (not simply locked.) It’s really not a big deal at all to unfreeze if I want to apply for credit. It only takes a few minutes to unfreeze/refreeze. And, it helps to ensure that new credit can’t be open in my name by someone else.

I also review my credit files regularly. AnnualCreditReport.com usually gives you one freebie per “big three” bureau per year. During Covid-19, they’ve been offering them weekly, though. There are several other services that also provide credit file details, some at no cost, including some banks.

Posted by:

Ernest N. Wilcox Jr.
18 May 2021

I am a retiree so my situation may be simpler than most. I have frozen my credit with all the credit services I could find (thank you Bob for the article I used to find most of them).

There is nothing I can do to prevent some miscreant from using my ID during the commission of a crime other than to provide proof that I could not have been the person who committed the crime by verifying my location at the time of the crime or (hopefully) by not fitting the description of the suspect (if one was provided by witnesses or security video).

I an old and have difficulty walking very far so the likelihood that I would be physically capable o committing many crimes may also work in my favor. In the end, all I can hope for is that our legal system works when/if this ever happens to me.



Posted by:

18 May 2021

You do not have to prove it WASN'T you.
They have to prove that it WAS you.

Posted by:

Reg Whitworth
18 May 2021

They only have to prove it WAS you in court. A lot of damage has been done to a lot of people who were accused but not guilty by the media, government agencies and others without one shred of evidence the accused had done anything wrong at all! Look up Richard Jewell who was hounded to death for the Atlanta Olympics bombing when he was actually the hero who saved many people that day.

Posted by:

18 May 2021

I subscribed to Lifelock for three years and eventually quit because it just did not work. In the three years I had my social security benefits account scammed twice and independently had two incidents of credit card fraud (different cards). In these four incidents, Lifelock was totally unaware of anything amiss. The credit card issuers caught and blocked the unauthorized transactions using their algorithms. The social security benefits events were discovered when my bank sent me confirmatory letters of the (fraudulent) changes of my direct deposit agreements. A trip to my local SS office was needed to straighten things out. Lifelock was oblivious to all this.

Posted by:

18 May 2021

Sale of Cabin. When I sold my cabin in the local mountains, I received a letter from the District Attorney's office wanting to know if I had actually sold it, and not some imposter. (In Southern California, 70 miles east of L.A., our local DA and law enforcement protects us. They are not "woke" in this part of California. Thank God!

Fraud. When I subscribed to Country Living magazine and never received it, I called customer service. I was advised that an individual in Mexico was receiving my magazines. The man in Customer Service told me that he knew of a company who could make certain this individual could not get access to my computer again. That he would "fix" the problem. Later, the individual in Las Vegas told me that he had resolved the problem, and wanted me to mail him a check in the amount of $700. I never sent him a a check. He called me demanding the $$. So I asked him to email me an invoice, including his name, which he did. He phoned me a few days later demanding payment. I advised him that I would report him to the District Attorney if he ever called again. That was the last time I heard from him.

Bank of America monitors my account and has notified me on several occasions about suspicious activity. B of A reverses the charges if I identify that they were not mine.

Ransomware. My computer system was attacked by Ransomware a couple of years ago. They destroyed all my art (I'm an artist) that was saved. In infected all my files. I had to get a new computer. I NO LONGER OPEN ANY EMAILS UNLESS I KNOW THE INDIVIDUAL, OR COMPANY WHERE I DO BUSINESS.

It's a dangerous world out there!

Posted by:

Emil Booth
18 May 2021

After using LifeLock for several years following the Experian hack, I discontinued it. Last year, 2 different credit cards were hacked after online purchases. One bank notified me immediately. The other one, I caught. I have my credit reports frozen. I check my bank accounts almost daily. Lifelock turned out to be an unnecessary service. All it did was provide some extra assurance for a few years following the Experian hack.

Posted by:

Brian B
18 May 2021

Is there any legal recourse against these entities who either give away your personal information without your knowledge, or have insufficient cyber security in place? To my mind, both these circumstances are either culpable negligence, or fraud.

Posted by:

19 May 2021

Repairing the damage done by identity theft is a years-long, painful, and expensive process. Some things that you never did may remain on your record forever. In one case, a sex offender used another man's identity, and the innocent man was told by authorities that his name can NEVER be removed from databases of sex offenders.
Scammers are the scum of the earth but if the government agency can't or won't or does not care
to remove your name from the register of the Sex offenders, then they are not much better than the scammer themselves.

Posted by:

19 May 2021

As Bob noted, the Lifelock legal agreement is long and complex. I asked them a simple question--if someone managed to get into a bank account and withdraw funds, would lifelock replace the funds? Lifelock refused to answer and instead sent me their 11,000 word terms of service. That ended my consideration of lifelock--that I could not get a simple answer to a simple question. Now, I use virtual credit card numbers online or on the phone. These are only good at that merchant and I can set the dollar and time limit for the transaction. If someone steals it, it is useless. I also have frozen all of my credit accounts.

Posted by:

19 May 2021

Bob, thanks. This is another great article to live by.

Posted by:

19 May 2021

I had LifeLock for a number of years. I applied for credit to make a purchase. I heard nary a peep from LifeLock, but my free app CreditKarma immediately alerted me that someone had applied for credit in my name.
I called LifeLock and asked for an explanation. Two people I talked with were unable to explain why they did not catch the credit application.
I have since frozen my credit files.

Posted by:

22 May 2021

Thank you for all that you do to keep us abreast of internet spoofs with big personal/financial consequences.
If LifeLock elixir is just a bottle of placebo, as you discuss; then, what would be a working prescription for 'baconitis'?

Posted by:

07 Apr 2022

I use LegalShield's IDShield. Have so for last 20 plus years. It covers you and spouse plus 8 kids under 18. Have you checked your kids SS#? You would be surprised the number of kids that have their credit comprised. 3 bureaus, 1 mill coverage less than $35 a month. Liked it so much I became an Independent associate. www.accesstothis.com
They been voted best coverage for last couple of years.

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