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Identity Theft Protection, Reviews

Review: LifeLock Identity Theft Protection

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

Pickpocketing at the subway station

LifeLock is one of the better-known identity theft protection companies out there, serving over 4 million customers. CEO Todd Davis is infamously known for advertising his Social Security number to the public, claiming that LifeLock would protect him, and then subsequently having his identity stolen 13 times.

With identity theft and the number of companies offering protection services on the rise, it’s natural to look into possible solutions. Having your identity stolen is not a simple matter and can be a harrowing process to go through. Although no company (or person) can completely prevent identity theft from happening, it’s worthwhile to look into the preventative measures you can take.

LifeLock has been around since 2005 and focuses primarily on protecting consumers against identity theft and fraud. Let’s take a look at what it offers.

Overview of LifeLock’s Identity Theft Protection

LifeLock is built upon three layers: detect, alert, and restore.

According to its website, LifeLock monitors over one trillion data points every day using its own technology to ensure your personal information isn’t being used by someone else. Depending on the plan you enroll in, LifeLock can also monitor your other financial accounts.

If LifeLock detects any suspicious activity, you’ll receive an alert via email, text, or phone asking whether or not you’ve taken a certain action with your information or accounts. In the event you did not take that action, Lifelock has a U.S. based support system that works around the clock to assist you in preventing fraud.

Should your identity or accounts get compromised, LifeLock representatives will work with you to restore your identity. You’re protected under a $1 million “total service guarantee” which means you won’t incur out-of-pocket expenses (such as hiring a lawyer, going to court, lost wages, or replacing documents) during the restoration process.

To expand on that, here’s a list of benefits LifeLock offers under the service guarantee. It largely serves to cover costs incurred as a direct result of identity theft. Contrary to what most people believe, the purpose of this guarantee isn’t to cover stolen funds if a thief uses your accounts or credit cards to make purchases.

LifeLock states it’s willing to pay $1 million toward the cost of getting your identity restored by hiring professionals, but that the $1 million total service guarantee is not considered insurance. If you look at the benefits offered, the only mention of covering stolen funds is the coverage of “Fraudulent Withdrawals.” LifeLock will cover up to $10,000 – $25,000 (depending on the level of service you choose) of “fraudulent withdrawals resulting from any one Stolen Identity Event.” That’s very different from purchasing a $1 million insurance policy in the event $1 million worth of funds are stolen from you.

Here are some of the services LifeLock offers:

  • Lost wallet protection: If your wallet is lost or stolen, LifeLock will help you cancel or replace credit cards and any form of identification you had on you.
  • Address change alerts: If a change of address request is made in your name, you’ll be notified.
  • Decrease in pre-approved credit card offers: LifeLock will get your name taken off the mailing lists for pre-approved credit cards.
  • Identity restoration: Representatives are available at any time should your identity be stolen.
  • Court records scanning: This ensures your identity isn’t associated with any crimes you didn’t commit.
  • Monitoring financial accounts: LifeLock can monitor your credit card, checking, savings, investment, and retirement accounts for suspicious activity.

As you might notice, many of these services are offered for free – you can do them yourself, or your credit card or bank will help you resolve any issues should they arise.

For example, LifeLock offers to send you credit reports from the three major bureaus, which you can obtain for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.

The main thing to focus on is the identity restoration service, as that’s what you’ll be paying for if your information is compromised.

How it Works

Signing up for service through LifeLock takes a few minutes via the website. You’ll need your Social Security number, credit card information, and personal information to register. Keep in mind that when you register, LifeLock will only be monitoring your information. Your spouse and children aren’t included – separate plans must be purchased for each individual.

LifeLock sends alerts via email, text, and phone. Email and text are likely to be the quickest, as phone alerts only occur during normal business hours. Besides, if you don’t normally answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize, an alert may go missed.

Once you receive an alert, you can respond to it via email, text, or your online account, and view the full report associated with it. If action needs to be taken, you can contact a representative immediately.

[Worth It Or Not? Identity Theft Protection Reviewed]

How Much Does it Cost?

There are three types of plans offered:

  • Standard: $9.99 per month, or $109.89 annually ($9.16 per month). This includes the alert system, lost wallet protection, address change verification, receiving less pre-approved credit card offers, dark web surveillance, 24/7/365 access to support, and a $1 million total service guarantee.
  • Advantage: $19.99 per month, or $219.89 annually ($18.32 per month). This comes with everything the Standard plan has, plus fictitious identity monitoring, court records scanning, data breach notifications, credit card, checking, and savings account activity alerts, and an online credit report from one bureau.
  • Ultimate Plus: $29.99 per month, or $329.89 annually ($27.49 per month). In addition to the above, the Ultimate Plus plan gives you access to your credit report from all three bureaus, investment account activity alerts, alerts when someone applies for a checking or savings account in your name, a bank account takeover alert, credit inquiry activity, sex offender registry reports, and more.

It’s worth noting that LifeLock doesn’t provide alerts for all transactions, and it can change which types of transactions it monitors at any time. That’s why we recommend signing up for alerts via your bank and credit card accounts.

For credit activity, you can sign up with Credit Karma or Credit Sesame for free. Either company will provide you with alerts when a new inquiry is made.

Transparency Levels

LifeLock has not been known for its transparency over the years. In fact, the FTC took legal action against LifeLock in 2010, and is investigating the company again at the time of writing. The FTC claims that LifeLock has violated its 2010 order to tighten its security by:

1) failing to establish and maintain a comprehensive information security program to protect its users’ sensitive personal data, including credit card, social security, and bank account numbers; 2) falsely advertising that it protected consumers’ sensitive data with the same high-level safeguards as financial institutions; and 3) failing to meet the 2010 order’s recordkeeping requirements.

On its FAQ page, LifeLock only addresses this by stating:

LifeLock maintains a standards-based information security program that is designed to provide a high level of protection of member data. The security program includes the use of industry-standard encryption, active monitoring and response to potential attacks, pro-active assessments to discover and remediate potential system vulnerabilities and physical security mechanisms.

LifeLock is compliant as a Level 1 merchant under the PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard). PCI-DSS is a set of requirements that help protect cardholder data and is the accepted standard for all organizations that process credit card information.

However, LifeLock isn’t just an organization that processes credit card information. It handles extremely sensitive information, as it will be monitoring your financial accounts, and you’ll also be required to give your Social Security number over.

You can visit the website here to review all legal documents associated with LifeLock.

Other Alternatives

LifeLock is arguably a bit expensive for what it offers. Again, you’re mainly paying for the identity restoration service when enrolling in an identity theft protection program. You’re capable of setting up alerts on your other accounts and viewing your credit reports for free.

Zander is a great alternative because it’s slightly cheaper at $6.75 per month (or $75 annually). Family plans are $12.90 per month (or $145 annually), which aren’t offered with LifeLock. It’s a mostly no-frills identity protection service that comes with the basics. Alerts are only provided through email, and credit monitoring isn’t offered.

[Read our full Zander review here]

Prosper Daily(formerly BillGuard) is good solution if you’re looking for an app that does it all. In addition to monitoring your accounts and coming with identity restoration services, you can also track your spending. A basic account is free, a “Pro” account is $5 per month (or $35.88 annually), and the “Ultimate” account is $10 per month (or $83.88 annually).

Conclusion

LifeLock is one of the more expensive options out there, and with the ongoing investigation with the FTC and the lack of transparency offered by the company in the past, it’s not our top recommendation. You’re much better off choosing a less expensive identity theft protection service like Zander, while signing up for free alerts where you can.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Erin Millard
Erin Millard |

Erin Millard is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Erin at [email protected]

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Credit Cards, Identity Theft Protection

When Banks Can Refuse to Refund Fraudulent Debit Card Charges

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

ATM

Typically, debit cards that are used as “credit” are offered the same protections as credit cards. This means that if you use your debit card in a store and choose “credit” instead of entering your PIN number, you should receive the same protections as if you used an actual credit card. However, we do encourage you to double check the fine print your bank provides on this matter before assuming your debit card will receive those protections.

But here’s a scenario where your debit card is riskier than your credit card. If you withdrawal money at an ATM (or any store doing cash back) using your PIN number, you have additional risk. If someone steals your pin number with a skimming device at an ATM, then he has direct access to your money. This isn’t like credit card fraud with obnoxious charges you need to dispute. This is your hard-earned cash being taken directly out of your checking account. And if you aren’t careful, you might not be able to recoup your losses.

So, what can you expect if you are a victim of debit card fraud?

Timeline for Being Able to Get Your Money Back

If you are a victim of debit card fraud, you are responsible for the following:

  • $0 if you report the loss or fraud immediately and the card has not been used,
  • Up to $50 if you notify your bank within 48 hours of your lost or stolen card,
  • Up to $500 if you notify the bank with 48 hours and 60 days of your lost or stolen card, and
  • All of the fraudulent charges if you don’t notify the bank until after 60 days.

It’s important you don’t delay in reporting the fraud to your bank if you want to be able to get all of your money back. If you were the victim of theft because the crook skimmed your info and used your PIN, then you may be on the hook for the $50 because you couldn’t report to the bank before the card was used. You didn’t know it had happened until the strange transaction showed up!

It may seem unfair to be responsible for charges that you did not actually charge yourself, but to avoid that scenario and protect yourself, consider taking the following precautionary actions.

What You Can Do To Protect Yourself

To protect yourself against debit card fraud, you should do the following:

  • Only use an ATM inside a bank (this will lesson the likelihood that a scanner is on an ATM)
  • Cover your hand when you type your pin into an ATM (to protect yourself against any devices attached to the ATM from getting your PIN)
  • Set up text alerts for each transaction over $0.01 on your card. This way you’ll be immediately alerted if a bogus charge is made
  • Monitor your bank on a regular basis (so you can give notice of fraud immediately)
  • Report stolen funds immediately (so you’re not responsible for the charges)
  • Check-in annually with your bank as to the policies regarding debit card theft (know whether your debit card is specifically protected and to what extent)

While you can notify the bank by phone, it is best to get everything in writing. For purposes of the time requirement, notice is considered given when you put the letter in the mail. It’s even better if you send the mail certified. You can, of course, send notice by mail and call. Whatever you do, keep a record of your communications you have with the bank. This will put you in the best position if you have to escalate your problem.

Remember that if you take the actions listed above, you will be more protected than you otherwise would. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, like in the example above, you can still find yourself stuck with fraud charges that your bank won’t reverse. These specific steps will help you protect yourself, even when you’re not at fault. This is particularly important if you use your debit card frequently.

Don’t want to use a credit card? Learn how to survive with just debit cards here. 

Debit vs. Credit: How to Decide

Using a debit card forces you to keep your spending in check because you cannot spend more than you have in the bank. However, it may be riskier than using a credit card for the reasons described above. Discover, for example, now offers a Freeze It® on/off switch for your account. If you’re concerned because you’ve lost your card, you can temporarily freeze your account and Discover will not authorize new purchases, cash advances or balance transfers.

Discover it® Balance Transfer

Intro BT APR

0% for 18 months

Balance Transfer Fee

3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

Regular APR

13.49% - 24.49% Variable

APPLY NOW Secured

on Discover Bank’s secure website

Rates & Fees

If you’re not sure which is best for you, ask yourself what do you value more – your spending being limited or the additional protections from fraud. If you can control your spending, then you may be better off with a credit card. If you are a spender, however, then take the additional steps listed above to make sure you fully understand your specific liability in the event of debit card fraud. If you feel your bank is behaving unethically and should be refunding you, then reach out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to file a complaint.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Natalie Bacon
Natalie Bacon |

Natalie Bacon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Natalie at [email protected]

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Identity Theft Protection

How to Freeze a Credit Report After Someone Dies 

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

parent death_lg

Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy. While loss is a natural part of life and we may expect it, death often overwhelms us with shock, depression and confusion. Sadly, when you’re in this vulnerable state, there are identity thieves looking to prey on your dulled awareness. They do so by stealing the identity of the deceased and fraudulently opening credit card accounts, applying for loans and obtaining service contracts.

This concept, sometimes called “ghosting,” is a widespread problem. There hasn’t been a lot of research on the issue, but one study estimates the identities of approximately 2.5 million deceased Americans are used fraudulently each year. Of those, almost 800,000 are deliberately targeted cases.

Why it’s important to freeze someone’s credit after they die

Many identity thieves are practiced in using the dead’s information for their own financial gain. Criminals who deliberately target the departed know that it takes time for financial organizations and credit reporting agencies to process death notices and update their records, leaving open a window of opportunity for fraud.

Following the 2017 Equifax breach, people may be more aware of their credit situation than in the past. However, a survey taken shortly after the breach by CompareCards.com (which, like MagnifyMoney, is a subsidiary of LendingTree) shows that approximately 78% of people did not freeze their credit after the breach. People are largely aware of the negative impact that identity theft can have, but a large portion of the American population neglects to take the next steps necessary to protect themselves.

Luckily, the steps to take to protect your loved one’s identity are clear and relatively simple to follow.

How to report a death to the credit bureaus

The Social Security Administration (SSA) states that, in most cases, the funeral director will notify the administration of a person’s death. To ensure this, you must give the deceased’s Social Security number to the funeral director. From there, credit reporting agencies and lenders will be informed of the person’s passing, and they’ll automatically put a death notice or alert on their credit.

To expedite the process, it is suggested that loved ones who are close to the deceased (typically a spouse or child) take matters into their own hands to get a death notice placed on their departed family member’s credit reports at the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This will involve submitting a death certificate, and the Identity Theft Resource center recommends requesting 12 copies of the certificate for such purposes (some institutions may require an original, rather than a photocopy).

Carrie Kerskie, an identity theft expert and director of the Identity Fraud Institute at Hodges University, says you should contact the credit bureaus, but knowing the right verbiage is key. “Instead of requesting a freeze, one would request a death alert,” she said. “It is similar to a freeze, except a freeze could be lifted with a PIN. A death alert cannot.”

The easiest way to update that person’s credit account is to have a relative or executor send letters to each of the three credit national reporting agencies.

The writer should include the following information about the deceased in their letter:

  • Legal name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Date of death
  • Copy of death certificate or letters testamentary

They’ll also want to include:

  • The letter-writer or executor’s full name
  • Their address for sending final confirmation
  • Proof you’re the executor, if applicable

David Blumberg, director of public relations for TransUnion, said, “Our industry policy is that the receiving credit reporting company will notify the other two, so they can update their records as well.”

Still, to be safe, mail this information to each of the three credit reporting agencies. Their mailing addresses are:

TransUnion
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Experian
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013

Equifax
P.O. Box 105139
Atlanta, GA 30348-5139

Kerskie advises that people going through this process prepare to provide proof of relationship along with the death certificate they’re submitting. “This could be a marriage license or court papers,” she said.

What’s the fastest option?

When speed is of the essence in beating potential fraudsters, mailing is certainly not your fastest option. Experian offers a solution: Submit the death certificate and death notice request online by uploading the documents directly to its system. Once it receives the information, Experian will add the deceased indicator and permanently remove the person’s name from any future mailing lists for preapproved offers.

Equifax also offers two speedier options – email a copy of the death certificate to [email protected] or fax your records to (888) 826-0727. It should be noted that email isn’t a secure way to submit this personal information (especially in light of the fact that you’re working to prevent identity theft).

While TransUnion doesn’t have a streamlined online tool or fax offering, they do advise family members or executors to call (800) 680-7289 for more assistance. If you need any help requesting that a death alert be placed on a deceased’s account, your first action should be to contact the bureaus directly.

Other things to do besides reporting the death

Although going through the process of contacting credit reporting agencies may seem like a hassle, your to-do list doesn’t end here. In addition to notifying the credit bureaus of the death, you should also request a copy of the person’s credit report. The Identity Theft Resource Center provides a form you can use to request the reports. This will help you to better understand what accounts are open, and it can help you spot suspicious activity. Should you face the worst-case scenario and your loved one’s identity is stolen, this will also help you to prove any charges the thieves incur.

Additionally, while it’s common for funeral directors to assist you in reporting a loved one’s death to the Social Security Administration, it behooves you to ensure this has been done. The easiest way to contact the SSA is online, but you can also call them toll-free at (800) 772-1213 or at their TTY number, (800) 325-0778.

Other items for your list:

  • Be proactive and let the deceased’s various financial institutions and account holders know about their death. Reach out to banks, insurers, brokerages, lenders, mortgage companies and credit card companies by mailing them copies of the death certificate. Kerskie recommends sending these items by certified mail and requesting a return receipt to ensure the safety of the personal information you’re sending.
  • Limit the amount of personal information released to the public. Identity thieves often gain access through obituaries that list dates of birth, death, full legal names and addresses.
  • Consider changing the deceased’s address to forward to another loved one’s home or an executor’s place of business. Identity thieves sometimes steal personal information out of a deceased person’s mail box.
  • Don’t forget to file the deceased’s final tax return.

How to resolve identity theft of a deceased person

Resolving identity theft of a deceased person follows many of the same steps you would proactively take to prevent it: Request a copy of the credit reports from the three major credit bureaus, request a death notice on that person’s credit and notify creditors of the person’s death. If fraud has occurred, there’s an extra step: The Identity Theft Resource Center advises you to contact the police in the jurisdiction of the deceased with evidence of fraud. This might be a collection notice you’ve received on the deceased’s behalf, or a credit report showing fraudulent activity.

It’s important to remember that you should not be held accountable for fraudulent debt that’s racked up in the name of your deceased relative. While this may not provide any emotional consolation as you’re going through this process, it should help to relieve some of the money-related stress you’re experiencing.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Dave Grant
Dave Grant |

Dave Grant is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Dave at [email protected]