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Updated on Monday, November 16, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.