You evolve or you die as a business and Lifelock’s identity protection services have certainly come a long way from CEO Todd Davis publicly revealing his social security number and then daring identity thieves to steal his identity back in 2007. Something that identity thieves managed to do 13 times despite Lifelock’s protection according to a wired article in 2010.
But despite the interesting history of Lifelock, the truth is Lifelock is the industry leader and identity theft simply isn’t going away. In fact, it’s getting worse.
Why? Data breaches.
There were over 781 data breaches reported in 2015 and even the IRS reported a theft of over 334,000 records in the summer of 2015. Your information is out there and the identity theft protection industry has evolved to focus on early detection to minimize damage rather than prevention which is virtually impossible.
And Lifelock has evolved their services to match this trend. Lifelock currently offers three levels of protection: Lifelock Standard™, Lifelock Advantage™ and Lifelock Ultimate Plus™ as well as a plan for minors called Lifelock Junior™.
So which protection plan is right for you and how much of this protection is actually worth it?
Lifelock Standard is Lifelock’s entry level plan and built around their Identity Alert System. Actionable alerts are sent in near real time as Lifelock detects the use of your Social Security number, name, address or other personal information in credit applications and services within their network.
Lifelock claims to monitor billions of data points, including credit applications, wireless services, retail credit, mortgages, auto and payday loans. If the system detects anything, you’ll be notified by email or text to verify the activity.
Lifelock is on the right track here and the only issue is Identity Alert currently does not cover every transaction. When pressed for what percentage of transactions the system does cover, Lifelock would not reveal that information. However when we tested the system and filled out an application for a car loan and a mobile phone, we were alerted within about 30 minutes to the activity.
I’m sure that Identity Alerts will continue to evolve and while in the past we had issue with their lack of credit monitoring options, this is evolving into a robust alternative.
In addition to the Identity Alert System, you also receive the $1 Million Total Service Guarantee which is not to be confused with an insurance policy to make you “whole” in the case of theft but only that Lifelock will spend up to $1 million to hire the necessary lawyers, accountants and investigators to help your recovery. While I won’t say a policy like this is worthless, I’ll leave it up to you to think how hiring attorneys and accountants might be required.
The Lost Funds Reimbursement feature is in my opinion, far more of a valuable feature. LifeLock will reimburse you for lost funds up to $25,000. This includes everything from fraudulent bank and investment account withdrawals to tax returns filed in your name.
The other features such as reducing pre-approved credit card offers, lost wallet protection, black market surveillance and address change verification are really of marginal value. They’re nice to have but certainly not critical to your protection. Some of you may be wondering why I’m discounting “Black Market Website Surveillance”. Lifelock claims to monitor over 10,000 criminal websites but if it was that easy, trafficking in stolen identities would be much harder. The fact is, market places on the dark web are notoriously hard to pin down and data is rarely published on sites, they’re transacted via encrypted transactions cursory scans are unlikely to find.
Lifelock Standard is competitively priced at under $10/month but what you’re really getting is Lifelock scanning a portion of all available transactions for your information and a $25,000 insurance policy. Since Lifelock is continuing to evolve this service and the fact that when your identity is comprised, thieves aren’t shy in trying to maximize the return on their endeavors, there’s a very good chance Lifelock will detect and stop the fraudulent use of your information. There’s no credit score or report monitoring but for an entry level service, this is hard to beat.
Lifelock Advantage gives you everything Lifelock Standard does and then adds public records scanning, financial account monitoring and annual credit reports and score with one ,major credit bureau (TransUnion).
It’s worth examining the additional features here individually since some provide real value and others may sound appealing but upon deeper analysis, may be of questionable value.
Fictitious Identity Monitoring and Court Records Scanning are two upgraded features that look for your information outside of your credit report and the transactions monitored by the Identity Alert System. It broadens Lifelock’s watch into public records which can offer consumers peace of mind.
The online credit card, checking and savings account activity alerts is a feature I find of dubious value since it involves adding your account login credentials into a Lifelock dashboard. Now if Lifelock is going to be your financial hub then it makes sense but simplified financial account management is a crowded space with deep pocketed competitors. In my opinion, there are too many other tools that can do this better and that’s also if managing the accounts independently is a burden, something the advent of smartphones and apps have made extremely easy to do. So in my opinion this feature may sound good on a marketing piece but real life utility is questionable.
Data Breach Notification is another feature that sounds good but upon closer examination is of little real value. Lifelock simply monitors the news and sends you alerts of data breaches. You can accomplish the exact same thing for free by setting up a google alert.
And the final added feature is the annual credit report and score from TransUnion. Considering that federal law entitles everyone to an annual credit report for free at all three credit bureaus, the credit report is of little or no value but the credit score is helpful. Unfortuantely services like creditkarma.com gives you your score for free so at best, this feature can help you save a little time requesting these things.
Verdict: A lot of fluff and at this price, plenty of alternatives
The added benefit of public records scanning is helpful and coupled with Identity Alerts, can offer consumers expanded protection but may not be worth the price. In this price range, services like TrustedID’s IDEssentials offers far better value.