Identity Theft Protection
A shocking amount of information about us can be found online. Everyone needs protection for their personal information. Here are our top identity theft protection services.
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LifeLock has come a long way since the days when it was subject to multiple Federal Trade Commission investigations (settled in 2015) and various lawsuits from customers and credit reporting agencies. In 2017, it became a subsidiary of Symantec, purchased for $2.3 billion.
You may recall the ads where LifeLock's founder posted his Social Security number everywhere, as a statement in his confidence about LifeLock's protection services. While he did experience numerous instances of identity theft based on those Social Security number postings, LifeLock's services helped him recover.
The company offers a wide range of protection services, including stolen wallet protection, ID verification monitoring, home title monitoring and checking/savings account application alerts.
LifeLock's protection services range from $8.99 a month to $25.99 a month the first year. Terms apply. Reimbursement of $25,000 to $1 million is available, depending on the monitoring plan. The lower-priced protection services monitor credit only from one credit bureau. The $25.99-a-month plan monitors all three major credit bureaus. You can pull credit reports once a year, but the service will provide you with a credit score monthly, based on Experian data.
SSN and credit alerts, dark web monitoring, alerts on suspicious activity like crimes committed in your name and credit card activity and fraud alert services are all marks in LifeLock's favor, despite its past stumbles.
Base price: $107.88 a year or $8.99 a month after 25% discount.
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IdentityForce offers two tiers of service: UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit, the latter of which includes credit reports and scores. We liked how the credit score monitoring not only watches all three reporting agencies but provides a visual tracker that lets you examine your credit rating over time.
IdentityForce monitors quite a lot beyond credit information. It checks for public information record changes, address changes, court and arrest records, payday loan applications, and checks for identity information on a variety of illicit identity-sharing websites to act as a guard dog from identity thieves. The company also monitors sex offender registries to see if your name is associated with such things. We also like that it tracks SSNs for new usages or associations with new names.
Its mobile app has been updated with a feature called Mobile Attack Control. This monitors your smartphone for spyware, insecure Wi-Fi locations, as well as “spoof” networks (networks that act as if they're legitimate connections, but they're not). Additionally, the phone app will present alerts if there are security issues monitored by IdentityForce that need immediate attention.
The company did not disclose frequency of service monitoring (beyond credit reporting agencies). That said, we liked how the company has an interesting credit score simulator which can help you understand how different balances, payments and balance transfers might have an impact on your credit score. IdentityForce offers a 14-day free trial version.
Right now, the UltraSecure program is $100 per year ($9.99 per month, with two free months). UltraSecure+Credit for individuals is usually $287.88 per year ($23.99 per month).
Base price: $100 a year or $9.99 a month.
3. Identity Guard
The big pitch for Identity Guard is that it utilizes IBM's Watson. Earlier versions of Watson have done everything from winning at “Jeopardy” to helping doctors diagnose cancer. The version of Watson powering Identity Guard is, as you'd expect, focused on identity theft.
Identity Guard's use of Watson involves building a corpus of knowledge and continuing to feed it information from many different sources, including social networks. There's no doubt the Watson-enabled service can help advise you on identity management. Its service monitors the customer's personal information, including their credit files, DOB and SSN.
Identity Guard offers a clear summary of its insurance terms. The company offers a basic plan at $80-a-year, but it provides no credit monitoring. If you want monthly credit report updates, that jumps to $159.96 a year and includes credit monitoring from three credit bureaus and a monthly credit score. Its most comprehensive plan is the Identity Guard Premier plan, which costs $200.04 a year and includes annual credit reports.
4. Complete ID
Complete ID is a service provided by Experian, one of the big three credit reporting agencies. The service has a special deal with Costco: Costco Executive members pay $8.99 a month plus and an optional $2.99 a month for child protection. Gold Star Costco members pay $13.99 a month and an optional $3.99 a month for child protection. Non-Costco members pay $19.99 a month.
Complete ID provides an annual credit report from the three agencies. It also offers monthly credit scores and provides a nice graph over time so you can see how your score has improved.
The service offers monitoring for unauthorized use of your Social Security number and other non-credit identity monitoring. A valuable feature is its neighborhood watch, updated monthly, which provides details on sexual predators and crimes in your area.
As with all of the services we're spotlighting, Complete ID offers $1 million in limited identity theft insurance. And unlike some of the competitors listed here, it has a clear summary of benefits. Base price (non-Costco members): $239.88 a year.
Base price (for Costco members): $107.88 a year.
5. ID Watchdog
ID Watchdog describes its service as “True Identity Protection.” The company's big differentiator is helping you recover after you've been the victim of an identity theft experience. It offers a guarantee of “100% identity theft resolution,” but the fine print introduces some notable limits.
First, the company will only help you if it detects a new incident of fraud while you're an active customer. It doesn't guarantee you'll get back any money you lost, but it will provide access to its team of “Certified Identity Theft Risk Management Specialists (CITRMS).”
Like all the other commercial identity monitoring services we've profiled in this directory, ID Watchdog offers a $1 million identity theft insurance policy. But that policy's exact terms, limits and benefits aren't spelled out until you complete the signup process.
The base program doesn't provide a credit report or credit score information, but if you sign up for the premium $219-per-year service, you can get a copy of your credit report and your credit score. The catch? You get that report once a year. You can already do that yourself, for free, by going to annualcreditreport.com.
While the company says that it provides monitoring services, it does not specify, anywhere in its terms and conditions, how often it performs checks for each type of service it monitors.
Base price: $164 a year or $14.95 a month.
(sources: usnews.com, cnet.com)