Way back in May 2008, we reviewed LifeLock, and a lot has happened with the company since then. LifeLock was sued by the FTC for false advertising, and settled to the tune of $12 million. It named Tom Ridge, former U.S. Homeland Security chief, to its Board of Directors. And it’s changed the identity protection services that it offers. So we thought it was time for another look at this controversial service. But first, a bit of background on identity theft.
Identity theft has been around a lot longer than you might think. Well before the invention of the Internet, identity theft was committed by assuming the identity of the deceased. These days, identity theft has become a lot less morbid, but with thousands of new cases reported everyday, the problem is getting worse. The Federal Trade Commission has an entire website devoted to identity theft and words like “victim” and “criminal” are used to describe every case filed, just like when any other law is broken.
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (Identity Theft Act) states that ID theft has occurred when one knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law. The act further states, “violations of the Act are investigated by federal investigative agencies such as the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
To help in the aid of catching those who commit identity theft, the US government created something called the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN). The CSN is a massive secure online database of consumer complaints that is available only to law enforcement. Since CSN’s inception in 1997, 7.2 million complaints have rolled in and in 2008 alone, over 1.2 million were received. 52% were fraud complaints, 26% identity theft complaints and 22% were tagged as other.
So now that you have a little bit of background under you’re belt, let’s return to LifeLock.
LifeLock is a Tempe, Arizona-based identity theft protection service that began in 2005. LifeLock keeps tabs on whether anyone is pretending to be you or spending your money without consent. We all know people who have been stricken by an identity thief and the stories are ugly. I, myself, was hit way back in 1990 when I learned that someone bought about $500 worth of stereo equipment using my credit card number. Fortunately, my credit card company called me before it got too bad and assumed full responsibility for the errant purchases.
LifeLock is an interesting name for the service given that the idea originated in a jail cell by Robert J. Maynard, Jr., one of the company’s co-founders. Maynard had an unpaid $16,000 casino marker from the Mirage that landed him in the Maricopa County slammer for several days in 2003. He thought of the idea during this “stay” and the company has stuck with it till this day.
LifeLock has evolved from a one trick pony a few years ago into a company that provides different solutions for people with different problems. They currently have two standard membership plans with different protections.
LIFELOCK BASIC – $10.00 / month
The basic LifeLock membership, is made up of a few core services that any individual can do on their own for free. Just like many other services, you’re paying for the convenience of not having to remember to do it yourself.
The first core service, known as LifeLock Identity Alert System, contacts the three major credit bureaus to order and review your credit reports. This of course can be done for free at annualcreditreport.com. The second involves contacting direct mail opt-out organizations on your behalf to reduce unwanted mail which can expose your critical information to “dumpster divers” who root through discarded mail, looking for vital info in order to gain access to your accounts.
Other LifeLock basic membership features include:
- eRecon, which searches the Web for the illegal selling or trading of your personal information
- TrueAddress, which proactively detects any new address information in address databases nationwide
- 24-hour Member Service
- WalletLock, which helps you cancel and replace your wallet if it goes missing
LIFELOCK COMMAND CENTER – $15.00 / month
For the additional $5 per month, you can upgrade to the LifeLock Command Center membership which includes all the above benefits, plus:
- LifeLock Personal Breach Detection Services, which actively monitors unregulated internet and file-sharing networks
- Payday Loan Alerts and Reports, which notify you of any payday loan activity with your name, date of birth and SSN
- Sex Offender Registry Alerts and Reports based on your ZIP code
- Public Records Alerts and Reports, which lists postal addresses associated with your identity found in public records
- Alias Records and Reports, which lists alternative names associated with other pieces of your identity (i.e. SSN and driver’s license) found in public records
- Court Records Alerts and Reports, which lists court records that match your name and date of birth from county courts, Departments of Corrections, etc
It seems with every day that passes, I see hundreds of LifeLock advertisements, either informing me of a regular Joe who’s had his identity stolen or giving me Todd Davis’ (LifeLock CEO) social security number and saying “I dare you.” LifeLock has done a great job in getting their brand out to the American public and you would be hard-pressed to find anyone that hasn’t heard of them. But does that make them a worth-while service?
The answer to that question will of course vary from person to person. If you believe you are at significant risk of identity theft, then the LifeLock service will probably be of more value to you. And the fact that the monthly fee is relatively low doesn’t hurt. While the LifeLock $1,000,000 guarantee is a benefit, it is of limited value. Some mistakenly believe that it covers you if your identity is stolen while you are a member of LifeLock, but that’s not the case. Rather, it covers you if you become a victim of identity theft while you are a LifeLock member because of some failure or defect in LifeLock’s service. If LifeLock does its job and you become an ID theft victim anyway, the guarantee doesn’t cover you.
If you have used LifeLock, we’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment letting us know what you thought of the service.