Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Doughroller. Commissions do not affect our authors’ or editors’ opinions or evaluations. Learn more here.
In a world where identity theft seems pandemic, spending between $10 and $20 a month might seem like good insurance against the nightmare that is identity theft. However, like with most products, it’s important to know exactly what you’re buying. Even more importantly, you need to be aware of the fine print. The last thing you want to do is pay to feel safe only to find out your service has let you down.
LifeLock is an identity theft protection service that offers a mountain of perks for a small monthly fee. We’re going to dive into the pros and cons and figure out is LifeLock worth it or not.
What Is LifeLock?
LifeLock offers identity theft protection services. Their company boasts that it will:
- Scan a trillion data points a day for threats
- Alert you to credit bureau inquiries
- If you become a victim of identity theft, LifeLock helps protect you with the Million Dollar Protection Package. This includes reimbursement for stolen funds and coverage for personal expenses each with limits of up to $1 million dollars.
I want to break down LifeLock’s main features and explain why they are important (and why some, you can live without). The review will also include my personal experience helping a 90-year-old relative deal with LifeLock after she lost her wallet.
LifeLocks Main Features
LifeLock boasts a number of services to its customers, all geared toward helping your identity and your credit.
Credit Report Monitoring
Like other credit monitoring services, LifeLock will alert you to credit inquiries from the 3 major credit bureaus. In order to take advantage of this service, you have to select the $34.99 / month plan. With the initial discount + paying the cost at an annual rate, LifeLock will bring the cost down to $19.99 / month.
If someone (other than you) applies for a car loan in your name, a notification is certainly valuable. LifeLock also offers two lower-tier plan options, and each of those will alert you to an update from only a single credit bureau. Still might do the job but I will admit in keeping a close eye on my credit over the years, some credit bureaus simply don’t have all the information. The best picture is when you look at all three.
Rather than being notified AFTER a cyber crook used your credit report to obtain credit, I’d prefer to block the request in the first place. The single most important thing you can do to prevent this is to lock down your credit files with a Security Freeze.
Dark Web Surveillance
An interesting, and more unique-sounding, feature is dark web surveillance.
It turns out there are huge underground networks where cybercriminals buy and sell stolen personal information. This information might include your name, birth date, social security number, website user IDs, and passwords.
At face value, being notified if your information is found on dark web databases sounds great. Upon further reflection, though, it might not be as actionable as you think.
For example, what would you do if your social security number is out there on the dark web? Would you change it? Probably not. You might be advised to apply a security freeze to your credit files. Of course, this is something you should do even if your information wasn’t found on the dark web.
Likewise, what if LifeLock alerts you that your email address or date of birth was found in a dark web criminal database? There’s really not a lot that you will (or can) do with that information.
A practical and free suggestion to minimize your vulnerability is to not use the same password on multiple websites… especially financial sites.
Lost Wallet Protection
LifeLock offers what they call lost wallet protection. However, upon further investigation, it’s not really protection at all. In fact, they really can’t do much more than advise you to cancel your credit cards and order new identification.
Despite claims made by their sales department when I called to research this article, I found their lost wallet service to be mostly useless. When I grilled the sales rep, it quickly became apparent that LifeLock cannot order replacement cards on your behalf. There is no power-of-attorney relationship between you and LifeLock. Ultimately, it really is your responsibility to deal with everything.
USPS Address Change Verification
This feature aims to alert you if a cyber criminal changes your address at your financial institution.
This is another feature that I think sounds great but really doesn’t deliver. In order to use it, you have to provide LifeLock with your usernames and passwords to your financial accounts. Somewhat ironic IMHO to provide someone you don’t know with that information to keep your identity secure.
Credit Card, Checking, and Savings Account Activity Alerts
Like a budgeting app (think Mint.com), LifeLock offers transactional detail in your everyday spending and saving. After connecting your financial accounts, LifeLock can be your central hub in figuring out how much you’re spending, and where.
The purpose of this is to keep an eye on your transactions to make sure everything has been authorized by you. That said, there are a lot of budgeting tools you can use that do this very thing + offers advice on how to do a better job with your spending. It’s a nice perk, but not one of the core reasons why LifeLock is valuable.
Reimbursement for Stolen Funds
Depending on the plan, LifeLock offers between $25,000 to $1,000,000 in reimbursement for stolen funds.
- Standard plan offers up to $25,000 in reimbursement
- Advantage plan offers up to $50,000 in reimbursement
- Ultimate Plus plan offers up to $1 million in reimbursement
Many times, the accounts you own will have reimbursement opportunities of their own, so you may consider LifeLock’s somewhat supplemental.
Alerts for Crimes Committed in Your Name
A 2013 movie starring Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy titled “Identity Thief” touches on this very service. Should your identity be stolen and someone commits a crime using it, you will be alerted of the infraction and can take steps to clear your name.
Having identity restoration specialists working on your behalf does sound helpful. Again, however, I would venture to guess the number of times this has happened is extremely low (so another cool service that is unlikely to be very useful)
Data Breach Notifications
Whenever there is a data breach, you’ll receive a notification from LifeLock whether you have an account with that company or not. Considering the number of breaches that have been happening as of late, this service could provide more stress than is necessary.
Still, it’s a good idea to stay on top of where your data may be compromised and you should spend a minute in making sure you don’t have anything to worry about when you receive these emails.
Court Records Scanning
The Advantage and Ultimate Plus plans will check court records for matches of your name and date of birth to criminal activity. No one wants to be pulled over for speeding, only to find they have arrest warrants out in their name.
As I’ve said a few times before, the likelihood of this happening is extremely rare but it’s simply another checkbox as to the services offered from LifeLock.
Is LifeLock Better Than Simple Credit Monitoring?
If you were inclined to pay $20/month for basic credit monitoring from a company like Experian, for example, then I’d say yes. Companies such as LifeLock offer many additional features for about the same price. But if you have a cheaper credit monitoring option, it may not be worth the extra spend.
Some Things You Can Do for Free
If you are not inclined to pay a couple hundred bucks a year, you can do some things yourself for free.
- As previously mentioned, secure your credit files with a Security Freeze
- Get your free annual credit report from the official, government-approved website, annualcreditreport.com
- Consider setting up transaction alerts for all your financial accounts (bank accounts, brokerage accounts, credit cards)
Here’s an example of how transactions alerts can be very helpful:
A friend of mine recently had her PC compromised by keystroke-logging malware. Cybercriminals got her Wells Fargo online banking credentials and logged in to her account. They took a $50,000 cash advance against her home’s equity line of credit, which was placed in her checking account. Then, they transferred the $50,000 from her checking into their own account.
Had she set up transaction alert emails on all her accounts, this crime would have been thwarted from the first step.
LifeLock Customer Service Complaint
A few months ago, a 90-year-old relative of mine lost her wallet. Since she was a LifeLock member, she immediately called them expecting assistance.
Her experience was subpar. She waited on hold for over an hour. When she finally got through, she was told an identity restoration specialist would call her tomorrow. When she didn’t get the call, she called back. After another very lengthy hold, she was told someone would call her back later that day. When that didn’t happen, she called back and canceled the service.
Fortunately, she didn’t wait for LifeLock to take action. She canceled her credit cards, and I assisted in getting her replacement IDs. I set her up with a security freeze on her credit files, something that the first-in-line LifeLock representative didn’t suggest.
Knowing which cards were in the wallet was a snap. I had previously taken a photo (front & back) of every card she carried, just in case, she lost her wallet. This came in real handy when it was time to report them missing.
Luckily, she had someone (me) to help her with all of these steps. For all we knew, her wallet was in bad hands, and her accounts could have been compromised. Some folks, though — especially those in the older generations — may not have someone nearby to assist them.
Make sure that the company you’re paying a monthly fee to will be there when you need them!
LifeLock’s Troubled History
In 2010, LifeLock was ordered to pay $12MM as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC charged LifeLock with making deceptive claims about its identity theft protection service and for allegedly misleading advertising practices. Then, in 2015, it agreed to pay a $100 million fine for violating that 2010 order.
While they have since made changes to their company policies and brought in new management, some customers are once bitten, twice shy when it comes to the service.
So is LifeLock Worth it?
Whether or not you find LifeLock worth the cost largely depends on how hands-on you choose to be in monitoring your credit and identity. If you’re hands-off, this service can do a lot to ensure you know whether or not your identity is safe. But it can’t do everything and while it has a lot of features, there’s also a lot to be desired.
Either way, though, I urge you to always read the company policies and call before signing up to ask as many questions as you can.
There are plenty of loopholes that can get easily hidden in the fine print. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of that while also trying to deal with an unfortunate identity theft situation.
Use a VPN to Increase Your Privacy
Are you worried about your privacy?
ExpressVPN is the world’s most trusted VPN service. They provide a secure and private way to access the internet without censorship or restrictions. Their software protects you from cyber threats, hides your IP address, and encrypts all of your data so that no one can see it – not even us! As a result, you’ll be able to surf the web anonymously with unlimited bandwidth on any device. And because they have servers in 94 countries, you’ll always find a fast connection wherever you are in the world.
You can get started with their 30-day money-back guarantee right away. In addition, all plans come with 24/7 customer support for setup help and troubleshooting. With ExpressVPN installed on all of your devices, you’ll be able to connect five at once, perfect for families who want their whole family protected online. Plus, enjoy ultra-fast speeds for better video quality when streaming movies or TV shows online.
NordVPN is another option to consider with a reputation for providing fast and secure service, all at an affordable price.
Starting at $3.49/month, NordVPN is one of the best VPN deals you’ll find. The price may be low, but you’re not giving up anything in regard to features. You can expect the following (plus more):
- No-log policy
- Dedicated IP
- Industry-leading speed for uninterrupted streaming
- Mobile compatibility
- One account can be used for up to six devices
When you combine a 30-day money-back guarantee with no hidden fees, there’s no risk in giving NordVPN a try.
For me personally, I decided to forego any protection services and whenever I’m anxious about my identity, I apply a security freeze on my credit bureau files. I’ve also set up free transaction alerts for all my financial accounts, so I keep a daily eye on my money, just through my email and by using Mint.com.
How are you protecting yourself from identity theft? Have you been happy with your services thus far?
Read More: Best Identity Theft Protection Services