What are Identity Theft Protection Services and do they work?
Our lives revolve around the internet and the instant access to information. According to Internet Live Stats, approximately 88.5 percent of Americans currently use the internet. Even if you are in the minority, your personal identifying information may still be up in the cloud. With the invention of online merchandising, social media, and big data mining, most of your personal details are up in the cloud. Your name, your birthday, your social security number, your bank account numbers, your credit card numbers, your likes, your dislikes, your social identity—all of this information is stored and analyzed in massive data centers. Does this make you nervous? Despite the great strides in technology and cybersecurity over the past decade, headlines are frequently spouting news of the latest hack or security breach. Just last month, Equifax, one of the three credit bureaus housing our private, most sensitive information announced that it had experienced a security breach and some 143 million Americans had been compromised. The week following the Equifax breach, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced its Edgar system had also been hacked. In this day and age, and with the internet being such a central part of our lives, how can we protect ourselves from these cyber threats?
In a prior blog post, we introduced several tools, credit freezes and fraud alerts, that can be used to help mitigate identity theft, but are there more comprehensive tools out there that monitor all aspects of your financial security? Over the past several years, identity protection services have stepped in to fill this gap. Services such as Lifelock and IdentityForce have become household names over the past couple of years. What are these services and how do they work?
LifeLock is a full service identity theft protection service. This service uses proprietary technology to scan hundreds of millions transactions each second to see if someone is attempting apply for a loan in your name, open a new account in your name, sell your information on the dark web, make unauthorized address changes, etc. If there is any activity involving your information, LifeLock will send you a notification. If the activity was not initiated by you, LifeLock will begin working on your behalf. A dedicated identity theft specialist will be assigned to your case until the issue is resolved.
In addition to identity theft monitoring, LifeLock also offers a million dollar protection package. If your identity is stolen while being monitored, LifeLock will provide the necessary lawyers and experts needed to restore your identity, up to $1,000,000. In addition, if funds are stolen or you incur personal expenses due to identity theft, LifeLock will reimburse you (maximum reimbursement of $25,000 for the standard package to a maximum of $1,000,000 for the ultimate plus package).
LifeLock offers three identity protection plans, plus two supplemental add-on plans to protect children and elderly parents. Plans range from $9.99 per month for the standard plan to $29.99 per month for the ultimate plus plan.
IdentityForce is another leading identity theft protection service. In much the same way as LifeLock, IdentityForce uses proprietary technology to scan the web for fraudsters attempting to use your information 24/7. If IdentityForce identifies any warning signs that your identity has been compromised, you will be notified promptly. If the flagged activity was not initiated by you, the skilled professionals at IdentityForce will help you control the breach and restore your identity. If your identity is stolen while IdentityForce is monitoring, they offer a 100 percent identity recovery guarantee. Similar to LifeLock, you are covered by a $1,000,000 identity theft insurance policy (although, it is not quite as accommodating). IdentityForce’s policy only covers out-of-pocket expenses and lost wages due to identity theft; they do not provide the necessary lawyers and experts that may be needed, only reimbursement.
IdentityForce offers two identity protection plans, plus a supplemental add-on to protect children. Plans start at $17.95 per month for the UltraSecure plan to $23.95 per month for the UltraSecure+Credit plan.
With the threat of identity theft intensifying over the past several years, it is becoming increasingly common for employers to offer identity theft prevention services as employee benefits. IdentityForce also offers personalized plans for businesses as well. A key benefit of purchasing a subscription through your organization’s benefit program is that ChildWatch is provided for free. If you are currently not receiving this benefit, I encourage to ask your employer or human resource representative if it is available.
Summing it up…
Identity theft is a serious issue. If you feel safer by purchasing an identity theft protection service, I will offer you a word of advice, make sure there are no holes in the plan. If you are going to pay for protection, be sure the plan is monitoring all three credit agencies, not just one (both LifeLock and IdentityForce have plans that monitor all three agencies). I would also urge you to compare the different plans of several services. There are many services out there; make sure the plan you choose is monitoring the information that is most important to you. Below is a list of common monitoring services.
- Privacy monitoring
- Pay day loan monitoring
- Sex offender monitoring
- Bank and credit card activity alerts
- Data breach notification
- Three-bureau credit monitoring
- Annual credit reports
- Tank account takeover alerts
- Medical ID fraud protection
- Identity theft insurance
- Child and elderly protection packages
- Fraud monitoring
- Change of address monitoring
- Court Record monitoring
- Fictitious identity monitoring
- Social security monitoring
- Black market website surveillance
- Lost wallet protection
- Stolen funds reimbursement
- Legal assistance
- Identity restoration support
- Checking and savings account application alerts
* Novinger, Ball, & Zivi, P.C. does not endorse Lifelock or IdentityForce. The information provided is not a formal review of the products. The information presented should be used only for informational purposes and should not be interpreted as a recommendation.