LifeLock Review: How To Protect Your Identity For Free

Reader Trent recently asked me about a site called LifeLock, which offers identity theft protection services for $10 a month. I figured that it was the same old credit monitoring deal that lots of site offer, but in fact it’s even less. The site openly admits that most of what they offer can be done at no cost, but also (understandably) leaves out the details on how to do it. Here they are with those details stuck back in, as ironically their site turns out to be a great guide on how to easily help prevent your identity from being stolen for free!

First, we ask the credit bureaus to set fraud alerts on your behalf. Usually, this is done through our automated systems and the alerts are set within an hour. From time to time there may be a hitch and we have to do the first one manually, usually because they have a different address on file for you. If this happens, we?ll tell you right away and do what needs to be done to get the alerts set.

Free – Just call the numbers below. Technically, alerting any single bureau should automatically initiate fraud alerts on all of them, but it may be more reliable to simply call each one separately.

* Equifax: 800-685-1111; Fraud Dept. 800-525-6285
* Experian: 888-397-3742 (same for Fraud Dept.)
* Trans Union: 800-916-8800; Fraud Dept. 800-680-7289

I should note that this will also hinder your ability to get quick approvals for things like auto loans or credit card applications. One good tip is to use your cell phone as the contact number so that the bureaus can quickly verify your identity when you really do want to apply for credit.

Second, unless your circumstances change and you tell us not to, every 90 days or so we ask the credit bureaus to do it again.

Free – Use Google Calendar (also free) to e-mail you a reminder to call again in 90 days. Rinse and repeat.

Third, we request that your name be removed from pre-approved credit card and junk mail lists and we keep making the requests as they expire. Statistics show that this is one of the most common ways that thieves hijack identities. Plus, all that mail is just so irritating. Many of our clients tell us that this alone is worth the price.

Free – Just go to OptOutPrescreen.com to get removed for 5 years. I’m probably in the minority here, but I kind of like getting pre-approved offers myself, it helps me track trends in interest rates, special offers, and gives me an idea of how good my credit score is.

Fourth, we order your free credit reports on your behalf from the major credit bureaus and they are sent directly to you. We do this every year.

Free – Yet another feature that is free to all by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and can be found at AnnualCreditReport.com. In fact, here are 4 more ways to get a free credit report. One of them is simply placing a fraud alert as described about. If you keep setting one up every 90 days, you can technically get a total of 15 free reports every year (3 credit bureaus x 5 each).

Last, but certainly not least: If your Identity is stolen while you are our client, we?re going to do whatever it takes to recover your good name. If you need lawyers, we?re going to hire the best we can find. If you need investigators, accountants, case managers, whatever, they?re yours. If you lose money as a result of the theft, we?re going to give it back to you. We will do whatever it takes to help you recover your good name and we will spend up to $1,000,000 to do it.

Not free. But, you can get lower levels of identity theft protection for free at various financial institutions like your local credit union or at many major banks, just for having an account with them. For example, Washington Mutual offers $5,000 of Identity Theft insurance with no deductible, as well as a phone hotline to “Identity Theft Recovery Specialists”, if you have a free checking account with them.

So, is the convenience of LifeLock, as well their $1 million dollar insurance policy worth $110-120 a year? My vote is no. Although I’m sure that identity theft can be very painful and costly, if you really did all the free things above your chances of being affected are very slim. The time saved is minimal, I have a WaMu account, and the “million dollar guarantee” seems to be overkill and more of a marketing ploy. If anything, I’d use the money to go buy a good paper shredder instead.

Comments

  1. Wow, I never knew individuals could put fraud alerts on their credit reports. I have ID insurance from Zander Isurance http://www.zanderins.com/idtheft/idtheft.aspx# but now that I have this information I will cancel the account. It is only $6.50 per month but that is $6.50 that won’t fall out of my pocket.

    Love the site. Keep up the good work. I too have many of the same goals but much farther behind. I’m a graduate student with a net worth of about -$30,000. I am 26 this year so I have many years to get this net worth up.

  2. William Profet from OneJobTwoSalaries.com says:

    This is a VERY useful post! Thank you for the tips. I am going to use them starting today! :)

    Good luck!
    William

  3. “I?m probably in the minority here, but I kind of like getting pre-approved offers myself, it helps me track trends in interest rates, special offers, and gives me an idea of how good my credit score is.”

    *phew* I thought I was the only one :)

    Thanks for the tips on setting fraud alerts, I didn’t know this was possible. And more than 3 credit reports per year can be quite helpful, if necessary.

  4. It’s so funny that you mention this stuff now, Jonathan. I just recently got my first phoney credit card charge. And from what I read, it looks like they also hit a lot of other people too. They charged one of my never used credit cards (haven’t charged on it in almost 3 years) with two charges for $84.97 — I reported it to Chase and they immediately changed my account number, reversed the charges and alerted all three credit reporting companies for $0.

    I really appreciated it — I think reputable banks take care of you whether you pay for ‘Credit Guard’ or not (which I don’t). Anyway, it looks like this company CJW Holdings (or in my case they called themsevles N&N Labs) have gotten a list of expired or expiring credit cards and have just gone wild charging 84.97 to anyone they can. I found I had lots of company and expect to hear more people getting screwed by this scam outfit. So watch out!

    http://www.complaintsboard.com.....12355.html

  5. lifelock is under fire lately, as their founder resigned because of his recently uncovered past…2 bankruptcies and the gov’t shut down his fraudulent credit repair service.

    also, the ceo, who puts his own social security number out there for the world to see was recently a victim of identity theft.

  6. I’ve wondered what LifeLock could do for me that I couldn’t or don’t already do for myself. Now I know. I still like to see the credit card offers come through, too – and then I shred. Thanks for putting this out there!

  7. This was great Jonathan. I agree with you about the free credit reports, if you space them out you can get free report every 3-4 months and just make sure there aren’t any suspicious accounts or information being changed. It’s better than paying for the service. I’ve never used or heard of LifeLock though, I’ll definitely check it out. very useful post.

  8. Joe Banks says:

    I’ve had credit card applications go through without a call from any credit bureau when my acct has been under “fraud alert”, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just lip service.

  9. I just placed a fraud alert and was also routed to an experian ‘sales’ rep who started talking about all the different ‘monitoring services’ that charge monthly. i said not to all that, but when i asked if it was mandatory for the creditors to call me at my contact numbers whenever there is a credit reqeuest on my accounts, she said it was totally the prerogative of the creditor to do that.

    so as such, there is no guarantee. but it is always worth it to try and protect yourself.

  10. Same here, two weeks ago, I just opted in the OptOutPrescreen.com. I Just want to see what offers I will get, and probably do some 0% Intro APR deal.

    Lots of great info.

    Thanks

  11. Shankar Jasti says:

    Thank you very much buddy. This is very usefull. Its going save over 10 bucks every month.

  12. When you place a fraud alert on your credit file, you are automatically “opt’ed out” from pre-approved credit offers. Note however, that opt-out and removal of a consumer from Direct Marketing Association are not the same thing.

  13. If you are in the military the alert is for 12 months instead of 90 days. This works nice me because now I only have to renew it once a year. Also, buy yourself a micro shredder for all those sensitive documents like CC offers.

  14. Slashdot just had a article discussing the credit freeze that many states offer and how the credit bureaus are fighting this. This credit freeze sounds like a permanent fraud alert, but it costs $10 to start it.

    http://yro.slashdot.org/articl.....03/1734258
    http://www.consumersunion.org/.....indiv.html

  15. heather says:

    excellent post!

  16. Jeff Not From Cincinatti says:

    Check this out. If you read the news from mid June, the CEO of LifeLock who posts his SS# so prominently on their website had his identity stolen. Someone took out a $500 loan at a loan store where they didn’t bother to even check the credit report so they never even saw his fraud alert. He got a call about it a couple weeks later though apparently.

    There is one other service I found called Debix that looks pretty similar to LifeLock. There’s a review comparing them here:

    http://www.identitytheftreview.org/

    The State of Ohio signed a big contract with them after a major loss of employee data.

  17. SavingEverything says:

    Good posting. Like yourself and Christopher, i also like getting junk mail; since it keeps the US Postal Service in business and keeps the mailmen happy, and adds recycling shredded paper to my town’s recycling program of shredded papers now. I’m sorry to hear about mimi’s story; ripoff dot com also has info too.

  18. PayPal also offers a slimmed down version of the Equifax credit monitoring service free for PalPal members. link

  19. Bruce Romano says:

    Last November, I had my identity stolen adn someone got three credit cards with my name. It took me forever to get all that mess straightened out. The credit card companies (Capital One was the worst) didn’t seem to care what we were going through and were a complete nightmare to deal with. Kevin, I checked out that link for Zander, and to be honest with you, I?d rather pay somebody a little amount per month than have to go through that ordeal again. It took me missing half days at wrok to get all this taken care of. I have been ?shopping? around since I fixed my credit, (3 months now). Free is good! But Cheap is good to if someone else will do the work for you.

  20. Interesting post – I agree it’s important to do all the things you suggest. Also, I’ve read that a large percentage of identify theft is the result of actual paper that someone gets hold of in the trash or by taking mail from an unsecured mailbox. Therefore, I shred vigilantly! But even adding that isn’t going to protect you 100%.

    If a bank or other company isn’t careful enough about security, it doesn’t really matter what steps you’ve taken. One of my banks was recently hacked, and all their online banking customers’ names and ss# were exposed. The bank offered a free year of Triple Advantage from Experian, and that’s about it. What about after that year, and what about the information being used for other than credit card applications, such as for fake ids with real, matching names and social security numbers? I don’t know what the answer is; I haven’t bought identify theft insurance and don’t know if I’d even get covered at this point. I don’t think I’ll ever feel as secure as before this happened.

  21. Thank you very much for the post. It’s very helpful. I am going to cancel the identity theft protection offered through my credit card company right away.

  22. I just found out that some accounts were opened using my ss#. I tried to open an acct with fnbo to take advantage of the 6% interest rate. (seen here!) They ran my number with systemchex and found an acct I had been abusing. It was supposedly opened in Tucson Az. I have never been to Tucson. I have applied for home mortgages, car loans, credit cards and never has anything come up on my report report until my social was run with systemchex. I did place alerts with all 3 credit bureaus and thought about paying for this service. Contacting Wells Fargo, were the accts were opened,(a nightmare) they won’t give you any information on the account, privacy issues, but they do immediately put you through to the department that wants to sell you their identity theft insurance. You decline and the line disconnects with no progress made concerning the fraudulent accts.
    I must say thanks for leading me down the path to finding out about these accts. Meanwhile I think by the time everything is over and done with the 6% rate will be over!

  23. Thanks for taking the time to respond with your thoughts and ideas. I’m always concernced due to how much I travel for work here in the U.S. as well internationally a couple times a year. Sounds like with a little work and persistence I could simply do it myself. Thanks for the great write up!

  24. A few people know but many states passed a new legislation that forces credit report agencies to offer a “Security Freeze” on your report. All you have to do is go to the Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion sites and dig the hidden information (they make it hard to find). The guidelines are all in there. Basically, you send a certified letter to the agencies requesting the service, along with copies of driver’s license, utility bill, SS#, full name, address, and a $10 check for fee. The required information varies according to agencies and the fee changes according to different states. After that, the agencies freeze your report and then send you a reply letter containing a 10 digit pin number. This pin number will unlock your report, through the phone, before you apply for new credit. Since I’m not interested in new credit, I’ve locked my report thus nobody can use it without my pin number. It’s the most efficient way to fight ID Theft right now. There’s no need to pay hundreds of dollars for monitoring services anymore, just pay 10 bucks and freeze your credit report. Peace of mind! And no, this is not the same thing as the fraud alert thing; this is a totally different service, a prevention before the fraud actually takes place, which is a better proactive measure.

  25. I was chatting with an employee of my bank the other day, and she asked if I banked online. I said no,and that the whole idea gives me the creeps. She politely persisted, stressing that it’s safer than sending checks thru the mail, and that all sensitive details are encrypted. I said I didn’t care.
    I shred all sensitive doc’s/cards I don’t need to keep, use the (wash-proof) Uniball 207 gel pen to write my checks, and have a $5/mo. ID theft plan thru AMEX.
    All one can do is use common sense;and I really don’t think banking online, though a timesaver, is all that wise given the ever increasing sophistication and motivation of hackers.

  26. Hey all – My neice just got her bank account drained of over $10,000 from her checking account because she used her debit card at a Mexican restaurant & the cashier there apparently used a reader to steal the info off it. The info was then sold, and the same day used in Mexico and all over Texas to buy airline tickets, merchandise, etc. My neice went to a Target last night and her card was declined. That was her first inkling of a problem. She lives in the DFW area and they say it has been a huge problem lately. Stick with cash!

  27. Hi there, the million dollar guarantee sure sounds great and all that, but when it comes to the idea of protecting my identity from id theft, like you i would very much prefer a good paper shredder.
    First of all, at $10 the price tag is not all that high so we can use it just as a safety neat sort of thing. but when it comes to destroying sensitive financial documents, i do not trust my office shredder,instead i use companies to do this for me since they guarantee that the documents will be shredded and processed thereafter so as to ensure that no one can take the shredded pieces and stick it together and steal your identity. Lifeock can be an addition but it cannot serve as the only protection against id theft.

  28. I’m probably in the minority, but I feel paying $110 a year for LifeLock is worth the peace of mind knowing I don’t have to worry about forgetting to call the credit bureaus 4 times a year. I used LifeLock promo code JBAZ35 and got a discount and only paid $99 for the year

  29. I agree with Megan. Also this article neglects to mention the other services Lifelock provides such as eRecon, true address, and Walletlock.
    A few years ago my daughter had her debit card info and pin skimmed at a Wells Fargo ATM. The Wells Fargo representative insisted that since the correct PIN was used the first time to make withdrawals, my daughter must have been the one making the withdrawals and wouldn’t even discuss identity theft with her. They basically called my daughter a liar and she was out all the money that was stolen from her. Lifelock says this would have been a covered case, and that they would have reimbursed my daughter’s money due to their insurance. Worth the $10 a month? You bet!!

  30. David M. says:

    These guys are as much of a scam as identity thieves themselves. A half hour on the phone with their member services department proved that to me. I had my info stolen and someone fraudulently signed up a LifeLock account in my name (ironic, no?). These guys wouldn’t lift a finger to help me out, it was obvious that they could care less, they got their money and were happy.

    Everyone, just so you know, all they do is sign up for that 90 credit fraud alert for you every 90 days. They sign you up with their phone number and then call you if they get a call. Guess what? You can just sign up your own phone number and get the exact same service for free. Just add a recurring event to your Google Calendar to fill out the online form quarterly and you’re done. Not only is this cheaper, but you don’t have to give all of your confidential info (e.g. SSN) to a bunch of scammers (e.g. LifeLock).

  31. I have had my identity stolen this past year and am paying experience $15 /mo for fraud alert on all 3 credit bureaus and I am not sure what else they do. Triple alert says they charge $5/mo for similar .. This sounds like I shouldn’t be paying anything ? Thanks for this posting, I almost resorted to lifelock out of desperation..

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