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.