The Lifelock Review: Is Lifelock Worth It?
We get asked quite often, “How do I protect myself from identity theft?” It’s a financial matter after all, and a common one at that. Most often, clients ask me for a Lifelock review. They want to know if Lifelock is worth it or not?
I was curious just how common identity theft is. My identity (knock on wood) has never been stolen after all. Is identity theft so rare that I don’t even need to worry about it?
An identity theft study by Javelin reported 13.1 million victims in 2015. With a population of about 320 million people, that equates to about 4% of the population. Doesn’t sound like too big a worry… unless it’s your identity that’s stolen!
Those 13.1 million victims suffered financial losses of 15 billion dollars. That’s BILLION with a B! It works out to an average of about $1,145 per victim, a lot of money no doubt about it.
The first thing that comes to mind when people ask how to protect themselves from identity theft is Lifelock. Lifelock’s identity theft protection service has been around for over a decade now, and thanks to a great marketing campaign they’re the leader in the identity theft protection industry.
Lifelock made quite a few waves when the CEO of the company put his Social Security number on the side of a bus years ago. Apparently when you publicize your Social Security number, thieves take it as an invitation to steal it. Todd’s identity was stolen 13 times within a few years.
I wanted to find out for myself just what Lifelock identity theft protection does, how it works, and is Lifelock worth it or not?
More importantly, I wanted to know if I could “lock my life” without Lifelock. If I can save some money doing the same things they are, why not try?
What does Lifelock do?
Lifelock is an identity theft protection company. Actually, they’re “the” identity theft protection company. They use data, science, and their own patented technology to protect consumers from having their identity stolen.
They have more than 4.4 million users and offer different plans ranging from about $10 a month to $30 a month. Their services are designed to detect and alert you to fraudulent activities, then fix whatever financial harm you may have suffered.
Lifelock backs their promises with a $1 million dollar guarantee. They promise to spend up to $1 million dollars to repair any damage which may have been done to you and your good name.
How does Lifelock work?
Their basic $10 a month package promises 3 main things:
- Detect fraudulent activities and alert you to them
- Protect you if you lose your wallet
- Reduce your junk mail offers
There are other things they promise, like 24/7 customer support and watching black market websites for your information. The most important parts are those three things however. I’ll break them down one by one.
Lifelock promises to detect and alert you to fraud
The most important thing they provide is helping you stop any fraud early on by alerting you when it happens. You can’t watch every account all the time right? You certainly can’t watch new credit accounts which you didn’t authorize!
Lifelock identity theft protection automates the fraud monitoring process. They make it easy for you to sleep well knowing if someone tries to steal your identity and open a line of credit, they’ll help shut it down before it gets too far.
Lifelock does this by helping ensure potential lenders must verify your identity. They certainly provide some piece of mind in this respect, or do they?
Credit monitoring for fraud can only go so far. Many times these alerts to lenders are ignored, and accounts can be opened in your name regardless.
Can you put a fraud warning on your credit yourself?
Yes, you can put a credit fraud warning on yourself! You don’t need Lifelock to do this for you.
To put a credit fraud warning on, you’ll need to reach out to each of the three credit bureaus directly. Simply tell them you want a fraud warning placed on your credit file. In most cases you can even do this online in a few minutes.
The three credit bureaus are listed at the end of this article.
Lifelock provides a 1 million dollar guarantee
I can’t help myself…
I don’t see this guarantee as a big benefit. Lifelock promises to spend up to 1 million dollars hiring lawyers and accountants and investigators to help clear your good name.
Step #1 of locking your life without Lifelock is freezing your credit. More to come on that in a few, but suffice to say that freezing your credit removes the need for much of what Lifelock does.
After you completely freeze your credit, no one (not even you) can open credit accounts in your name. If that’s the case, is this million dollar promise worth anything at all? If my identity cannot be used to open any credit accounts, how would I suffer financial damages?
This seems like quite a nice marketing gimmick. It doesn’t seem like it has much in the way of substance… again!
Lifelock watches your address changes
Credit thieves sometimes attempt to change your address so they can receive mail in your name. Naturally, this will go unnoticed by you (unless the thieves live with you).
Lifelock promises they will watch your address and notify you of any changes to it.
The only way your address and your credit is worth anything is if thieves can use it. Again, if your credit is frozen how would an identity thief be able to use it?
I find the fact that my credit is completely frozen completely satisfying!
Lifelock monitors black market websites for your info
It sounds kind of sexy and secretive on the surface. I feel it has little substance in reality.
Lifelock promises to monitor websites which sell your personal information. These websites are known as “black market” due to their obvious criminal nature.
How would Lifelock know what these black market websites are? Why doesn’t our government know about them?
I find it highly suspect that Lifelock can patrol these black market websites, let alone find them.
Wouldn’t these identity thieves notice Lifelock prowling their site somehow? Wouldn’t they block Lifelock somehow? It just sounds fishy…
At this point my credit is completely frozen anyway! Even if my information is floating around on some black market website, it’s not very useful since no one can open an account in my name.
This doesn’t add any value to me either. I doubt they can do what they promise here, and would love to see the proof.
Lifelock’s lost wallet protection
Lifelock promises to help you cancel and replace your credit cards if your wallet is lost or stolen. This may be nice, but if you’re doing things right you likely only have one credit card anyway.
It’s pretty simple to call your credit card company and tell them your wallet was stolen. They’ll get you a new card ASAP to help you keep spending!
I don’t find Lifelock’s lost wallet protection to be much of a benefit. I can call the credit card company myself and get a new card while cancelling the old one.
Lifelock says they’ll help me replace my Social Security card and drivers license as well. There’s no possible way they can do anything more than I can myself in this arena. In fact, I highly doubt they can do much more than point me in the right direction.
The DMV certainly isn’t going to let Lifelock order me a new drivers license, and try having them call Social Security for you to see how far they get. I just don’t see this as much of a benefit when it’s entirely likely I’ll have to do much of the legwork myself.
Lifelock Stolen funds replacement
This is another “no value added” for me. Lifelock promises if you’re a victim of identity theft, they’ll reimburse you for lost funds up to $25,000.
It sounds pretty cool I’ll admit, but I’ll take my chances. Step #1 of locking your life without Lifelock is freezing your credit after all.
I suppose someone could steal my credit card and make unauthorized purchases without opening a new credit line. Provided I notify the credit card company promptly, I should not be held liable for those charges.
Lifelock’s stolen funds replacement isn’t a big hook for me. It sounds and looks great when you’re signing up, but it’s just not a game changer.
3 Steps to “lock your life” without Lifelock
When you break it down to the basics, Lifelock identity theft protection services do just as they say – help protect you from identity theft! I have no qualms with their claims, and I believe they deliver on their promises as much as any reasonable person would expect.
What I really wanted to know in doing my research: “Is Lifelock worth it?”
If I can “lock my own life” for less money without a lot of headache, why not do it myself? These aren’t complex tax calculations after all, it’s identity theft protection. One can only do so much to protect yourself from identity theft anyway.
Step #1: Set up a credit security freeze
Why not just freeze your credit plain and simple? Most of us don’t open and close credit lines regularly after all. Do we even need all of that credit we have?
I’m not suggesting having credit is bad at all. In fact to the contrary, it’s a necessary part of life. However, most of us need far less than we think.
The very first part of locking your life then, becomes freezing your credit.
The difference between a credit freeze and fraud monitoring
The very first thing you need to understand is a credit freeze is different from credit monitoring for fraud.
A credit freeze is also known as a security freeze. A credit freeze actually locks your credit down completely! You (and any would-be identity thieves) will not be able to open or access any credit lines at all until you remove the freeze.
A fraud alert simply notifies you when new credit lines are opened in your name. They only last 90 days generally, unless you’re actually the victim of identity theft, in which case they can extend as long as 7 years. Active duty military can stretch the 90 day maximum to 1 year.
The most important distinction is a credit security freeze completely prevents any lenders from opening any accounts in your name. Fraud monitoring (or a fraud alert) simply lets you know when credit accounts are being opened.
Why not just put a fraud alert on your credit file?
A big downside is the fraud monitoring only lasts three months. You’ll need to schedule reminders to make sure you re-activate your credit fraud monitoring 4 times a year.
That seems like quite a pain to me! I really don’t have the time or energy to renew my credit fraud monitoring. If I want to have credit fraud monitoring on my wife and kids as well, it can become quite a lengthy and annoying process.
Since a credit freeze is clearly more permanent and powerful than fraud monitoring, I decided to completely freeze my credit. I don’t need any new lines of credit after all. We won’t be moving anytime soon, and who needs more than one credit card?
I placed a credit freeze separately with all three credit bureaus. My review of each process follows. Remember, Lifelock monitors your credit for fraudulent activity and notifies you. Lifelock does not put a credit security freeze on your file.
The Equifax credit freeze review
I first went to Equifax to freeze my credit. They call it a “security freeze”, and it can be lifted anytime you need to actually use your credit. You can freeze your credit online, via a phone call, or direct though the mail.
The Equifax freeze costs $10. Depending on what state you live in, there may or may not be a fee to freeze your credit.
Equifax gives you a 10 digit pin code when you freeze your credit. You’ll need this code to unfreeze your credit. Print and save it in a safe place!
I suspect to unfreeze my credit won’t be so easy, but that’s to be determined. I’ve heard it may take several days or even a few weeks. Maybe that’s a good “cool down” period to make sure you really want that new car?
Regardless, anything worth buying on credit is worth waiting a few days for. My grandfather was a patient and frugal man. He taught me early on that if I wanted to buy something, wait a week – see if you still want it. That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received.
Overall, the Equifax credit security freeze process was super simple. It took maybe 5 minutes. Now no one can open any credit accounts in my name with Equifax.
The TransUnion credit freeze review
At the end of the Equifax credit freeze process, they recommend you visit TransUnion and Experian to freeze your credit there also. There are three credit bureaus after all, so you need to freeze your credit on each one separately.
TransUnion wasn’t as easy. They wanted me to create an account with them, whereas Experian was a quick and easy form to complete.
Once logged into the TransUnion website, they have no shortage of things to sell me. Credit management services, credit monitoring services, you name it! All I want is my credit FROZEN!
One thing I wouldn’t do is buy their Credit Lock services. There doesn’t seem to be much point in spending $10 a month when I’m in the process of making it (seemingly) impossible for anyone to open any credit in my name after all.
TransUnion doesn’t make it so easy
TransUnion didn’t have an easy way to “freeze my credit”. They don’t even have a search box to look for it!
I went to Google and searched for “TransUnion credit freeze”… EUREKA! Found it! It’s crazy I had to use Google to find where on TransUnion’s website I needed to go to freeze my credit.
Apparently TransUnion would rather sell you their own services than have you do it yourself for free. I can’t say I blame them, they’re a profitable business after all.
This time clicking the TransUnion credit freeze link, I was smarter. I’d fetched my login information and was ready to block my credit from devious identity thieves!
I was able to place a freeze on my credit with TransUnion. They asked for me to set my own PIN, which I appreciated. NOTE: Don’t put in your birthday! It’s so very tempting when they ask you for a six digit PIN to enter your birthday, but don’t do it!
I created a very unique PIN number, and moved on.
Here’s the rub… they also charge $10 for lifting a credit freeze – OUCH! But in my opinion, well worth it.
TransUnion wasn’t quite as easy or helpful as Equifax. Nonetheless, I got the job done in about 15 minutes and for another $10.
The Experian credit freeze review
To complete the credit security freeze trifecta, I then visited Experian. Experian has a super easy search bar (the magnifying glass in the top right) so I just typed in “security credit freeze”.
It worked like a charm and took me right to the Experian security credit freeze page. Their process took me through a series of questions to verify my identity. Which of these addresses are yours? What was your last phone number? etc.
The process was super fast and easy however. They also did far more to validate who I was.
Experian did have a $10 security credit freeze fee as well.
I was highly impressed with Experian’s security credit freeze process overall. It was the easiest by far!
Credit freeze summary
All in all, TransUnion gets a consumers thumbs down! It was cumbersome and difficult to use. It also took the longest. It’s still worth the time however.
Equifax and Experian get two thumbs up! They were both easy and quick to request a security credit freeze. I was highly impressed!
Since they all cost me $10, I paid $30 total to freeze my credit. While I tend to feel this should be free, I understand it’s their business decision to charge me. I am a capitalist after all…
With my credit completely locked down, what’s next? What else can Lifelock do for me that I can’t do myself?
Step #2: Dump the junk credit offers
I hate junk mail slightly less than I hate spam email. I’m not sure why, other than I’m only exposed to physical mail once a day (and email is 24/7).
Lifelock promises to reduce your junk mail, specifically the credit offers you may receive. After all, if a “would-be” thief wanted to steal your identity, it’s pretty simple for them to grab credit offers straight from your mailbox.
I’d prefer NO unsolicited credit offers. If I want credit, I’ll find it. Using credit is typically not appropriate for most people anyway (outside of your home loan).
The Federal Trade Commission allows companies to send you unsolicited credit offers. Again, while I’m a capitalist, the fact is there is highly inadequate education on appropriate use of credit in our schools. I’d prefer the FTC make it as hard as possible for people – especially our youth -to access credit. But I digress…
How to opt out of credit card offers
The three main credit bureaus have banded together to create a way for people to opt-out of these unsolicited offers. It’s a website called OptOutPrescreen.com.
Here’s why you need to check out the junk mail blocker Opt Out Prescreen:
- You probably don’t need the credit offers they’re sending
- You don’t need your identity stolen from the thieves that want your credit
I visited the website and submitted my information. While I find it doubtful it will suppress much of the junk credit offers I receive, I’m making an effort to reduce them at least.
I highly recommend you check out OptOutPrescreen.com as well. Visit their website and let them know you don’t want anymore junk credit offers in the mail!
In the process of researching for this article, I found something interesting. Catalog Choice helps you reduce your other unwanted junk mail as well! You just have to log in each time you get a magazine you don’t want and remove that specific one.
Step #3: Set spending and balance alerts on your credit cards
I haven’t been in the market for a new credit card lately. If I was in the market, one thing I’d make sure they have is spending and balance alerts.
I use the Capital One Quicksilver card. It’s got some great benefits, and they have superb alerts! I get an email every time a charge is placed, and regular balance notifications.
I also get periodic emails when the tip I gave for dinner seems unusually high, or when a normally purchased item is more expensive than it was in the past. These alerts are highly valuable to me, and give me a great confidence level that if my credit card number was stolen, I’d know about it after the very first charge was placed.
I need the alerts and balance notifications to make sure nothing funky is going on with my spending or credit. This is a great way to stay on top of things!
The Lifelock review and summary: Is Lifelock worth it?
Lifelock makes a lot of promises. They all sound good, and the fear of having your identity stolen is a great motivator to try it as well.
I have first hand knowledge of Lifelock as a customer of theirs for a few years.
My subscription lapsed. I didn’t feel they were providing any real value to me in protecting my identity. I rarely heard from them, and only via email. The emails were highly random in nature, and in the couple years I paid for their service I probably only received a half dozen emails, all of them telling me everything was fine.
If you follow my process above, for $30 you’ve successfully locked down your credit. Your identity is now safe and secure (as much as it can be anyway). No thief can open a credit account in your name, because you can’t even open a credit account in your name! It’s FROZEN!
You’ve also opted out of unsolicited credit card or other credit line offers. Your mail should (should) have none of them. This helps protect thieves from getting more of your personal information.
For my money and time, it’s far better to completely freeze your credit than to hire Lifelock for $10 a month (or more).
I’d welcome any clarification Lifelock wants to shed on their services. They don’t go into great detail on their website as to what they specifically do, so it’s possible there’s added value somewhere I just don’t know about. Outside of what I may not know about the Lifelock identity theft protection service, Lifelock isn’t worth the money!
My “lock your life” without Lifelock tips
Get your free annual credit report and review everything in detail. Make sure your credit is clean and solid with no unauthorized activity.
You can order one free credit report each year from each of the three major bureaus. Order one report from each of them every 4 months to maintain and monitor your credit properly.
Once you get your credit reviewed and clean, lock it down by doing a credit freeze with each of the three major credit bureaus. The time it will take you to remove the freeze is a good thing! You may decide it’s not worth buying that Ferrari after all!
Finally, visit OptOutPrescreen.com and remove yourself from all credit offers. If you need credit, it’s better you do your research and find it yourself!
The 3 major credit bureaus:
P.O. Box 740241,
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
P.O. Box 9532,
Allen, TX 75013
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790,
Fullerton, CA 92834-6790