A LifeLock (TM) Alternative: Free DIY Identity Theft Protection

Identity and credit theft is, without a doubt, a huge problem and one that you should be concerned about. Arguably, simply checking your credit report periodically may not be enough to protect yourself and doing so certainly does nothing proactive to stimie theft of own’s identity before it has already happened.

LifeLock (TM) is an Arizona-based, multi-million dollar enterprise in the midst of a huge marketing campaign. Without a doubt if you watch TV, read the newspaper or listen to talk radio, you have probably heard CEO Todd Davis giving out his Social Security Number. The marketing strategy is brilliant and the idea is simple: Todd Davis is so confident in the services of his company that he is willing to put his identity on the line. If it happens to be stolen, LifeLock (TM) will kick in the $1 Million guarantee and help clear things up. At $10 per month, it is hard to argue that the service is not worth the money and that is exactly what LifeLock (TM) is counting on to get your business.

Before you take out your credit card and sign up for LifeLock (TM), there are a few things to be aware of:

  1. Firstly, I can find no documented instance of LifeLock (TM) ever paying out the $1 Million guarantee, nor have investigative reporters been able to find evidence of underwriting on the guarantee; one story says investigations are rumored to be underway in at leat one state Attorney General’s office as to the validity of the guarantee’s claims. Of course, the company spins this lack of documented fulfillment as proof that their system works, but I am a skeptical consumer and do not believe that any insurance is going to hand out dough without hoops to jump through.
  2. Secondly, LifeLock (TM) is not without some disturbing controversy. A cursory search on Robert Maynard, LifeLock’s (TM) Founder and minority equity holder, yields a plethora of stories detailing his checkered past, suspected identity theft and permanent ban from consumer credit servicing activities.

In my opinion, the simple fact is that LifeLock (TM) does not offer any protection you cannot attain yourself, for free.

The following 3-step process takes only 20 minutes to complete and will give you much the same protection you would get as a LifeLock (TM) subscriber, as this is exactly what LifeLock does on your behalf:

  1. Request your free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies yearly, one each quarter on a rotating basis.
  2. Place an Initial Security Alert with ExperianTM – This sets a fraud alert on your credit report with ExperianTM and notifies TransUnionSM and Equifax to do the same. This alert lasts for 90 days and conscientious creditors will be instructed to call your contact phone number on record before issuing credit in your name. If you set your cell phone as the contact number, the process is quick and painless when you need to obtain instant credit.
  3. Mark your calendar and be sure to renew your credit alert every 90 days or earlier.

In addition to these free and simple protections, many states have recently legislated provions for permanent credit file locking at a small fee of around $10 per year. If you have documented proof that you were an identity theft victim, a permanent credit freeze is available to you at no cost.

2 Responses to “A LifeLock (TM) Alternative: Free DIY Identity Theft Protection”

  1. Nice research and advice! I have used AnnualCreditReport.com before, but I got all three services at one time. That’s a great “hack” on how to get free round-the-year credit reports!

    I also had no clue about the free 90 day credit monitoring – and I’m quite surprised that you can keep using it after your 90 days is up. Although, I had heard some stories that the calls from the monitoring services can be bothersome, I don’t remember what the stories were right now.

  2. Thanks Doug. I have been using this method for several months now and it is working quite well. By putting an alert on your account, you also cut down on the amount of preapproved junk mail that you receive. I have not seen much of a downturn there because I already have myself signed up for a “do not mail” list with the credit bureaus. You can find info on that service here: http://www.ftc.gov/privacy/protect.shtm

    Recently, I set up a new bank account with PSECU and the alert worked exactly as expected. I received a phone call, verified some information “that only I should now” and the account was then created. All in all, the process took less then 3 minutes and it was nice to see it the process working.

    For now, yes, you can continue to sign up for the service every 90 days. The credit bureaus may change this at some point because, quite frankly, they are in the business of SELLING your information and do not like it when you opt out, but I am not so sure that is going to happen. I believe the I read recently that Experian plans to offer full permanent locking to anyone in any state for the same $10 yearly fee. I think that is going to push the other bureaus to follow suit. Unfortunately, I could not find the article that detailed these plans or I would have cited it.

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