LifeLock’s identity theft monitoring, alert and recovery services aim to detect problems and help you bounce back, but it — and other, similar services — cannot prevent identity theft.
Freezing your credit files with the three major credit bureaus is the only way to prevent someone from using your personal information to open accounts. However, if you don’t want to bother with freezing or have other security worries, you might consider paying for LifeLock.
The monthly cost adds up quickly, though, and LifeLock has been dinged by the Federal Trade Commission for mishandling its customers’ personal data.
Here’s what you should know about LifeLock’s services and its pros and cons, and how to decide if it’s for you.
What LifeLock does
LifeLock offers three main services: monitoring your credit files for signs of identity theft, alerting you to potential problems and helping you recover. LifeLock also scans for uses of your Social Security number and other personally identifying information online. Alerts range from basic (credit applications in your name) to more esoteric (if someone uses your name when arrested or placed on a sex offender registry).
Here’s a breakdown of LifeLock’s three levels of service:
|LifeLock Standard||LifeLock Advantage||LifeLock Ultimate Plus|
|Cost||$9.99 monthly, $109.89 annually||$19.99 monthly, $219.89 annually||$29.99 monthly, $329.89 annually|
|Alerts||All Standard alerts, plus others, including: ||All Advantage alerts, plus others, including:
All plans offer 24/7 customer support, lost wallet protection and access to identity restoration specialists. LifeLock also has an easy-to-use mobile app so you can view your profile and check alerts.
LifeLock provides wide-ranging monitoring and alerts, making it useful if you don’t have the time or desire to monitor your own credit and accounts for suspicious activity.
It’s especially useful if your information is vulnerable: You lost your Social Security card or know your information was exposed by the Equifax hack, for example. And some of LifeLock’s services, such as dark web monitoring, would be hard to replicate on your own.
Cost is a concern. Only the most expensive tier of service is worthwhile, because it offers monitoring at all three major credit bureaus. Monitoring only one bureau is like locking your front door but leaving other entrances open.
The lack of a family coverage option also makes LifeLock more expensive than some other identity-protection services. You can add children to your plan for $5.99 each per month, but your spouse must purchase a separate package. Covering a family of four would cost more than $70 per month.
In addition, LifeLock paid $100 million in 2015 to settle with the Federal Trade Commission, which said it had failed to comply with a 2010 court order to improve security of customer data and stop deceptive advertising. The company said at the time that it had updated its policies and withdrawn the ads in question, and that customer data had never been stolen.
Is LifeLock worth it?
You can perform many of LifeLock’s services on your own, for free:
- Frequently checking your credit accounts online, reading statements and setting activity alerts on financial accounts will help you quickly spot suspicious activity
- You can track changes to your credit score and monitor your credit report for free online on sites like NerdWallet
- If you’re a victim of identity theft, you can get a free, customized path to recovery at IdentityTheft.gov
NerdWallet recommends freezing your credit at all three bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. The cost to apply or temporarily lift a freeze varies by state, but it’s generally less than $20. That’s much cheaper than shelling out $30 per month for a service that can’t protect you in the same way.
However, if you know you won’t stay on top of DIY solutions and that your information has been compromised, LifeLock or a similar service can provide peace of mind.
Updated Jan. 2, 2018