Nobody is denying that identity theft is a terrifying crime. It can mess up your finances, damage your credit, and wreck your good name. To that end, there are a lot of services out there now that claim to help you protect your identity, services like LifeLock identity theft protection. Whether these services are worth it or not has been the subject of much debate - protecting people from an unknown threat is one of the oldest rackets in the book, after all.
Some Things You Can Do Yourself
LifeLock offers three tiers of service, each engaging in different types and depths of protection. And yes, there are certainly things that you can do on your own as Consumer Reports is quick to point out. For example:
- You can monitor your own credit score with the major credit bureaus. You can even request that they send you fraud alerts.
- If your wallet is stolen, you can call around to get all of your cards replaced.
- You can go to a website and opt out of those pre-screened credit card offers, which is one of the things LifeLock says they'll do for you. (And a good idea, by the way. Not only does it diminish your daily junk mail hassle, it cuts out one source for ID thieves to steal your info.)
- Finally, you don't really need "data breach notifications" if you follow tech news in even the slightest.
Some Things You Can't Do Yourself
But there are other things that are beyond what any one person can take care of. Some of the services offered by identity theft protection services that are definition worth the money include:
- Lifelock scans a trillion data points a day for threats.
- LifeLock and ID Shield search file sharing networks.
- Many services search court records to make sure nobody used your name when they got arrested.
Checking all of the places that there are for your info to turn up, for all of the possible info that could turn up, is more than you can handle. That's why these companies wrote algorithms and hired experts to do it for you. You can't obsessively check to see if anyone's taken out a payday loan in your name (not if you want to get anything else done with your day, at least), but identity theft protection services can.
You know what else you can't do on your own? Reimburse yourself for a million bucks' worth of loss. Most identity theft protection services will also provide help in the event that your identity gets stolen, such as:
- Lost wage reimbursement that varies depending on which package tier you sign up for (LifeLock Standard membership starts at $25,000 and goes up to $1,000,000 for the LifeLock Ultimate Plus membership).
- ID theft insurance
Guarantees of seven-figure expenditure budgets to set your world right are de rigueur in this industry, and whether you wind up needing it or not, it's nice to know that you're covered if you do.
Some Things Are Nice Not To Have To Worry About
Then there are the things that are just for peace of mind. If your wallet gets stolen, are you aware of every person you need to call to get that taken care of? Cancelling your bank and credits cards, putting credit freezes in with each credit bureau, letting the insurance company know that somebody else has your account number? Maybe you have a plan in place, or maybe you're going to be scratching your head, trying to simultaneously remember what was in your wallet, and what research needs to be done, and clear your head after either losing your wallet or being mugged. Not to mention, depending on the state and the circumstances, freezing your credit report can cost you some cash. But it doesn't have to be that way. Some companies take care of things for you via limited power of attorney, and some just advise you on what to do, but either way, you can rest a little easier in a crisis knowing that somebody's got your back.
All in all, it comes down to your threshold for risk and reward, and how well the company you pick lines up with what's important to you. If you'd rather save your money, that's probably fine. But if you'd like to save some hassle in the event of identity theft, or if you'd like a little extra peace of mind, identity theft protection services can absolutely be worth it, and many offer discounted or free trials.