LifeLock's New Identity (Theft Monitoring)

identity-monitoringLifeLock has been the victim of identity theft, and it will ultimately improve their product.

Over the weekend, LifeLock, the identity theft prevention marketing machine, lost a piece of who they are (were) when a judge stripped them of their most fundamental prevention tool — automatic fraud alerts on consumer credit reports. The net result is that LifeLock is having to strengthen it’s underlying identity theft monitoring architecture to fill the marketing hole, moving its product closer to superior identity surveillance services such as CSIdentity Protector.

I have never been the strongest supporter of LifeLock. Why? Because most every protection they offered out of the gate were steps you could take for yourself, for free. For example:

  1. Place a Fraud Alert on your credit files. (A stronger solution is to Freeze Your Credit with Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.)
  2. Opt Out of financial junk mail.
  3. Get a copy of your Credit Report.

In addition, I disagree with their President, Todd Davis, and his constant publication of his Social Security Number for sensational marketing purposes. Mr. Davis is sending the wrong message to the average listener: that if you use LifeLock, your Social Security Number and identity are so safe that you can give them away to anyone. But Mr. Davis has been the victim of several cases of identity theft, not something he advertises on his traveling SSN van. No one solution solves identity theft. It takes a layered approach, much like the deadbolts, police forces, alarms, lights, dogs and neighborhood watch programs that protect our homes.

It is important to understand how LifeLock’s identity has changed. Last Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Guilford ruled that LifeLock’s practice of placing fraud alerts on behalf of their customers constituted an unfair business practice. Basically, LifeLock utilized a free consumer fraud alert established by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) in order to alert retailers who touch our credit files to verify the person’s identity before extending them credit. It is a good thing to have a fraud alert on your credit file (not as good as Freezing, see above), because it makes it harder for an impostor to use your identity to fund their purchases. But Judge Guilford ruled that a corporation can’t place the alert on your behalf; we must only be able to place fraud alerts ourselves. I only hope that Judge Guilford doesn’t make us install our home alarm systems ourselves, because none of us will do that either.

LifeLock’s actions were not illegal, but considered to be anti-competitive (if everyone placed fraud alerts for their customers, we would all have fraud alerts on our credit files — actually, not such a bad idea to require proof of identity before extending credit). Over the weekend, LifeLock complied with the court order, ceased offering automatic fraud alerts for its customers, and unveiled new tools to detect identity theft in the earliest stage possible.

The strengthening of its core product with scientific modeling and data mining (which is what CSIdentity has offered for years) will ultimately make their customers safer, especially if their customers take a few minutes to place a fraud alert or credit freeze on their files for themselves. In fact, if they upgrade to a credit freeze, LifeLock customers will actually be safer than they were before the ruling.

To begin protecting your identity, follow these steps (in this order):

  1. Sign up for Identity Monitoring.
  2. Get your 3 free Annual Credit Reports, once every 3-4 months.
  3. Opt Out of financial junk mail.
  4. Freeze Your Credit.

John Sileo became America’s leading Identity Theft Speaker & Expert after he lost his business and more than $300,000 to identity theft and data breach. His clients include the Department of Defense, Pfizer and the FDIC. To bring John in for your next meeting or conference, please contact him directly on 1.800.258.8076.

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