Q. Ads for the identity-protection service LifeLock are everywhere. But is it worth the cost?

A. We’ve noticed the barrage of ads, too. You should know that in December, LifeLock paid a $100 million judgment to settle a Federal Trade Commission claim accusing the identity-protection company of running false ads that overstated the strength of its safeguards. LifeLock didn’t admit or deny the allegations (not uncommon for FTC actions), but regardless, we don’t think the $110 to $330 annual cost is worth it.

The majority of identity-theft cases are credit and debit card fraud, and federal law and voluntary industry protections can limit victims’ liability to a small amount or nothing. In fact, 86 percent of identity-fraud victims had zero out-of-pocket costs in 2014, the Department of Justice reports.

LifeLock monitors transactions at banks, wireless carriers, payday lenders, and black-market websites to alert people in case crooks try to open fraudulent new accounts with their stolen identity. But you can often thwart such fraud yourself by putting a security freeze on your credit reports at the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). That can cost nothing to $30 total. LifeLock may recommend a freeze “in some cases,” a spokesperson told us, but it can’t place one for you. 

For more information, read "No Longer Trust LifeLock? What's a Consumer to Do?"

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Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the May 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.