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LifeLock accused of misleading consumers—again

What can you do if you no longer trust your paid ID protection service? Here's how to do it yourself

Published: July 22, 2015 12:30 PM

With data hacking and security breaches an everyday reality, who can you trust with your personal financial data? "I trust Lifelock," says talk radio host Rush Limbaugh about his major advertiser, the identity protection company whose services cost $120 to $360 a year.

But should you? That's something worth considering after the Federal Trade Commission alleged that the company made false claims in its advertising, falsely claimed that it provided continuous identity protection alerts and failed to provide comprehensive information security, according to documents filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Arizona.

"We disagree with the substance of the FTC’s contentions and are prepared to take our case to court," the company's executives responded in a prepared statement. "Based on the evidence, we do not believe that anything the FTC is alleging has resulted in any member’s data being taken."

Shady history

Lifelock has a history of shading the truth. It paid $12 million in 2010 to settle charges that it falsely claimed to provide a “proven solution that prevents your identity from being stolen before it happens.” The FTC found otherwise saying that the ID theft prevention service did not prevent identity theft and did not provide many of the protections claimed. 

The latest charges assert that Lifelock violated that 2010 settlement agreement "by continuing to make deceptive claims about its identity theft protection services, and by failing to take steps required to protect its users’ data."

Specifically the FTC says it caught Lifelock "falsely advertising" that it protected consumers’ sensitive data with the same high-level safeguards as financial institutions; failing to establish and maintain a comprehensive information security program to protect users’ credit card, social security, and bank account data; and falsely claiming that it protected consumers’ identity 24/7/365 by providing alerts “as soon as” it received any indication there was a problem. 

Further details were not available, because the FTC filed them under seal, and the court has not yet decided which portions can be unsealed.

For more detail on how to protect your data, check our Guide to Internet security.

What can you do if you've lost faith in your identity protection service?

Do it yourself

Identity protection services can cost $110 to $360 per year, but you can do most of what Lifelock offers for little or no expense. If a breached retailer offers free credit monitoring, consider taking it. But beware that it could create a false sense of security because credit monitoring does nothing to stop fraud on your existing credit accounts. Also, don’t click on any links offering free ID protection. Such a deal could be a phishing attempt.

Get a security freeze

A freeze can prevent potential creditors from seeing your credit file and giving a crook new credit in your name. Such new-account fraud is relatively uncommon, but freezes are generally recommended if your Social Security number was stolen. You must request a freeze with each of the big three credit bureaus for fees from $2 to $12 per freeze per bureau, though they’re free for victims of identity theft. They can be temporarily lifted when you need to apply for credit yourself, for similar fees.

Monitor your accounts online

Keep an eye on your latest account activity by signing up for online access to your bank and credit-card accounts or by using a mobile-banking app. Internet banking isn’t hackproof, but the convenience of banking digitally outweighs any security risk. Smart-phone banking also allows you to watch your account in real time wherever you go. Automate some of this chore with account alerts that send an e-mail or text message when potentially fraudulent activities occur.

Watch your credit report for free

Monitor your credit reports for fraudulent new accounts and incorrect information. You can get plenty of credit reports absolutely free, so never pay for them. Start with three freebies per year (one from each of the big three credit bureaus) from annualcreditreport.com. Some states also entitle you to three more for free. You can also get a free credit report from each bureau after you file a 90-day fraud alert, which you should do every three months if your financial information was stolen in a breach–and whose identity hasn't be stolen? That gives you another 12 free reports. Opt for 90-day fraud alerts, not the seven-year extended fraud alert.

Follow standard security precautions

Use antivirus, antispyware, and anti-phishing software and a firewall on your personal computer, smart phone, and other devices connected to the Internet, and keep them up to date. Be suspicious of "phishing" attempts by any stranger initiating contact with you to request your private informtion via e-mail, phone, regular mail, or in person. Never click on links in unsolicited e-mail or respond to pop-ups on your computer that request your username and password. 

Whether or not a breach captures your passwords for online accounts or e-mail, we think it’s worth changing them periodically. Consider using an online password management service, such as LastPass, that generates and stores encrypted passwords. Consumer Reports tested LastPass and found it to be a good option. Stop credit bureaus from selling your name to lenders who send preapproved offers that crooks can steal from your mailbox by opting out of these solicitations for free via optoutprescreen.com or 888-567-8688.

—Jeff Blyskal (@JeffBlyskal on Twitter)

 

 

 


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