LifeLock, the identity theft protection firm, promises to keep your sensitive personal information safe from thieves. Over the past five years, the Federal Trade Commission has brought a series of allegations against it, the most recent of which came to a conclusion only late last week. According to the FTC, LifeLock wasn't providing the kind of security its wall-to-wall advertising implied that it did. LifeLock agreed to pay $100 million to settle allegations that it "misled consumers with deceptive advertising" and failed to establish and maintain proper information security requirements to protect its users' sensitive data, the FTC announced last Thursday.

The judgment is the largest monetary award obtained by the FTC in an enforcement of its kind, and it's equal to 47 percent of the $214 million that LifeLock spent on advertising, sales, and marketing in 2014.

As is common in such settlements, LifeLock neither admitted nor denied the FTC charges. "Lifelock believes that it has always fairly described its products and services and worked very hard to protect its consumers," said David Boies, LifeLock's attorney. "It's very important not to lose sight of the fact that there was never a data breach here. No confidential data of any customer was ever hacked or compromised."

History of Problems

LifeLock's latest legal troubles stem from a previous settlement the company made with the FTC and 35 state attorneys general in 2010. That case also involved charges that LifeLock used false claims to promote its identity-theft protection services, and last July, the FTC formally accused LifeLock of violating four terms of that agreement. 

In its 2015 complaint, the FTC also alleged that LifeLock falsely advertised that it protected consumers’ identity 24/7/365 by providing alerts “as soon as” it received any indication there was a problem.

Further details of exactly what LifeLock had allegedly done wrong were not immediately available, because they've been sealed by the court, at LifeLock's request. 

In May of 2014, the company removed its LifeLock Wallet mobile app from the App Store, Amazon Apps, and Google Play after it determined that certain aspects of the product may not have been fully compliant with security standards required of companies that handle credit cards. But Boies said the FTC case is not related to that. 

Protect Yourself for Less

If you're concerned about LifeLock or identity protection services in general, remember that you can take important steps to protect your identity at little or no cost.

Monitor your financial statements and credit reports for suspicious activity that can lead to identity theft. If your credit cards are lost or stolen, you don’t need LifeLock to notify your financial institutions to cancel and replace them. If your Social Security number is out there, we suggest that you put a security freeze on your credit reports at the big three credit bureaus–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. That will prevent creditors from accessing your file if a crook tries to open a new account in your name. Without access, creditors are likely to deny a credit application. If you’re not yet a victim of identity theft, you might have to pay $3 to $20 (depending on where you live) to freeze your accounts at each bureau. When you apply for new credit, insurance, or utility service, there might be similar fees to remove the freeze.

But there is usually no charge if you’re already a victim of ID theft. Credit bureaus consider credit- and debit-card theft as identity theft, so it should be easier for you to get free freezes. You generally must provide a police report to prove your claim, so make sure you file one right after your credit or debit card or wallet is stolen. Ditto if your home has been burglarized; your computer, cell phone, or other device has been lost or stolen; you receive notification that your personal data has been breached; or you discover unauthorized transactions in your bank or investment accounts. 

Visit our Internet security guide for comprehensive advice about identity theft, malware, privacy, and cybercrime related to your personal finances. 

Editor's note: This report was updated on December 21, 2015 to include further comment from LifeLock.