We’ve all seen the very catchy ads from LifeLock – “I’m Todd Davis and this is my social security number….” It doesn’t get much better than the president of the company plastering his social security number on billboards, banner ads, full page ads in the Wall Street Journal, and everywhere else in between. The concept is simple, take as many steps as possible to reduce the chance of identity thieves working you over. LifeLock’s execution and timing have been excellent. The only catch is you’re not paying for an exclusive LifeLock service. Instead, you’re paying for LifeLock to take care of a government mandated resources that you can do for free. Thus, you’re really paying to save a few minutes of your time. Of course this certainly isn’t a bad thing. We all can only do so much. The question becomes is it worth $10 a month for the next 20 years? For me, it’s not. Therefore, I put together a quick cheat sheet on how to protect your identity for free.
Here’s a breakdown of what LifeLock provides so you can do it yourself. If you think the $10 a month is worth it, visit LifeLock and sign up.
1. Set a credit fraud alert. This is really a new credit request alert that lets you decide if you are the victim of fraud or not. The simple way is to fill out the online form every three months. You can also fill out a letter and mail it in to get coverage for several years. Go the easy route like LifeLock and do the 90 days online. To place your credit fraud alert go to the link below at Equifax which also alerts Transunion and Experian (the three major credit reporting agencies). Here’s the link https://www.alerts.equifax.com/AutoFraud_Online/jsp/fraudAlert.jsp
2. Do step 1 Again in 90 days. Unless you print out the form from the link above and send it into the credit bureau you have to resubmit the form every 90 days to keep the credit fraud alert active. Set an Outlook or Google calendar reminder to go to that link again in 3 months and fill out the form again. Simple. And by doing it yourself you’ll be saving $30 a pop (3 months of monitoring for each submission). That’s enough to keep my subscription to HBO going for the upcoming season of Entourage.
3. Reduce junk mail (most importantly preapproved credit card offers). There’s really three benefits to this. First, you are reducing landfill waste, pollution from the dyes that are used, and junk mail transportation costs. Second, you’re reducing the time you spend shredding the offers. Third, you are reducing the opportunities credit thieves have to fill out a new credit card requests in your name.
To reduce junk mail and preapproved credit card offers go to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/prescreen.shtm the specific page to opt out is https://www.optoutprescreen.com/
4. Order free credit reports. By law, all of the credit bureaus must provide you with a free credit card report once a year. Of course, they always try to up-sell you on more advanced features which you often do not need. To get the federally mandated free credit report just go to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp
5. LifeLock’s WalletLock. This service just contacts the credit bureaus when you lose your wallet. Here’s an easier and better way to do it. First, keep the credit cards you carry in your wallet to a minimum (sounds simple but a lot of people carry all of their cards in their wallet). Second, for the cards you do carry keep the phone numbers for the banks in your phone or somewhere else that is readily accessible. Obviously, as soon as you lose the wallet you’ll want to contact the banks to cancel the cards. You’d be surprised at how hard it is to track down the right department when you don’t have the exact number that is printed on the back of your card. So keep the numbers handy. When the card is lost first cancel the credit cards then contact the credit bureaus. Third, since closing down credit card accounts hurts your credit, keep the accounts open but shred the cards. Just in case someone breaks in to your house, they won’t have any cards to steal. Fourth, keep you important personal documents safely hidden e.g. your birth certificate, social security card, etc.
6. Insurance. Since this is a free post I’m sure as hell not going to offer insurance for your identity theft. But if you follow the steps above the chances of having your identity stolen are significantly reduced. Is $10 a month worth the insurance? Not for me.
7. Bonus link – National do not call list. Get rid of telemarketers fast. Go to https://www.donotcall.gov/
Summary – 10 minutes to save $10 a month
Is LifeLock worth it? Maybe for some. But the above links detail what they do for you so it’s your call. To LifeLock’s credit they are very clear that the steps LifeLock takes to protect your identity can be done for free. Go through the steps above then ask yourself is it worth $10 a month for the next x number of years?
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