IDShield offers the same monitoring provided by other top-tier identity theft protection services
Can Identity Protection Services Keep You Safe?
IDShield, LifeLock, and other companies refer to their services as identity theft protection, but they really only protect you in the same sense that a home alarm system does. When something bad happens to you, you’re alerted—hopefully before something even worse takes place.
Careful readers have probably noticed that in the past few years, more and more personal information has been stolen in massive data breaches. Given how much of our information is known by social media services and even free apps on our phones, it’s hard to imagine this situation changing in any way but for worse. In fact, I would say that the only way to avoid a nefarious entity stealing your personal information is to live in a concrete bunker 400 feet below the ocean floor with no contact to the outside world.
As I said, services like IDShield don’t really prevent identity theft, but they do gather important information into a single place and provide visible alerts for the most grievous of attacks involving that information. Their real benefit, however, is the remediation services they offer, which
Testing these services also poses unique problems. PCMag prides itself on hands-on testing and quantifiable results. When we test antivirus software, for example, we use the results of third-party labs and our own malware and phishing testing. While we can sign up for identity theft protection services, it’s not possible to simulate identity theft and compare how each performs in a repeatable, authoritative way. The other problem is the possible legal nightmares that surround any such testing. As a result, we’ve opted not to assign ratings or our coveted Editors’ Choice award to any identity theft prevention tools. Instead, we’re presenting detailed information about what these services offer as a way of helping readers better understand them and make the best-informed choices they can.
Get Enrolled, Get Protected
IDShield offers two tiers of service. The number of people on the plan is the only difference, meaning all tiers receive the same level of protection. It’s a refreshing change from other identity theft protection services that add extra features at higher-priced tiers. Billing occurs either monthly or yearly, but there’s no discount for annual billing.
An account for just one person costs $9.95 per month, which is the same as LifeLock‘s price. But for $19.95 per month, IDShield covers you, your spouse, and up to eight minors. LifeLock, on the other hand, requires a separate paid subscription for each individual you wish to cover—a far more expensive proposition. If you want to add children to your LifeLock plan, it will cost $5.99 per child. The larger your family, the better
Like other identity theft protection services, you provide IDShield with your personal information and it watches for anything unusual. This includes known breaches, personal information for sale online, and unusual credit activity.
This last point is a bit controversial in the wake of the Equifax hack, which exposed the personal information of millions. If you sign up with IDShield, you’ll receive quarterly credit reports as part of your subscription and three additional annual credit reports. LifeLock provides more, and more frequent, credit checks at its highest tiers. IDShield, on the other hand, has a more robust credit monitoring offering than LifeLock’s entry level tier. If you don’t feel the need to get the most possible credit reporting, IDShield is a better deal.
If you’re primarily interested in credit reporting information, recall that you can receive free reports annually. You can also sign up for Credit Karma, which is also free, and which lets you quickly and easily review your credit report information.
IDShield can monitor a surprising number of different kinds of data. You can, understandably, only add a single driver’s license or passport number per person, but the service can monitor up to 10 bank account numbers, credit or debit cards, email addresses, medical ID numbers, and up to 11 phone numbers. LifeLock has expanded its service and matches some, but not all, of those numbers. Note that if you add a spouse to your plan, the maximum number of monitored accounts is doubled.
Recent updates have added social media monitoring. Once you link your Facebook, Instagram LinkedIn, or Twitter accounts, IDShield searches text posts for words associated with drug use, violence, and foul language. It also watches out for more concrete factors, like personal information and geotagging.
IDShield also provides subscribers with a password manager, powered by
Abine Blur is another privacy service that also offers a password
IDShield also looks at publicly available documents, such as court records, to alert you to illegal activity attributed to you. Whether or not you have a criminal record, it’s good to know what information is available about you. IDShield also watches for payday loans made in your name.
That said, most banks and credit card companies are assiduous about keeping an eye out for fraud or unusual activity. I’m not sure that this represents a major advantage on the part of LifeLock. If you’re keen to take a more active role in managing your money, LifeLock alone probably isn’t the best tool for that, although it is a useful extra.
Some consumers may squirm at the idea of placing all their personal information in one place, even if that one place is an identity theft protection service that has promised to protect them. Unfortunately, there’s no way to confirm that these companies are taking all necessary efforts to protect your information. Consumers will have to ask themselves if IDShield, or any other service, does enough to put those valid concerns at ease.
Support and Identity Theft Recovery
Much of what IDShield and other identity theft protection services offer is passive support; organizing critical information into one space to help keep tabs on early indicators of identity theft. But IDShield, like LifeLock, also scours black market websites where your information may already be for sale.
In addition to these alerts, IDShield provides support through the Kroll company. Kroll agents can answer basic questions as well as dispense advice. They specifically suggested that I call my credit card company and establish a verbal password to prevent scammers from opening new accounts or ordering new cards in my name. Clever!
IDShield also now offers 24-hour phone support, but Kroll can only be reached between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday and excluding major holidays. However, you’re likely to be connected to a Kroll investigator 24 hours a day in the event of a fraud emergency. That’s a bit confusing, and it’s not quite as reassuring as LifeLock’s simple all-day availability.
By far the most important service provided by your IDShield account is Consultation and Restoration, which is also handled by Kroll. This is what you need when the worst has happened and your identity has been stolen. I really like that IDShield explains what is and is not provided right on the website. (In fact, IDShield has excellent explanations of service throughout its website.) The company says that an individual investigator will be assigned to your case, and will work to fix as much damage as possible, but it also clearly states that some situations may be incurable. IDShield notes that you’ll have to give the company a limited power of attorney for this process, but that’s par for the course.
In its documentation, IDShield says it will spend up to $5 Million to restore your identity, should the worst come to pass. Again, this isn’t the same as an insurance policy. LifeLock recently changed its policies to provide $1 Million worth of protection to its entry-level customers. That’s significantly less than IDShield, but LifeLock goes further by offering $25,000 worth of reimbursements for lost money, expenses incurred from your identity theft, and more. That’s an interesting offering and one that is surely worth exploring.
If you’re keen to check up on your identity services while out and about, IDShield has you covered with apps for iPhone and Android. The apps show alerts related to your account, your most recent credit score, and what information IDShield is monitoring.
Recently, IDShield added mobile push alerts. If there is untoward activity on any of the information monitored by the service, you now quickly receive an alert through the phone. I much prefer this to receiving automated phone calls or text messages, as I often mistake these for spam.
Is Your ID Shielded?
IDShield doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of its main competitor LifeLock. Notably missing its LifeLock’s reimbursement option. But IDShield makes a compelling argument for its service with its generous family plan and low-cost individual plan. It secures a surprisingly large number of your accounts and commits more funds to identity restoration than LifeLock. Anyone who is looking to sign up for an identity theft protection service—especially anyone looking to protect a family—should definitely consider IDShield.