You have no doubt heard LifeLock's ad on the radio. It's where the CEO of LifeLock says: "My name is Todd Davis. My social security number is xxx-xx-xxxx" (he actually provides his real social security number in this ad, and you can also find it on LifeLock's home page). The point of the ad is that LifeLock protects you from identify theft, and Mr. Davis is so confident of their service that he is quite comfortable publicly sharing his social security number. When I first heard the ad, it definitely piqued my curiousity.
So how does this service work and, more importantly, is it effective? Not surprisingly, there's been a lot of controversy in the news about whether or not it works. Bruce Schneier has a great post on the controversy and how LifeLock works. The controversy really stems from the core of what LifeLock does: they put fraud alerts on your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies, forcing lenders to verify your identity before they can issue credit cards in your name. Lenders and the credit reporting agencies hate this (it makes it harder to give credit), and so they've started a smear campaign against LifeLock (thus the controversy). In addition to the fraud alerts, LifeLock apparently does a bunch of other clever things to limit your exposure to identify theft.
So is this a service you should run out and sign up for? Probably note. Schneier notes: "At $120 a year, it's just not worth it." It's unlikely you'll be a victim of identity theft. And even if you are, it has become relatively easy to clean up the mess. Furthermore: "... it's hard to get any data on how effective LifeLock really is."
And the best part is: "...you can do most of what these companies do yourself." The second link (from the blog at savingadvice.com) is particularly useful. They provide a series of relatively easy steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft. One key step is to regularly monitor your credit reports. And here's what they say about doing that for free:
You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You get these reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. Only use this site. Others that sound similar require you to pay.
The important point here is that you should go to AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit reports---don't sign up for any other service that's going to charge you for this free service.