Identity-theft protection servcices are in the news because of activities of a company called Lifelock, Inc., which paid millions of dollars in 2010 to settle claims of deceptive advertising. However, that hasn't stopped Lifelock from stopping its misleading ads, using conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, using all sorts of scare-mongering tactics.
How useful are all these identity-theft protection services, anyway? It turns out it is not about securing your computer, credit cards, bank accounts and social security information. This post explains the reality and here are the main points (highlights are mine):
1. ...most of them monitor your credit reports for unauthorized activity. If and when they spot something amiss, they will send you an alert. Just bear in mind you can check your own credit reports once a year for free.
2. Some services claim to go above and beyond credit-report monitoring. Experian, for example, says they conduct “daily internet scanning for unauthorized use of your SSN, debit and credit cards.” I can’t imagine why an identity thief would post this information in a public and searchable location online. So the value of this daily scanning is, in my view, questionable at best.
3. The identity-theft protection companies are glorified credit monitors. They do not provide any type of frontline defense against identity theft. They cannot stop it from happening. They simply look for it on the back end, after it has already happened. So in this regard, one could argue that these services don’t really offer any protection at all. Detection would be a better word for it. They merely spot the crime after the fact. Of course, that doesn’t stop them from plastering the words “protect” and “protection” all over their websites.