Identity Guard Review
Identity Guard monitors the basics of your identity — name, Social Security number, bank accounts, credit reports, etc. — but it doesn’t have the breadth found among the best identity theft protection services. Identity Guard offers robust credit monitoring, but it costs extra. Its restoration services are weak: Beyond identity theft insurance and a support hotline, most of the burden of restoring your identity is on you. If you need a company with real muscle to rescue you after identity theft, ID Watchdog, LifeLock, or IdentityForce are wiser choices.
A stolen identity can be among the most traumatic things to happen to a person beyond loss of life, limb, or loved one. Our online and financial personas influence everything from loan prospects to social networks; corruption of that can take years to fix and cause immeasurable stress.
With such high stakes, a total solution is attractive: Identity Guard bills itself as a provider of complete identity theft protection custom-built for your needs. It claims to monitor your credit and personal information to ensure shady thieves can’t ruin your credit or good name. If the worst happens and you do become a victim of identity theft, Identity Guard promises to work with you to notify the appropriate authorities and see that your identity is restored.
Identity Guard can handle the basics, but it falls short if you actually need help recovering a stolen identity.
Sound too good to be true? It is. In reality, “total identity protection” of any kind is wishful thinking. But a breadth of monitoring and muscular restoration services can add real value and peace of mind. Let’s take a look at some key specs for Identity Guard to see if it clears that bar:
Measured against the competition, Identity Guard offers fairly comprehensive monitoring of most of your personal information, including your name, Social Security number, address, and bank accounts. Credit hawks will be glad to know it excels at monitoring yours — for a price. Higher-tier plans offer access to your triple-bureau credit reports (updated quarterly or monthly) in addition to your credit scores. (But note that these aren’t the FICO scores that lenders use.)
But Identity Guard doesn’t always go the extra mile: The service lacks a few options competitors provide — like driver’s license number monitoring and the option to monitor multiple email addresses on one account. Those elements are not as critical as the basics mentioned above, but bundling in those extra features would help Identity Guard inch closer to its competitors (not to mention its near-impossible “total protection” claim).
But the true measure of an identity protection service is how it helps you pick up the pieces should you become a victim of identity theft. Identity theft is more than just a headache: The Federal Trade Commission estimates the average person spends over 200 hours restoring their identity, loses an average of $1,500, and suffers from immeasurable stress and its attendant health problems. Stolen identities get fixed faster if you’re backed by a lawyer, and the best identity theft protection companies actually do this: Representatives from the company obtain temporary power of attorney so they can quickly restore accounts, credit, and identification on your behalf. Identity Guard promises restoration assistance in the bold print, but a close look shows it’s largely toothless: What it really provides is little more than an advice hotline — and even that isn’t available 24/7. That’s a major knock.
A Closer Look at Features
Total Protection: $19.99/month
Couples Plan: $27.99/month
Family Plan: $29.99/month
- $1 million identity theft insurance: If your identity gets stolen, Identity Guard will cover the costs of recovery up to $1 million, including legal fees, lost wages, travel expenses, and child care. But it doesn’t reimburse you for losses incurred during theft.
- Alerts: If it sniffs out unusual activity on any of your financial accounts, Identity Guard will send immediate notifications by email, phone, or text. When new accounts are opened in your name or changes are made to your existing accounts, you’ll receive an ID verification alert — which gives you the head’s up to either confirm if valid or spur into action if it’s suspect.
- Lost wallet protection: If your wallet is lost or stolen, Identity Guard will cancel your cards and front you up to $2,000 in emergency cash to hold you over until you receive new ones.
- Intuitive user interface: Straightforward navigation means you can access the most important information from the tabs near the top of the page or the Quick Links box. A simple dashboard gives you a clear view of the status of your accounts and directs you to notifications that need attention.
- Mobile access: Identity Guard offers user-friendly mobile apps for iOS and Android devices that let you access your notifications, credit reports, and credit scores on the go. It also links to help articles on identity theft and steps to take if you suspect you’ve been attacked.
- 3-bureau credit analyzer: This neat web module simulates how your financial choices will affect your credit. Choose an action from a dropdown menu — closing an account, taking out a new loan, etc. — and the tool will automatically model how that choice would affect your credit score.
- Keyboard encryption software: This is the company’s most unique offering: Identity Guard’s PrivacyProtect® software encrypts your keystrokes to thwart keyloggers trying to steal your passwords. It’s free with Total Protection and Platinum plans, but there’s a major bummer: It’s only for Windows.
- ZoneAlarm® antivirus software: Total Protection and Platinum plan members get free access to ZoneAlarm®’s antivirus software, complete with firewall protection and countermeasures for malware and spyware.
- ID Vault password protection: ID Vault is a password manager that enables you to store and encrypt all of your online account usernames, passwords, and credit cards in one hack-proof place.
What Others Are Saying
Kiplinger ranked Identity Guard’s Total Protection plan as the best identity theft protection service of 2015, saying it “tops its peers” with its stellar credit monitoring. PC World rated the Total Protection plan as “Good” and felt about the same as we did about coverage, but dinged them on customer service and underhanded marketing practices.
“Unfortunately, we found Identity Guard's interface confusing and its customer service line unhelpful. One particular annoyance: Our account page advertised services already covered under the Total Protection plan, inviting unwary consumers to buy the same services twice under different names.”
Consumer Reports likes Identity Guard’s personal information monitoring, but reminds readers that this service alerts you of potential security breaches but can’t fix them: “Internet scans could give you a false sense of security if they find nothing and scare you if they find something you can’t undo. Assume the genie is already out of the bottle and put a security freeze on your credit report before trouble strikes.”
Other Identity Theft Protection Services We Like
ID Watchdog It's the only service that will help recover your identity from a pre-existing theft. Plus, it has the best price.
ID Watchdog doesn’t have the most sterling or modern interface, but customer service and price are best-in-class: The top-tier Platinum plan is cheaper than any other premium service ($18/month or $194/year if you call customer service directly). Couples pay $27/month ($291/year) for two adults, and families pay $32/month ($349/year) for two adults and up to five kids. Plus, it offers something no one else does: Rehabilitation for pre-existing theft. That means if you find evidence of identity theft before enrolling in ID Watchdog, it will still work on your behalf to remove it using power of attorney.
IdentityForce Its UltraSecure+Credit offering hit all of the marks on service and price, and comes packaged in a more modern site.
IdentityForce earns high marks for providing some of the most robust identity monitoring on the market couched in a smooth, intuitive online experience. If you need help monitoring credit, you’ll want the pricier UltraSecure+Credit plan ($23.95 per month). If you can handle it yourself, save money with the UltraSecure plan ($17.95 per month). If you need to protect several members of your family, skip it: The lack of family discounts means you’ll pay full price for every person you add.
LifeLock While it has the most comprehensive alerts out there, the FTC has sued them twice for deceptive advertising.
Though the Federal Trade Commission investigated them deceptive advertising practices, LifeLock remains a solid option. It offers comprehensive monitoring of your personal information and, if you become a victim of fraud, it can assume power of attorney to work at restoring your identity on your behalf. LifeLock offers three plans, ranging in price from $9.99 to $29.99 per month. There’s also a LifeLock Junior add-on for $5.99 per month for kids.
The truth: Identity theft protection services don’t do much you can’t do for yourself for free.
The main value of a service like Identity Guard largely lies in the opportunity to outsource the hefty task of watching all the streams of information — emails, credit reports, bank accounts, etc. — that make up your financial and online self. For many, $20 a month is a small price to pay to cut all that hassle. However, if you are hands-on, diligent, and supremely organized, here’s how to start the DIY approach:
- Check your bank and credit accounts online. Read your monthly statements closely, and check accounts daily to catch signs of unusual activity or fraudulent charges as they happen.
- Shred your junk mail. You’re not paranoid: Destroying your unwanted mail prevents trash-rummaging thieves from stealing your identity right out of your garbage.
- Opt out of preapproved credit card offers. Piles of card-filled envelopes promising unbelievable APRs are worse than annoying: They’re a prime target for identity thieves. OptOutPrescreen.com can suspend preapproved credit card offers for five years.
- Watch for phishers. Beware emails claiming to be from your bank, asking you to click on a safe-looking link: Hackers mimic banks quite closely in an attempt to steal your information. Always type in the web address to your bank (instead of just clicking through from the email) to be sure you’re going to a secure website.
- Order your free annual credit reports. It’s the law: Every citizen is entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can order them spaced out throughout the year or all at once.
- If you become a victim, place a fraud alert on your accounts. You can contact the credit bureaus yourself to place a fraud alert on your reports if your identity has been stolen. Lenders looking at your report can then take extra steps to verify the legitimacy of any changes or new accounts to ensure they’re dealing with you and not your thief.
- Consider a security freeze. As soon as you confirm a stolen identity, you can write to all three credit bureaus to request a security freeze, which blocks lenders from accessing your reports altogether. This helps prevent thieves from opening new accounts in your name. Caveat: There’s usually a fee, but it depends on your state.
The Bottom Line
Identity Guard provides decent standard monitoring of most of your personal information and exceptional credit monitoring in its premium plans. But it stumbles on the way to “total protection” claims by failing to actively restore your identity and skimping on deeper identity monitoring. If you like a range of budget options and aren’t afraid of piecing back together a stolen identity by yourself, Identity Guard may suffice. Couples or families should also consider Identity Guard for its affordable group rates, and credit nerds will appreciate its robust credit monitoring. But if you want a service better equipped to aid you completely should the worst happen, consider ID Watchdog, LifeLock, or IdentityForce.