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I’ve been a LifeLock customer for a very long time. I messed up and fell for phishing scam several years ago and out of sheer terror, I signed up for the premium plan at about 2 am one cold February night.

It helped me sleep like a baby knowing that if this ended up being more than a one night mistake, that the power of a multi-million dollar company would have my back to fix it.

Luckily, it was nothing.

And I remained a customer monitoring my family’s credit for a while. But after several months, I started evaluating how much value I was really getting from my LifeLock membership.

I loved the access it gave me to my credit score, but I was only getting one score, and it wasn’t updating in real-time. For some reason, I thought I was on the premium plan but turns out my plan had been split and several of the key features I wanted – like monitoring all 3 bureaus, was only available if I had a hire subscription.

So I started looking for alternatives to LifeLock and discovered a way to get all the benefits for cheaper with a different company, or for basically free.

Here’s how to monitor your credit score/credit report yourself.

Step 1: Sign up for free credit score monitoring

Companies like CreditKarma will give you real-time access to your credit score for absolutely free. You’ll be able to see changes to your credit almost immediately and allows you to monitor activity like new accounts, and credit inquiries.

You can’t protect what you don’t know, so being able to see your credit score is a vital step. CreditKarma will get you started for free, but if you want to see all your FICO scores then you’ll want to check out myFico which will give you that full access.

Also, don’t forget that many credit card companies also provide free access to your credit score as a courtesy so you can get many of your other credit scores too.

Step 2: Routinely pull your free annual credit report for each of the three bureaus

The next step is to set a plan to pull your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once a year.

You can get your free credit report from http://www.annualcreditreport.com and if you stagger when you pull them, you can get the 3 reports each year. For example: Pull the TransUnion report in January, pull the Experian report in May, then pull the Equifax report in September for example.

then rotate who you pull first each year, so next time pull Experian, then TransUnion and so on.

This helps alert you if any new accounts are opened in your name but it won’t prevent it from happening. So that’s the next step.

Step 3: Put a freeze on your credit

You can easily put a freeze on your credit by contacting all three bureaus and requesting it via these links: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

It doesn’t take long to implement the freeze and it works by preventing new loan providers and others from looking at your credit report file. That means no one, not even you, will be able to open new credit accounts while it’s frozen.

You can create and/or are given a pin that will allow you to ‘unfreeze’ your credit when you need it. But again, the process takes a few minutes and it can be temporarily lifted from specific bureaus for a specific period of time if you like.

And by the way, it’s free. Did I mention that?

You might think you’re done, but you’re not. A credit freeze does have some holes. For one, it doesn’t protect you or alert you that someone is using your credit card information from a line of credit you already own. So that’s the next step.

Step 4: Set up credit card alerts

It’s not difficult to set up text alerting on your accounts to text you whenever a purchase is made on your card.

I have thwarted many fraudulent transactions because of my alerting and have been able to reach out to my lenders before they even realize something was wrong with my account.

Again, it’s free, it doesn’t take long and is a great extra barrier of protection. I’ve even ‘caught’ my husband when he used the wrong card at the gas station because of alerts – it feels real ‘big brother’ like.

Step 5: Limit your online activity to one credit card

This step is just good practice, but it’s a very good idea to try to limit all your online purchase activity to one card. that way, if a card gets compromised then it’s one card out of your arsenal instead of potentially all your cards.

Also, although debit cards have very similar protections to credit cards, you should try to use only your credit cards online. That’s because even though you are not liable for fraudulent charges, in either event, debit cards use your real money. This means you’re out YOUR cash that you might need to pay rent, utilities, and buy food, while you wait for everything to be sorted out.

I’d much rather lose my ‘credit card money’ because it’s the credit card money and they can chase it down without much impact to you.

Practice safe transactions

I don’t list this one as a step because it’s something we should be doing whether you manage your identity yourself or choose to use Lifelock.

It goes without saying, that just because we’re protecting ourself it doesn’t mean we should go looking for trouble. So:

  1. having an anti-virus software to prevent malware, viruses and other icky information stealing creepy crawlers off our personal computers.
  2. Not checking our banking information on public wifi
  3. Not responding (opening or clicking) suspicious emails from people or companies
  4. not providing our personal details unless we initiated the call to the OFFICIAL website or telephone number, not the link in the email or phone number in the email sent
  5. Being aware of the most popular scams that are currently around here’s a link for the most popular scams
  6. Never provide personal information to a company if you believe they don’t need it. For example: why do you need my SSN for me to test drive a car?
  7. Be prepared to walk away if you aren’t comfortable giving your details and they won’t budge. Trust me, it’s not worth the lost sleep wondering what they are doing with your information – it doesn’t matter how it looks, or if you’ll be embarrassed to ask.

So what’s the verdict?

In 2017, the Javelin Strategy and Research study found that the number of identity fraud victims had risen 8% to 16.7 million people.

At this point it’s no longer a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’ will attempt me made on stealing your identity. So it makes perfect sense (and is rightly justified) to seek identity protection.

So there is for sure a need for LifeLock.

But the plans aren’t cheap.

With the lowest (basic) plan being $10 month, the midgrade plan being about $10 more, and the most comprehensive plan they offer being $30 a month, it’s pretty pricey.

credit to LifeLock website

So the question becomes if LifeLock worth it?

For me, when I messed up and knew I had exposed myself to a scam – LifeLock was beyond worth it. You couldn’t a price on my ability to sleep soundly after my imagination had run wild.

So if you have had your identity stolen in the past or feel like you have an exposure and really really want the peace of mind, then pay the money and sleep easy.

But if you’re pretty vanilla Jane living where you’ve been protecting yourself – shredding the mail, limiting my credit card usage online, etc. I don’t believe you really NEED to pay $120, $240, or maybe even $360 per year for it.

So it’s up to on where to go next.

Even if you decide to stick with LifeLock, you should implement these steps as an extra layer to protect yourself.

To your success!

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