Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lifelock offers consumer identify protection

Although I usually don’t promote specific companies on these blogs, I do mention them when they seem newsworthy.

Recently, a company named Lifelock has been advertising on some cable stations that it protects consumer identify. Of one goes to the website, one sees a picture of the CEO Todd Davis with his social security number in large typeface. The implication is that one can safely post one’s SSN if one uses the service, which as of today is $10 a month (or $110 a year) for individuals (less for minors).

The website does have an internal link explaining how it works. It appears that it does for the customer what the customer really can do for himself or herself. Essentially, it sets and manages consumer fraud alerts with the major credit reporting companies. It also arranges to have the consumer’s name removed from pre-approved junk mail and credit card lists.

Now, consumers can order one free report a year from each of the three major companies (Equifax, Experian, Trans-Union). Sometimes there are complications in getting all three to work. Companies charge a little to provide FICO or Vantage credit scores. Consumers can do these other things manually but they are probably clumsy to do. One thing that I recall from my days at Chilton in Dallas in the 1980s (now Experian) is the multitude of separate bureaus, some owned by the major companies and some affiliated. I worked on the member billing systems for six years in the 1980s and the interbureau stuff was quite intricate. I don’t know if this could have a practical effect on consumer security today.

I still think that the main trick to protecting consumers is to set up mandatory preferred contact addresses (for consumers who want them) , like the USPS NCOA, and have a highly secured agency or contractor manage them, and require credit grantors to notify consumers of contracts at these addresses.

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