Excellent protection at a reasonable price for Costco members
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Identity theft is a growing threat that individuals and businesses alike are starting to take seriously. Even retailers are getting in on it, helping their customers stay protected. That’s why Costco’s offering Complete ID to its members.
It’s okay if you’re a little confused. We understand you’re looking for identity theft solutions, not a 144-pack of paper towels. Once you dig a little deeper though, it’ll all start to make sense. Take this for instance — CompleteID is brought to you by the major credit bureau Experian. Reassuring, right?
Also reassuring is the depth of resources on Complete ID’s homepage. There are plenty of resources to dig through explaining the scope of the service and why its protections are important. This really lets you know that they’re taking this service seriously, and Complete ID is not an afterthought or a sales gimmick.
And we have to say, after using the service for a few days, it’s pretty great. It’s got a list of features that rivals some of the top names out there like Identity Guard and LifeLock, and a price that’s competitive. But before we get into the ins and outs of Complete ID, let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Now that we had a basic understanding of the services, it was time to select our protections. Here’s something a little different, though. Complete ID doesn’t offer tiers of protection like most services. Instead, they offer one complete suite of robust services, and the pricing for it changes based on your level of Costco membership.
For Executive Members, Complete ID costs $8.99 per month; for Gold Star and Business + members, it’s $13.99 per month. Either way — it’s pretty reasonable considering what you get. And if you want a more detailed description, have a look at our Complete ID pricing breakdown here.
It’s worth pointing out a basic Costco membership is $60 annually. So after getting out the old calculator (what? We’re writers, not math people) we found the real cost of a membership is closer to $18 per month. If you’re never going to use your Costco membership for anything but access to Complete ID, you might consider other feature-packed options in that price range, like ID WatchDog or ID Shield. But if you’re a Costco regular, this is one of the cheaper ID theft protection services we’ve seen.
|Gold Star or Business+
|Pricing for Costco Members
|$8.99 per month
|$13.99 per month
Also worth noting, Complete ID offers child protection at $2.99 for up to five children for executive members and $3.99 for Gold Star or Business+ members. If you’re interested in protecting your little ones, check out our guide.
Did You Know: Identity thieves often prey on children because they’re essentially blank slates. Also, it can take much longer to realize a child has become a target of fraudsters because they’re not participating in the financial world yet.1
Some of these services are pretty standard fare, but there were a few items on the list that caught our attention. To unpack everything, though, we had to purchase our plan. Let’s take a look at what that entails.
The first thing we had to do was enter our Costco ID number. It’s beyond the scope of this review to talk about the process or the pros and cons of signing up for Costo, but to put it simply, it’s pretty fast and easy. There aren’t any hoops to jump through, and their benefits are pretty solid for the right people.
So let’s just go ahead and assume that you already have a Costco membership number. After entering it, you move on to setting up your account. Here we found nothing particularly noteworthy — we were asked to enter basic information like our name, our address, and our social security number. Then, we had to create an account using our email address, entering a password, and selecting and answering a security question.
A quick note on passwords. Costco has some pretty strong requirements — passwords need to be between 8 and 64 characters, contain uppercase and lowercase letters, and include at least one number and special character. But even with these criteria, it’s still possible to create a password that could be guessed or hacked by an identity thief. Make sure to avoid the common pitfalls of weak password creation like repeated or sequential numbers, common words and phrases, or using numbers that correlate to personal information like birthdays and anniversaries.2
Did You Know: There are 6.63 quadrillion possible eight-character passwords that could be generated using the 94 numbers, letters, and symbols that can be typed on a regular keyboard.
Once that was done, Complete ID did some quick verification of our information, and we were ready to go. On the next page, we had to enter the information we wanted to be monitored. While a lot of this was imported from the account creation process, there were a few elements we wanted to enter for additional protection like our driver’s license number, our passport, and our credit card information. So just be ready to have this info handy.
When we were going through this process we had a bit of deja-vu. This looks and functions exactly like the setup of IDnotify. We guess that makes sense given that they’re both services attached to Experian; but seriously, aside from the color scheme, they’re identical.
The similarity isn’t a bad thing, but it’s more than just an interesting quirk to point out. We really liked IDnotify, so we hoped Complete ID would have similar functionality and services. It was on to the dashboard to find out.
So there are definitely similar design elements here to IDnotify, but it’s not a one-to-one translation. The most prominent features with Complete ID are the notifications window, our credit score update graph, and our dark web surveillance tool.
Before we got into that, though, we wanted to make sure we had everything completely set up — particularly because we hadn’t received any initial notifications. When that happens, we always get a little concerned — we know from our use of other services that there are things to flag, so when a service turns up nothing, it can indicate issues with functionality or that the set up is incomplete.
One of the first immediately actionable items we saw was something called the Identity Status Check.
This is apparently a “comprehensive data check” to “establish and confirm” our identity status. That’s something new to us and sounds pretty interesting, but we were unfortunately unable to access it, as it was unable to load.
Not a great look, particularly for something that’s so prominent on our dashboard. But, Complete ID has a lot more to offer. We decided to check out some of the other functionality and hoped this was just a hiccup. But unfortunately, each time we came back to it, we could never get it to work. Just something to keep in mind.
At the top of the page we found a navigation bar that helped orient us.
Home is the Dashboard, so we moved on to the Credit Center. Here again, we had a feeling that we’d been here before — this section was identical to IDnotify. We have a feeling we’re going to be repeating that a lot if we keep pointing it out, so we’re going to leave it at that. Just note that a lot of this service is a mirror, so if you’re not a Costco member but you’re interested in these functions, it’s available under a different name.
In this section, we were really impressed with the detail of the monitoring. While we can’t show you everything, we were able to navigate through detailed reports that included:
Phew. That’s a lot to go through, but we appreciate how thorough the service is. Also worth pointing out, Complete ID is monitoring all three credit bureaus here, so if there’s a discrepancy it’s sure to pop up.
A quick note on three-bureau credit monitoring, though. Some services will try and convince you that single-bureau monitoring is sufficient, or that credit monitoring as a whole isn’t a worthwhile endeavor because once you receive an alert, the damage has been done.3
We respectfully disagree. While this is a bit of an oversimplification, that’s like saying you only need a security camera on your front door — the garage and back door are probably fine. Or that you don’t need a security camera at all, because if someone’s breaking in it’s already too late. Is three-bureau credit monitoring a silver bullet? No, but we think it’s in your best interest to keep an eye on things. And the more bureaus, the better.
Pro Tip: Don’t worry If your scores vary bureau to bureau. That’s totally normal. Each one prioritizes different factors, and measures things in different ways.
So next up in the Complete ID navigation was our VantageScore Update. Before we take a look at this, it’s important to understand what VantageScore is and what it’s not.
There are three major credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. These are also called the three major “bureaus.” They maintain a record of your credit history, which is also called a “credit file.” Credit scores are based on the information in your credit file at the time it is requested. There are a few different ways to calculate a credit score, and VantageScore is one of them.
VantageScore is not the end-all, be-all of credit scoring. While it’s certainly one of the most popular, there are numerous different models lenders can use to determine creditworthiness.4
So with that understood, using this tool we were able to track our three-bureau VantageScore annually, and our Experian VantageScore month to month.
This is a really helpful tool for someone looking to improve their credit score or monitor how certain behaviors affect their scores over time. We would have liked to see Complete ID take it a step further and offer a credit score simulator as IdentityForce does, but this is handy in its own right.
Next up on the navigation bar is Identity Protection. Here, a sub-menu drops down with access to the different elements of this service:
Each one of these is a sub-menu with detailed information regarding what exactly is being monitored and why. We were happy to find that no notifications popped up anywhere, and we appreciate how in-depth these resources go. We also felt pretty confident in how complete the protections are, but we did want to point out the Neighborhood Watch function.
This is Complete ID’s take on sex offender monitoring. And to be honest, we just don’t think it works. It says the function will notify us of sex offenders in our area, and if new ones should move in. We didn’t have any notifications here, but through using other services we know there are at least a handful within a 5-mile radius.
That’s unfortunate because these can be helpful tools to help make decisions for families such as school choices and recreation areas, but we’re just not confident how trustworthy this particular function is.
Did You Know: Some sex offenders have been known to employ the same techniques used by identity thieves to evade authorities – there’s a lot of overlap here.
Next in the navigation was the Identity Restoration Tab. There’s not much to do here, but it does summarize Complete ID’s services should we suspect we’ve become the victim of identity theft.
Two things to note: First, they offer the industry standard $1 million, $0 deductible insurance policy most services offer. This is important in covering lost wages, attorney fees, and expenses that might be incurred for re-filing loans and other lines of credit. Identity theft can be very costly, and it’s important to use a service that can help in this way.
Second: Should identity theft be confirmed, Complete ID will assign a dedicated specialist to our case. While we’ve luckily never had to go through this process, it’s safe to assume bouncing back between one caseworker to another and waiting on hold would be frustrating — to say the least. Complete ID resolves that by having one point of contact from incident to resolution.
Now that we’ve seen Complete ID’s features, it’s time to take a look at their alerts and reports. After a while, two popped up for us: Our SSN Monitoring report and our Dark Web Surveillance Report. Let’s start with the former.
Social Security Numbers are one of the most common pieces of information stolen by identity thieves. They use these numbers to set up aliases and open lines of credit in an individual’s name, then welch on the bill. Usually, the victim is none the wiser until a collections agency contacts them or their credit gets dinged. By monitoring our social security number, though, we’re able to see what names have been associated with it and where.
Thankfully, all of the alerts in this report looked fine. We recognized our name on each, the locations were all places we’ve lived, and the instances were all over three years old. What you really want to look out for here are recent notifications, names you don’t recognize, and locations you’ve never lived.
It was a similar story with our Dark Web Surveillance Report. Here’s the sensitive information that Complete ID monitors on the dark web.
The Dark Web is a section of the Internet that isn’t indexed by search engines and is only accessible using specific technologies. It’s home to all sorts of nefarious activity, and more likely than not your information is there in some form or fashion. Don’t worry, though, that doesn’t mean you’re the victim of identity theft.
If you were like us, you’ll have some compromised email address notifications here, or maybe even a compromised password or two. If these notifications are old and you’ve changed your passwords since then, there’s not much to worry about. Just keep an eye out for recent notifications, or notifications that more important information has been found like bank accounts and credit cards.
One final thing to note here — we really liked that Complete ID gave us suggestions of actions to take regarding each alert. This is a really helpful feature, particularly if a notification is important enough to merit action.
So that’s about it on the desktop platform. One final thing to point out, though. If you spend enough time using Complete ID, you’ll inevitably be logged out due to a session expiring at a certain point. This can get a little annoying — we think the timeout limit is a bit too short — but we do appreciate this functionality from a security standpoint.
This is a portal into our most sensitive information, and if we happened to leave it up with wandering eyes around, it could do some damage. We also appreciated the two-factor authentication built into the sign-in process — this helps ensure it’s really us accessing our dashboard and not someone else.
Did You Know: Two-factor authentication is far more secure than single-factor by orders of magnitude.5
So now that we’ve gone through each feature of the desktop experience, it’s time to take a look at Complete ID’s mobile platform.
Remember how we said we liked Complete ID’s two-factor authentication? Well, that’s only when it works. When we were trying to set up the app, we couldn’t get the text message for the code to complete the login. Frustrating, but once we had it emailed to us we were in.
Unfortunately, what we found was a little lack-luster. Similar to services like it, this app is just a mobile version of the website.
It’s not a dealbreaker, but we always like it when these services take the time to consider the user experience on a mobile device as much as they prioritize the desktop experience. Does it get the job done? Sure. But we think Complete ID missed an opportunity here.
Despite some shortcomings with some of the functionality and with the underwhelming nature of the app, we were happy to find a fully built out and complete service.
If you already have a Costco Membership, we’d definitely recommend purchasing Complete ID as an add-on service, but we’re not sure we can recommend purchasing a Costco membership simply to have access to Complete ID.
There are several top-rated protection services out there, so we encourage you to comparison shop to find the one that’s right for you.
Not exactly. In order to sign up for Complete ID, you have to be a paying Costco member.
Costco Gold Star and Business+ members can sign up for Complete ID for $13.99 per month, while Costco Executive members pay $8.99 per month. This is on top of the annual $60 Costco membership cost.
Yes, Complete ID offers triple-bureau credit monitoring as well as VantageScore tracking.
Identity monitoring protections include Social Security number monitoring, criminal record monitoring, and payday loan monitoring.
Kind of. Complete ID doesn’t have a proper app, just a mobile version of the desktop website.
Lembo Stolba, S. (2019, August 14). What Is Child Identity Theft?. Experian.
Colby, C. and Profis, S. (2020, August 6). 9 rules for strong passwords: How to create and remember your login credentials. CNet.
Johnson, S. (2017, September 11). 4 Reasons You Should Never Pay for Credit Monitoring. Money Talks News. https://www.moneytalksnews.com/ask-stacy-should-i-pay-for-credit-monitoring-2/
Niemeyer, B. (2019, September 9). What Is a VantageScore — & Do I Have One? Credit.
Garun, N. (2019, March 27). How to set up two-factor authentication on all your online accounts. The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/17/15772142/how-to-set-up-two-factor-authentication