Robust Identity Theft Protection from a Trusted Name at a Reasonable Price
Identity Theft is on the rise, and proactive consumers are increasingly looking to safeguard themselves with a range of ID theft protection services. What if you could go directly to the source, though, for this kind of protection?
Enter Experian IdentityWorks.
After a few days of testing, we can see why this is a well-liked service. It offers robust functionality, it has a well-designed layout, and most of the protections work flawlessly. At only $19.99 per month, we think the price is more than reasonable for what you get, and it’s pretty simple to expand the service into a family plan or to protect your children.
While we found a few things we didn’t love, we really liked the protection that came with their three-bureau credit monitoring, and the beautifully designed app made it easy to monitor our identity on-the-go. In fact, we consider Experian IdentityWorks to be the best ID theft protection for credit bureau integration. Before we start unpacking everything, let’s take a quick look at the major pros and cons of Experian IdentityWorks.
These pros and cons were the ones that immediately jumped out to us, but here’s an item that could honestly fit into either category — IdentityWorks is brought to you by Experian, one of the three major credit monitoring bureaus.
So there are two ways of looking at this. The first is that securing identity theft protection through one of the major credit reporting bureaus is a good thing — they obviously know what they’re doing when it comes to credit monitoring, so it’s not a huge logical leap to expect they’d be adept at protection, right? This reasoning makes sense to us, but other experts might disagree.
Those folk’s take is a little more cynical. They say that if you look closely at the terms of service, you’ll find that you might be limited in your ability to pursue legal action against the company should your identity be stolen, even if the bureau was responsible for leaking your data. This was the case in 2017 when an Equifax breach exposed the personal data of 145 million consumers who were left with little to no recourse1.
Did You Know: It’s estimated that nearly 52 percent of data breaches are caused by human error.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t purchase identity theft protection from a credit bureau; we’re just saying you should pay attention to the fine print. We read it ourselves, and everything checks out fine. But we certainly can’t speak from experience about lawsuits against one of the Big Three, so we’ll leave it up to you to decide if the pros outweigh the cons.
That said, on paper IdentityWorks seems like a solid service coming from a trusted source, but to really understand its ins and outs, we had to purchase our plan. IdentityWorks offers two tiers of coverage — Plus and Premium. For a detailed breakdown of both, check out our IdentityWorks pricing report.
|Social Security Number Monitoring
|Lock Experian Credit File
|Credit Score Tracking
|FICO Score Simulator
|Financial Account Alerts
|Sex Offender Monitoring
|ID Theft Insurance
|Up to $500,000
|Up to $1,000,000
|$9.99 Per Month
|$19.99 Per Month
In our opinion, if you’re going to use the IdentityWorks service, you should really go with the Premium plan. While Plus offers some decent core features like social security number monitoring and real-time credit score tracking, the fact that it only monitors one bureau is a major drawback.
Although each bureau draws from essentially the same data, factors can differ and problems that might show up at one bureau might not necessarily show up at another2. If you’re investing in identity theft protection, you’ll want it to be complete protection.
That said, we purchased and tested IdentityWorks’ Premium plan. We think you’ll find our discoveries relevant and helpful in selecting the services you’ll want for yourself. Now let’s dig into the process of signing up!
We were happy to find the purchasing process relatively pain free. The first thing worth noting is that IdentityWorks offers a 30-day free trial to test out the product. Although you’ll need to enter your credit card information to activate the trial, we still appreciate a service that allows us to try it before we buy it. Just note that most brands offer a 30-day free trial these days, and we’ve come to expect it.
After that, the next step was to enter our personal information to establish an account. This was just the basics — our name, our address, our phone number, and the last four numbers of our social. After establishing our identity by answering a few questions, we were asked to secure our account with a 4-digit PIN and a security question.
Did You Know? The safest security questions are those that cannot be guessed or researched, that won’t change over time, and can be remembered easily.
A quick note on that — while we would never condone dishonesty, we do advise you to lie here. Here’s why: If an identity thief is getting close to hitting paydirt, they might already know your sister’s middle name or the street you grew up on. To make security questions actually, you know, secure, make up something outlandish. In our experience, the weirder you make it, the more memorable it will be.
Once that was done, we were able to sign in to our dashboard.
We have to commend IdentityWorks here; we really liked the design of their interface. There are a few data points that are immediately accessible, like our FICO score, our percentage of credit usage, and our total debt as well as some actionable items and resources like our credit file lock, our alerts, and a free child ID scan.
The navigation was well thought out, and we didn’t feel overwhelmed by the slew of services at our disposal. For instance, in our review of NortonLifeLock, we found that they didn’t really try to categorize their services in a meaningful way. That said, there’s still lots to love about LifeLock, especially if you want device protection. But we digress. While we were impressed by IdentityWork’s design right off the bat, we were happy to find its form was complemented by robust functionality.
It’s worth pointing out, though, that there is a pretty heavy advertising presence on the dashboard. Experian’s “Credit Match” is heavily featured, which is essentially just a way to get you to sign up for more credit cards. This isn’t a fireable offense, per se, but it wasn’t the best look, either. See what we mean here…
That aside, though, we were ready to get down into the functionality of all of IdentityWorks’ services. And trust us, there are plenty of helpful services and features to cover. So let’s dive in.
As with most identity theft services, our alerts were the first thing we wanted to attend to. We had a few, so let’s break those down real quick.
The first was our social security number monitoring report. Upon initial setup, IdentityWorks begins actively scanning our credit header data to notify us of names, aliases, and addresses that are associated with our social security number. There were a number of hits here, but fortunately, there was nothing we didn’t recognize.
Just a reminder — there’s no need to panic if these scans come back with numerous results. You just need to go through them and make sure you recognize all of the names and addresses that turn up. If there’s something you don’t recognize, action might be required. And hey — good news here — all of the alerts have a section under the header “what should I do now?” that offers actionable information to help understand and respond to your notifications. This is a super helpful feature.
So once we cleared all of the social security monitoring notifications, we turned our attention to the Sex Offender Monitoring report. Identity Works said they scanned for offenders in our area and didn’t find any matches.
We’ve had mixed experiences with these services, and unfortunately, like many others, IdentityWorks missed the mark here. A quick aside — if this is something you’re really concerned with, IDShield has the best sex offender monitoring service we’ve seen.
We’ve confirmed that there are a handful of sex offenders living near us, so whenever a service tells us it didn’t find any matches, we’re immediately skeptical not only of the effectiveness of their monitoring software but of the service as a whole. If this doesn’t work, what else doesn’t work? Again, not a deal-breaker, just something to keep in mind.
And speaking of, our court record monitoring report was next. Again, we were a little disappointed here. The service didn’t feel robust, and didn’t seem as functional as we’d like it to be.
Two reports in a row that turned up nothing didn’t really inspire confidence. Nevertheless, we moved on to the dark web surveillance report. Thankfully, this turned up some results, but to be honest, that’s not too surprising.
The “dark web” refers to a region of the Internet that is inaccessible by search engines or even conventional browsers. It’s home to a lot of nefarious activity including sex and drug trafficking, as well as — you guessed it — identity theft. Given the large number of high-profile data breaches in the past few years, it’s not uncommon for a person’s identifiable information to show up on one of these scans, so don’t panic if you see a bunch of initial alerts3.
What you need to look out for are alerts that are recent — say, within the past year — or if you find an account that you haven’t changed the password for recently. If something like that turns up, we recommend changing your password and, if that password has been used for multiple services, change it there as well.
Once we sifted through all of our alerts, we wanted to ensure that IdentityWorks was scanning for all the protection points we signed up for. We clicked on “protection” in the top navigation, and here we worked through a few pages worth of data entry to protect our bank accounts, our driver’s license number, our medical ID number, passport information, and credit cards. It took us a while, but you know what they say about an ounce of prevention versus a pound of cure.
Experian IdentityWorks Results
Once that was done, we wanted to take a look at the credit monitoring services offered by Experian IdentityWorks. We were happy to find an extremely detailed report broken down by each bureau that we were able to tab through.
Experian IdentityWorks Bureaus
We can’t show you everything because it’s personally identifiable, but trust us — these reports are more than complete. We also really appreciated the “compare all” function, which broke the numbers from each bureau down side by side. This is the best we’ve seen this handled since Identity Guard’s hyper-detailed credit breakdown. This is a really helpful function if you’re looking to understand fluctuations in your credit scores or rebuild after financial hardships.
Did You Know? Different bureaus have different algorithms for calculating your credit score. It’s not unusual for the scores to differ slightly from one bureau to another4.
Another helpful tool we found in this section was the FICO score simulator, which let us understand what would happen to our credit score should we take certain actions like paying down credit card balances (good) or declaring bankruptcy (bad).
This score simulation function is something we’ve seen in a few top ID monitoring services like IdentityForce, but this one stands out in its level of detail and explanation. Overall, we were really happy with this functionality.
FYI: There are different types — or chapters — of bankruptcy. All of them will negatively impact your credit score significantly for years, so it should only be viewed as a last resort.
The next tool worth talking about is the Experian boost. This service allows you to add your utility and phone bill payment histories to your Experian credit file, usually resulting in an immediate increase in your credit score. The average person sees a 12 point change after performing this action, which can be really helpful if you’re on the market to buy a home.
Setting up the boost wasn’t difficult, we just had to connect IdentityWorks to the account from which our bills are paid, verify the payment histories, and secure our new score. The whole thing only took a few minutes, and we also saw a pretty significant increase in our score. Not bad for a few minutes of work! We definitely recommend taking advantage of the free boost.
The next function we wanted to take a look at was IdentityWorks’ social media monitoring. We’ve found these services to be hit or miss in the past — IdentityForce was particularly good, others, not so much — so we were hoping IdentityWorks would fall into the former category.
Did You Know? Social media activity can create privacy concerns. Based on what you share, identity thieves might become better able to impersonate you.
Activating the service wasn’t difficult, flipped a switch to “on,” and gave IdentityWorks access to the account.
Overall we were pretty happy with the protection. IdentityWorks looks back 45 days into our posting history every 24 to 48 hours, scanning for privacy or reputation risks like unprofessional language, location-sharing, and inappropriate content. Again we found the alerts here were detailed and actionable, making it one of the better social media monitoring services we’ve encountered.
The final service we wanted to highlight was the Experian credit lock. With the flip of a switch, we could lock and unlock our Experian credit file, which we found super helpful. We’ve only encountered a handful of services that offer this functionality. For example, ID Watchdog offers credit-locking services, but they take it a step further, allowing us to lock and unlock both our Equifax and TransUnion report. Regardless of how you choose to lock your reports, though, we highly recommend you get this done. Locking your credit report is the best thing — and one of the only things — you can do to prevent identity theft from occurring.
What is a credit lock? Glad you asked. Locking your credit file prevents anyone from opening a new line of credit or taking out a loan. While monitoring is great, prevention is better. We recommend everyone, whether they are using an identity theft protection service or not, to lock their credit files at all three bureaus. It’s free to do, it only takes a few minutes, and it’s the single best thing you can do to protect yourself from identity thieves5.
So that’s about it for IdentityWorks’ desktop experience! Next, we wanted to take a look at how the services translated to mobile.
So the first thing to note here is that searching for “IdentityWorks” in the app store doesn’t turn up anything, but searching for “Experian” does. It’s a little bit of a branding issue, but not too big of a deal. After a quick set up, we had access to pretty much everything offered on the desktop with a mobile-optimized user interface — yes! Note that so many identity theft protection “apps” are really just ports of the desktop version, so you end up with clunky functionality and unappealing aesthetics.
Not so with Experian IdentityWorks. Similar to NortonLifeLock, IdentityWorks has clearly thought through its mobile user experience and actually developed an app around its functionality. We can’t tell you how refreshing this is after dealing with so many lack-luster apps with poor navigation and terrible designs. This is an app we’d actually use, and we appreciate the consideration IdentityWorks put into making it.
Unfortunately, ads are just as prevalent — if not more so — on the app as they are on the desktop version of the service, but if that’s the only thing to complain about, we’ll take it.
So there you have it! Overall, we can say that Experian IdentityWorks is a really solid choice for anyone looking to protect themselves from identity theft and fraud. Coming from Experian, it makes sense that it’s a credit-focused service, and with services like a credit file lock and a score simulator, it’s really handy for folks looking to invest time and effort into boosting their numbers.
While we weren’t too happy with the unreliable functionality of the court record and sex offender monitoring services, everything else worked like gangbusters. Despite the minor hiccups, we’d be confident recommending IdentityWorks for most consumers.
A standard membership is $9.99 per month, a premium membership is $19.99 per month. These prices are fairly standard for the industry.
Yes, but only with a premium membership.
Yes, a standard membership offers up to $50,000 in protection, and a premium membership offers up to $1,000,000.
Yes, IdentityWorks can protect families as a unit or individual children.
Yes, it’s well-designed and provides access to all the features of the desktop service.
O’Shea, B. (2020, April 27). How to Prevent Identity Theft. NerdWallet.
Irby, L. (2020, February 25). What Are the 3 Major Credit Reporting Agencies? The Balance.
Dutta, P. (2020, August 1). 5 Biggest Data Breaches of 2020 (So Far). Security Boulevard.
Helen Spencer, E. (2020, October 20). Why Your Credit Score Is Different Depending On Where You Look. Money Under 30.
Cothern, L. (2018, April 25). Should I lock or freeze my credit file? Credit Karma.