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A broad array of services for a complete identity theft protection plan
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As you know, scammers and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to take advantage of people, and the global health crisis has proven to be a great cover for them to carry out attacks on the identities of folks just trying to get by.1 These days, it’s becoming increasingly important that we protect against digital bad actors, and as such, proactive folks are relying on identity theft prevention and monitoring solutions to protect them.
We recently had the chance to put ID Watchdog to the test. We spent nearly a week putting the system through the proverbial paces, and we’re happy to report that generally speaking, we liked what we saw. While it’s not as well known as, say, IdentityForce, we think ID Watchdog is well worth a look if you’re comparing your options.
We’ll break down every aspect of the service in detail over the course of this review, but first, let’s take a quick look at ID Watchdog’s pros and cons.
With 1 in 20 people nationwide affected by some form of identity theft, it’s important to take precautions.2 You’ve probably seen various services out there, but be warned — you need to be selective with the one you choose. Some focus more on your finances, some focus more on cyber protection, and still others focus more on full-blown identity theft. We were happy to find ID Watchdog takes a pretty aggressive stance across the board; we’d say it’s a good solution if you’re looking to cover all your bases.
ID Watchdog offers two tiers of protection — their “Plus” plan and their “Platinum” plan. The former is $14.95 per month, the latter, $19.95. We found this price point to be right in the middle of what more premium services like Identity Guard charge, and more affordable protection plans like what LifeLock offers.
Note that both ID Watchdog plans offer critical services like subprime loan, public records, and dark web monitoring, but “Plus” comes with some pretty significant bells and whistles. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two ID Watchdog plans.
|ID Watchdog Service||Plus||Platinum|
|Credit Report Monitoring||One bureau||Three bureaus|
|Credit Report Lock||One bureau||Multi-bureau|
|Subprime Loan Block||No||Yes|
|Financial Accounts Monitoring||No||Yes|
|401K/HSA Reimbursement||No||Up to $500k|
|ID Theft Restoration||Yes||Yes|
|ID Theft Insurance||Up to $1 million||Up to $1 million|
|Price||$14.95 per month||$19.95 per month|
We’re going to be honest here — the difference in price point is so negligible, we don’t know why someone would choose the “Plus” plan. For five bucks more per month, your coverage increases significantly with the Platinum plan. Three-bureau credit monitoring ensures that if something suspicious is happening, you’re more likely to catch it before it becomes a major problem.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of signing up and configuring the services, let’s talk about some of ID Watchdog’s services from 30,000 feet.
For starters, we briefly mentioned that one of the best things about the Platinum version is that it monitors your credit report from all three bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. This means that if there’s fishy activity in your finances, you’re going to know about it, and you’re going to know about it quickly.
Did You Know: Each credit bureau offers various services, but they essentially perform the same tasks when it comes to monitoring consumer credit information. Each bureau monitors information on the accounts you control, balances you owe, and payments you make.3
We also loved that we were able to lock and unlock our Equifax and TransUnion credit reports. This means that we could control who has access to our information with the flip of a switch. Keep in mind this is really helpful in preventing identity thieves from taking out multiple loans in your name or trying to finance anything. As soon as suspicious activity is flagged, you’ll be able to lock your credit file and mitigate your losses.
We also found that ID Watchdog really stands behind their services. If our identity is stolen under their care, a resolution specialist would be assigned to manage our case until it’s resolved, including an assessment of the situation, a complete resolution plan, and the ability to act on our behalf under a limited power of attorney. We’re always looking for this type of identity theft restoration feature when trying out services.
Each plan also includes up to $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance to help with any out-of-pocket expenses related to recovering our identity. While other brands offer similar identity theft restoration services, it’s by no means a given.
Did You Know: It’s unfortunate, but identities are stolen every day. If you think you’ve been victimized, you can learn more about your options here.
Now that we understood what ID Watchdog is and what it offers, it was time to purchase the service and take it for a test drive.
As mentioned, it made the most sense to go with the “Platinum” plan. While registering for it, we found that securing this service was relatively straightforward, although there were a few notable friction points that you should know about.
We started by visiting ID Watchdog’s site in our browser. Don’t bother downloading the app before you do this — you’ll only be prompted to enter your user ID and password you won’t have. On the site, we were prompted to create our login, and then to enter our personal information and purchase our plan.
Pro Tip: Make sure you create a strong password when signing up for this service. The longer your password, the better. Strong passwords should be at least 12 characters, use a combination of upper and lowercase letters, and include numbers and special symbols.
It’s worth mentioning that ID Watchdog has an obvious commitment to security. Their acceptable password criteria was robust, and they included extra layers of protection like security questions and responses. Bonus points there, although we did find something quite interesting. Who knew there was a guy named Evan who lived in our condo before us?
One thing we didn’t like, however, was that the site felt a little… dated? It’s not the best design we’ve ever seen, and some of ID Watchdog’s functionality clearly followed the site’s form. During set up the user experience felt a little clunky, and we felt like we were in an early 2000’s version of the Internet. Did these design flaws create a major issue? No, not really, but they didn’t necessarily inspire confidence, either. We’ll let it slide for now.
Once we had purchased our plan, we landed on our personalized dashboard. We were immediately impressed with how detailed it was, and the “command center” feel of it. ID Watchdog offers a multifaceted service, spanning credit monitoring, ID theft protection, dark web monitoring, and even sex offender alerts.
It would be easy to get buried under all of the functions, but the homepage actually organizes this information nicely. We also liked how the “account setup” section walked us through getting everything up to speed and adjusted to our liking.
Like other similar ID theft services, we were first asked to check our credit report for unrecognized activity. Let us tell you, this step is extremely thorough. ID Watchdog let us review our info in great detail, so you’ll want to set aside some time for this. It’s not overwhelming, but it is a process.
Luckily everything looked good there, so we returned to our dashboard. There we were prompted to block our identity from loan activity in the subprime lending network. Thankfully, for this step (and pretty much everything else as well) ID Watchdog provides a detailed explanation of what the service is, what it does, and how it benefits you. Note that this information isn’t buried in a different section of the site — it was available where and when we needed it.
Did You Know: Subprime loans have relatively high interest rates and fees that are often given to borrowers with blemished credit. They generally have less than favorable borrowing terms.4
As part of this step, we had the opportunity to link our financial accounts to ID Watchdog — great! That was one of the big selling points for us, and it’s something we’re starting to see more of these days. We were advised that we would be directed to the service’s data provider to authenticate our account and to allow ID Watchdog to monitor it. No problem, let’s get that going.
Uh oh. That’s not great, but there are still some steps we need to take to fully set up our account. We decided to move on to those and come back to this.
Next, we were asked to update how we’d like to be alerted should ID Watchdog find something untoward in our finances. We were asked to toggle on or off emails, texts and phone calls. Ticks in the “positives” column for us, here. We love the ability to customize our experience with identity theft protection services — the more we can tailor things to our preferences, the better!
ID Watchdog also allowed us the ability to opt-out of certain types of notifications. It seems like every service you sign up for or every retailer you visit these days will bombard your inbox with updates and promotional materials. No, Arbys, we don’t want to read an article about your new roast beef sandwich deals, and we appreciate brands that allow us to control exactly how much we hear from them, like ID Watchdog.
Now that we had our notifications exactly how we wanted them, we were prompted to add credentials to ID Watchdog’s dark web scan. We really loved how granular we could get here with the service. Check out all the options!
If you’re not familiar, “dark web” refers to a subset of the “deep web,” or the parts of the Internet that aren’t indexed by search engines and only accessible through specific web browsers. It’s here that illegal activity like the buying and selling of personal information is conducted.
Did You Know: “Dark web” and “Deep web” are sometimes used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. The deep web simply means anything that isn’t indexed by search engines — not necessarily for nefarious reasons. The dark web, on the other hand, is intentionally hidden and requires a specific web browser to access. Estimates put the deep web at around 99 percent of the internet, while the dark web makes up around 5 percent.5
There are several other functions on this screen beyond just dark web scanning, but we want to first look at the identity profile report. Here we found records of our personal information that was located in public databases or the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) database.
And there were a lot of records on us. Note that this can be alarming, but ID Watchdog does a great job of explaining what these records are, and where they come from. They say names or addresses that we didn’t recognize might indicate that we’re a victim of identity theft, but to keep in mind that public records may contain errors, and the association between the name or address records and our identity might be a little convoluted.
ID Watchdog gave us the assurance that we didn’t need to be overly concerned if we received an identity alert on a name or address we didn’t recognize. It was only if we also received another type of alert that we needed to be concerned. Generally speaking, they say any records that are older than two years are safe to ignore.
FYI: These records are pulled from a myriad of public databases including birth and death records, criminal and court records, deeds and mortgages, driver’s license and vehicle registrations, liens and judgments, hunting and fishing licenses, property records, tax assessor records, telecom and wireless carriers, utility companies, voter registration, and many more.
We’d show you a screenshot of all the records associated with us, but that’s private information. Suffice it to say, we had a lot of records to validate, and you might, too.
After going through all of our records and making sure they made sense, we turned our attention to an interesting feature of ID Watchdog — a registered sex offender report. As it’s described, this function will alert you if a registered sex offender moves into or out of your neighborhood, and the company allows you to run up to 10 reports every month using any address or geographic parameters.
While this is an interesting service in theory, we’re not really sold on its accuracy or functionality. When we put in our address (in Midtown Atlanta, mind you) the map didn’t seem to correlate with our location (it dropped the pin in the ocean off the west coast of Africa) and no offenders popped up in our list. While we’d like to believe that’s true, we cross-referenced it with another service that showed… well… quite a few.
If this is something really important to you, we unfortunately can’t recommend relying on ID Watchdog for their sex offender registry service.
Another option on this page was to link ID Watchdog to our social media accounts to monitor for any number of nefarious actions and suspicious behaviors including drugs, discrimination, spam, malware, profanity and weapons. While this isn’t particularly of interest to us, note that parents can use this service as a tool to help keep an eye on their kids.
Unfortunately, we ran into the same authentication problem we had when we tried to link the service to our financial accounts. We followed ID Watchdog’s instructions to log out of the account and turn off our pop-up blocker, but we were still met with an error message after several attempts on various social media platforms. At that point we thought it would be best to call customer service.
After a brief wait, we were greeted by a very friendly customer service representative. After describing the problem she said she wasn’t able to help, but told us someone would contact us. That was pretty recently, so we’ll update this review when they get in touch with us to resolve the issue.
Another service worth highlighting is ID Watchdog’s solicitation reduction service. With this, the company says you’ll notice a significant decrease in the number of robocalls you receive and the junk mail in your letterbox. This function is a little tucked away up in the top right-hand corner of the dashboard behind a hyperlink, but it’s definitely worth turning on.
One thing to note, though, the “opt-out” language they use is a little confusing. By clicking “opt-out,” you’re actually opting in to the service, out of receiving unwanted calls and offers. Once you check the boxes, your status will change from “inactive” to “activation pending.” ID Watchdog also points out that it could take up to a month for you to start noticing decreases.
We were able to set up everything other than the financial monitoring and the social media scanning to our liking. We’re not necessarily saying these website issues will also be your experience, but we think they’re worth pointing out.
While the website left a little to be desired, we should point out that ID Watchdog also offers a mobile app where you can access your account and fiddle with its features. We’re big fans of using our smartphones to check on our identity, so let’s have a look at the ID Watchdog app.
We found the app experience to be decent, but not great. We were able to configure our notifications in such a way that we’d receive calls and push notifications if ID Watchdog found anything that looked suspicious. The level of security that adds is comforting, but we’ve got to say, we wish they had spent a little more time considering the user experience of the app. Once you log in, you’re presented with a big blank box telling you “monitoring is turned on.”
We assume this is where any alerts will show up, and while we’re thankful there’s nothing there, it does feel like there’s, you know, nothing there. We really would have liked to see ID Watchdog replicate the great control panel feel of their web-based user interface. This definitely isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s something to keep in mind.
We really loved the entirety of the suite of services ID Watchdog provides. This is a head-to-toe solution if you’re looking to protect your identity and monitor your credit proactively. While we weren’t super impressed with some of ID Watchdog’s functionality or the design choices they made, overall we were very happy with our experience.
We felt that our identity and financial accounts were in good hands with ID Watchdog, so we would recommend the Platinum plan if you’re looking for intermediate to advanced identity theft protection.
Kaplan, E. and Kent, J. (2020, September 17). Fraudsters Steal Millions from Unemployment Coffers, Adding to Pain of Those Still Waiting for Benefits. NBC News.
O’Shea, B. (2020, August 17). Identity Theft: What it is, How to Prevent it, Warning Signs and Tips. Nerdwallet.
Dieker, N., (2020, September 10). What Do the Three Credit Bureaus Do? MSN Money.
Akin, J. (2019, October 28). What Does Subprime Mean? Experian.
Guccione, D. (2020, March 5) What is the Dark Web? How to Access it and What You’ll Find. CSO.