Every time you use your credit card or log onto the internet, you face countless threats to your personal information and finances. That’s why having an identity monitoring service watching your back is a smart move.
Speaking of smart, Identity Guard separates itself from the crowd by enlisting the aid of IBM’s powerful artificial intelligence, Watson. And investing in protection like this pays off more when you pay less, which makes Identity Guard’s low-priced coverage look very good to us. The service is not without its flaws, though. Its relatively lackluster mobile app probably won’t thrill you, and that’s one of the things that cost Identity Guard some points in our review. Still, Identity Guard is an option worth looking into — and you can start looking into it by reading our review.
People have been impersonating people and scamming regular folks for hundreds of years. But the low-tech identity thieves of yore were nothing like the modern scammers that can target you now. From your debit card to your internet connection, you’ve got a lot of appetizing targets for tech-savvy identity thieves. The bad guys have never had more ways to steal private information from you or from others you trust with it.
In this day and age, shredding bills and watching out for telephone scams just isn’t enough to protect your identity. That’s why services like Identity Guard® have stepped up to offer protection, monitoring, and restitution services designed to counter the threat of identity theft.
There are plenty of these services out there, but they have not all been created equal. The point of our rankings and reviews is to show you the difference by comparing, contrasting, and evaluating the different identity theft protection services on the market. Below, we’ll take a look at Identity Guard. Read on for our full Identity Guard review.
While all of these companies offer slightly different packages at various price points, they’re all designed to do more or less the same things for you.
First and foremost, these identity monitoring services (you guessed it) monitor your identity. That basically means that that Identity Guard and its peers check to see if your name and other identifying information are popping up anywhere that they shouldn’t. Companies like Identity Guard check in on your credit rating and other personal indicators regularly to see if anything unusual is happening on that front.
And what if your name or personal information does appear somewhere that it shouldn’t, like on the dark web? Well, then these companies will alert you.
These sorts of services don’t actually stop identity thieves in action (that’s the FBI’s job), but they’ll allow you to act fast and minimize damage. Even better, most of these companies (including Identity Guard) offer some kind of recovery guidance and insurance coverage for stolen funds, which can be a huge help to you after an identity theft incident.
Signing up for Identity Guard will give you all of these features, but so will signing up with most of the competition. So what makes Identity Guard unique? The most significant way in which Identity Guard differs is that it uses IBM® Watson™, a powerful artificial intelligence, in order to offer souped-up identity monitoring. Identity Guard is also pretty easy on your wallet, which is always a plus in our book.
That’s far from the whole story on Identity Guard, of course. The service has a few pros and cons, which we’ll share with you in more detail as we work our way through this Identity Guard review.
Arguably the most important feature that distinguishes Identity Guard is that it uses IBM Watson artificial intelligence. You may remember Watson from stunts like its big Jeopardy! win over legendary (human) champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson is good for much more than winning Jeopardy!, of course. It’s a powerful AI that is most often used in B2B projects like this one (that’s a bit different than Alexa or Siri, both of which are usually consumer-facing AIs).
The core of Identity Guard’s services, and what it primarily uses Watson for, are its monitoring services. So what information of yours does it monitor, and where is it looking for your data?
Identity Guard says it uses Watson to scour the “Dark Web,” the sketchy portion of the internet that is encrypted and accessible only by special browsers like Tor. You may know the Dark Web from its roles in various shady transactions and scandals, including the infamous celebrity nudes leak of 2014. When crooks buy, sell, and trade private stuff without its owner’s consent — whether that means a celebrity’s private photograph or your own social security number — the Dark Web is usually where it happens. So it makes sense that Identity Guard would try to patrol this part of the internet. Identity Guard is not the only identity theft protection service offering this feature, but it seems to be more efficient at it than others.
Identity Guard’s plans each offer a “Risk Management Report.” But what the heck does that do for you?
Once you have an Identity Guard account, you’ll be able to log into Identity Guard’s online dashboard and view some basic information about your identity and Identity Guard’s monitoring (we’ll talk a bit more about this in our “User experience” section). Under the “Reports & Scores” drop-down menu, Identity Guard customers can click “Risk Management Score” and view a brief report from Identity Guard that attempts to evaluate the customer’s overall risk of identity theft.
According to Identity Guard, a Risk Management Score takes into account “Your actions, your lifestyle, and how you respond to Threat Alerts.” The “actions” and “lifestyle” portion of this equation seems to come from the so-called “Threat Questions,” which can be accessed in a different tab within the dashboard. These form a sort of online quiz and ask things like which operating systems you use and which social media sites you have accounts with. Take a moment to answer these, and Identity Guard will have some more information to work with as it evaluates your threat level.
Identity Guard also offers “safe browsing tools” in the form of a browser extension. If you install the browser extension, it will alert you with pop-ups whenever you’ve wandered somewhere with a security issue (such as a site without HTTPS). It also blocks trackers, ads, and data mining programs. It worked pretty well. One thing that we appreciated about the browser extension was how simple it was to quickly whitelist a site (“whitelisting” means that you’ll allow ads from a site, which is a nice way to support your favorite sites financially — and is sometimes necessary with sites that block content when they detect ad blockers).
Identity Guard’s anti-phishing mobile app is a nice additional feature that is free to use for anyone, not just members.
Depending on your price tier (more on that in a bit), Identity Guard can also monitor your credit and/or give you your score* monthly. This is a very important aspect of identity monitoring because identity thieves would love to use your stolen identity to take out big loans or lines of credit in your name — which, of course, they’ll have no intention of paying back.
Identity Guard will monitor changes of address for you if you sign up for one of its higher-tier plans. This is a pretty important feature, so it makes sense that Identity Guard offers it in their higher-tiered plans.
What you do on social media can increase your risk of identity theft (and, for that matter, of real-life robberies and other crimes). Identity Guard’s answer to this unfortunate reality is the “Social Insight Report,” which you will have access to if you choose the priciest of Identity Guard’s plans.
To get your Social Insight Report, you’ll have to give Identity Guard permission to access your Facebook account. Watson will then analyze your Facebook presence and, after a wait, you’ll see your Social Insight Report in all its glory.
So what’s in a Social Insight Report? It seems to primarily be an assessment of how controversial and inappropriate your social media presence may be. Our own testing resulted in a high score and commendation for a posting history with “a minimal amount of adverse language.” How nice!
A few of these features and services are pretty groundbreaking things — in fact, the use of IBM® Watson™ AI is something no one else in the industry is doing. Identity Guard says that Watson is “constantly” scanning for your information on your behalf. That’s certainly more than you can do yourself, and it’s also more than some Identity Guard competitors can promise.
Identity Guard’s list of services is lengthy and more comprehensive than those offered by some competitor services.
Identity Guard offers three main pricing plans. They are “Value,” “Total,” and “Ultra,” and they are Identity Guard’s entry-level, mid-level, and top-tier plans, respectively. Let’s break those down in a bit more detail, shall we?
Value ($7.20 per month OR $79.99 per year for individuals, $11.99 per month OR $119.99 per year for families):
Total ($15.99 per month OR $159.99 per year for individuals, $23.99 per month OR $239.99 per year for families):
All of the above, plus:
Ultra ($23.99 per month OR $239.99 per year for individuals, $31.99 per month OR $319.99 per year for families):
All of the above, plus:
Identity Guard is definitely targeting the lower end of the price points we usually see on identity theft protection services. The prices are pretty low and they do beat most of the competition: LifeLock’s pricing, for instance, charges $9.99 per month for its cheapest plan, and that’s only for the first year (after that it’s $14.99 per month, significantly more than the price of Identity Guard’s cheapest plan). High-end plans from competitor services can top $30 per month for individuals, while Identity Guard doesn’t even hit that price point with its top-tier family plan.
It’s hard to find a service as affordable as Identity Guard’s “Value” plan, but the more typical coverage of the “Total” plan can be had for prices that are similar to competitor offerings.
Signing up for Identity Guard is pretty easy. You’ll have to enter a credit card number and social security number to get started. Once Identity Guard has all your information and has charged you for your first month of service, you’ll find yourself in the dashboard view of Identity Guard’s in-browser app.
We unlocked a few more features by answering some quick questions that proved our identity (they were the same sorts of questions you are asked when you try to access a credit report, if you’ve ever done that).
We also complete the “Threat Questions,” which didn’t take long at all and updated my “Risk Management Report” (for more on that, you can check out the relevant part of this review’s “Services and features” section).
We liked the simple and straightforward dashboard that Identity Guard offered in its browser app. This app gives you the vital stuff at a glance, and you’ll find some interesting stuff tucked away in the menus and tabs (like the aforementioned Risk Management Report, for instance).
Identity Guard’s anti-phishing app was effective. But you don’t actually need an Identity Guard subscription to use the anti-phishing app. (You do, however, need a subscription to use the browser extensions that serve the same purpose on non-mobile devices.)
For the most part, the user experience of Identity Guard is one we think you’ll like. The whole idea of a service like this is that it takes something off of your plate; unless you have some reason to worry, you’ll probably be content to forget about Identity Guard for days or weeks at a time and visit its dashboard or app only if and when you get an alert that concerns you.
Identity Guard is more reasonably priced than some similar services and they also offer a more comprehensive offering than those competitors. This is why Identity Guard is our top pick for the best identity theft protection service. Identity Guard’s use of Watson AI, it’s a lengthy list of features, mobile app convenience and low cost keep it in our top spot of identity recovery options.
There are plenty of great things about Identity Guard. If you sign up for the service, you’ll be better protected from the risks of identity theft than those who don’t have any coverage or have coverage that is lacking. We recommend Identity Guard strongly.
*The score you receive with Identity Guard is provided for educational purposes to help you understand your credit. It is calculated using the information contained in your TransUnion credit file. Lenders use many different credit scoring systems, and the score you receive with Identity Guard is not the same score used by lenders to evaluate your credit.
Your card will be charged either a monthly or annual fee, depending on the membership plan you choose. You may cancel your membership anytime simply by contacting Identity Guard.
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