Identity theft is a crime that has existed in some form or other for hundreds of years. But the low-tech identity thieves of yore were nothing like the modern scammers that plague us now. From your debit card to your internet connection, the modern world is full of crooked opportunities for tech-savvy identity thieves. There have never been more ways to steal private information from individuals, whether directly or indirectly.
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. In our rankings and reviews, we compare, contrast, and evaluate 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.
Identity Guard is an identity theft protection and recovery service. Its competitors include LifeLock, IdentityForce, and ID Watchdog.
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. Primarily, they monitor your identity. In essence, what this means two basic things: first, that Identity Guard and its peers check to see if your name and other identifying information are popping up anywhere that they shouldn’t; and second, that 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. If certain information is detected, these companies will alert you. And if your identity has been stolen, these companies generally offer some kind of recovery guidance and insurance coverage for stolen funds.
In most ways, Identity Guard is a standout for a service in this space. The most significant way in which it differs is that it offers a full identity theft protection suite. Identity Guard’s services tend to be more comprehensive than the competition’s, but also a bit cheaper.
That’s far from the whole story on Identity Guard, of course. The service has a few pros and cons, which we’ll get deeper into 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 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 does it monitor?
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 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 is that?
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.
Identity Guard also offers “safe browsing tools” in the form of a browser extension. The browser extension alerts you with pop-ups when 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 I 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 will frequently use stolen identities to take out big loans or lines of credit — which, of course, they have no intention of paying back.
Identity Guard will monitor changes of address for customers in its higher tiers. 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 is available to customers who have 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. I was given a high score and commended for the fact that my posts “have a minimal amount of adverse language.”
These features and services are really groundbreaking things — in fact, the use of IBM® Watson™ AI is something no one else in the industry is doing. With Identity Guard and its competitors, the idea is that you’re making life a little more convenient by having a service do all of this checking for you. You’re also getting these checks run more often than you would if you did them all yourself: Identity Guard says that Watson is “constantly” scanning on your behalf.
Identity Guard’s list of services is lengthy and more comprehensive than those offered by some competitor services.
Identity Guard offers three main plans. They are “Value,” “Total,” and “Premier,” 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:
Premier ($19.99 per month OR $199.99 per year for individuals, $27.99 per month OR $279.99 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, 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 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 was pretty easy. I had to enter my credit card number and my social security number to get started. Once Identity Guard had all my information and had charged me for my first month of my Premium subscription, I landed in the dashboard view of Identity Guard’s in-browser app.
I unlocked a few more features by answering some quick questions that proved my 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).
I also complete the “Threat Questions,” which didn’t take long at all and updated my “Risk Management Report” (for more on that, check out the relevant part of this review’s “Services and features” section).
I liked the simple and straightforward dashboard that Identity Guard offered in its browser app. It gave me the vital stuff at a glance, and there was 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 a pretty good one. 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 best identity theft protection service. Identity Guard’s use of Watson AI, it’s 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, and Identity Guard customers are better protected from the risks of identity theft than those who don’t have any coverage or have coverage that is lacking. I would suggest that you check out Identity Guard as we recommend them 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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