Identity theft is a growing problem, and while there are numerous identity theft prevention solutions out there, we can tell you that some are clearly better than others. That’s why we were excited to dive in to experience one of the best in the business — Identity Guard.
In their twenty-some-odd-year history, Identity Guard has helped more than 47 million customers protect their personal and financial data, making them one of the most popular identity theft solutions on the market. We know you’re anxious to get going, but first, let’s take a look at some quick pros and cons:
Like most services, Identity Guard offers both family and individual plans. If you’re interested in protecting more than just yourself, take a look at our best identity theft protection services for families.
Each of Identity Guard’s plans has three tiers: Value, Total, and Ultra. The plans run $7.50, $16.67, and $29.99 per month, respectively. Before we dive into the specific features, let’s break down what each tier gets you. First, you should know that each of the plans include the mainstays like $1 million in identity theft insurance, a U.S.-based customer care team, data-breach notifications, and dark web monitoring. But that’s where the plans start to diverge. Have a look below.
|Bank Account Monitoring||No||Yes||Yes|
|Credit and Debit Card Monitoring||No||No||Yes|
|401k and Investment Account Monitoring||No||No||Yes|
|Criminal and Sex Offense Monitoring||No||No||Yes|
|USPS Address Change Monitoring||No||No||Yes|
|1-Bureau Monthly Credit Score||No||Yes||Yes|
|3-Bureau Credit Monitoring||No||Yes||Yes|
|3-Bureau Annual Credit Report||No||No||Yes|
For some context, $30 per month is on the high end for these services. If you’re looking for something more affordable, LifeLock has standard plans available for about $10 per month, and Zander offers basic levels of protection for only $6.75 monthly.
After weighing the options, we thought the Ultra plan would be right for us (we really wanted that 3-bureau credit report). We went ahead and selected that option, and were prompted to create an Identity Guard account by entering our email and selecting a password.
Pro Tip: Passwords should be long. Ideally, this means 17 characters or more. They should include a mix of upper and lower case letters, as well as numbers and symbols. More importantly, though, these combinations should be random. Hackers are adept at recognizing patterns, and their tools seek them out.1
Once that was done, Identity Guard had us enter some personal information, including our full name, our address, our phone number, date of birth, and social security information. Then it was on to billing to purchase our plan and activate our account.
One quick note — you’ll save 17 percent if you choose to be billed annually rather than on a monthly cycle, but you’ll owe $299.99 at checkout. We went with monthly billing, but if we were planning on using Identity Guard for the long-term, an annual plan makes more financial sense.
Once that was done, we signed in and landed on our dashboard. Immediately, a short, animated tutorial popped up. We can’t tell you how much we appreciate this. So many services out there sort of dump you into a dashboard you have to figure out on your own, but it’s clear Identity Guard takes user experience seriously.
The tutorial started by telling us to add items to our “watchlist.” Identity Guard already imported the information we provided during enrollment, but there’s a lot more it can monitor for us. Then, it told us to verify our identity, saying that many of the advanced features require identity verification. Apparently, this takes less than five minutes and would allow access to everything. Sounds good.
Next, it told us to download the app, and finally to click on the financial transactions tab to give Identity Guard access to our bank for monitoring. Perfect — let’s get going in that order.
The watchlist is basically Identity Guard’s repository of all the personal information it will monitor. Since we went with the Ultra plan, this list is pretty extensive and includes credit card numbers, passport information, and health insurance IDs. Once we clicked into that section, we opted to watch a quick video on how to add additional elements.
Again — we really appreciate services that take user experience seriously. Although it sometimes feels like hand-holding, these little bits of guidance along the way can help orient someone who might not be too tech-savvy. Bonus points for Identity Guard there.
After the video, we started entering all of the information we wanted monitored. This process is a little time consuming, but we know putting in the work upfront could save us a lot of headaches (and probably tears) down the road should we become a victim of identity theft.
In this section, we found Identity Guard also offered a pretty unique but slightly confusing feature. Under the “threat questions” tab, we were asked 32 questions about our personal life, our behaviors, our consumer habits, and our healthcare. Honestly, this isn’t something we typically see from other ID theft protection services.
Once we were done here, we were a little confused. It wasn’t exactly clear what the answers to these questions actually did. After some fiddling around, though, we found our Risk Management Score under the resources tab. It would have been nice to be directed there automatically, but it’s a forgivable oversight.
This is a pretty cool feature that tracks our behaviors over time and lets us know how secure or how risky our behaviors are. Pretty unique functionality here!
Once we wrapped up here, per the tutorial, it was time to verify our identity.
Under the “Your Credit Scores” tile on the dashboard, we found a “verify your identity” link. This helps Identity Guard verify we’re really who we say we are by asking a series of multiple-choice questions generated from what personal information was found in public databases. This additional layer of protection would prevent bad actors from accessing our sensitive financial and credit information.
At this point we were able to access our VantageScore Credit Score. You might be confused seeing only two bureaus reporting here, since you paid for three-bureau credit monitoring. Don’t worry, though, you’re not getting ripped off. You’ll still get monitoring from all three major credit bureaus.
VantageScore was developed in 2006 by Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax to evaluate consumers’ likelihood of repaying borrowed money, competing against the better-known FICO score. It’s used by lenders, landlords, and other financial institutions to make decisions on creditworthiness.2
Additionally, now that our identity was verified, we had access to our credit report. Here is where that three-bureau monitoring comes into play. If you’ve never seen your full credit report, it can be a little daunting. It has a ton of information on it, and a lot of it can read like greek if you’re not a finance person.
Don’t worry though, Identity Guard breaks everything down in meaningful ways, and tells you what to look out for in each section — personal information, accounts, inquiries, public records, collections, and consumer statements. Honestly, this is the best credit breakdown we’ve seen since we reviewed IdentityForce.
Generally speaking, in these reports you want to be on the lookout for information you don’t recognize like a credit card you don’t have or a credit check you didn’t authorize.
Pro Tip: With Identity Guard, you only get to generate one of these credit reports per year. Make sure you’re using it wisely!
While it seemed a little out of sync, the tutorial told us that next we were supposed to download the app. We grabbed our phone and headed over to the app store to do just that.
After the really robust desktop experience, we have to say, we were pretty underwhelmed by the app. Like many services, Identity Guard’s app felt like an afterthought, with very little consideration given to the user experience.
Is the app functional? Sure. Is it well designed? Unfortunately, no. We could cycle between “reports,” “alerts,” “watchlist” and “settings,” but there was no dashboard to speak of and no clear flow to anything. For someone that only wants to use the app as a vehicle for receiving alerts it’ll do, but Identity Guard is clearly primarily a desktop service.
Now that we had the app all set up, it was time to complete the steps listed out in the tutorial by linking Identity Guard to our financial accounts. To do that, we clicked on “link account” under the transaction monitoring tile. Easy enough!
Like most identity theft services out there, Identity Guard uses a third-party service to quickly link to financial accounts — meaning we didn’t have to manually enter a list of account and routing numbers. Again — it seems like user experience was high on their priority list.
Did You Know: Third-party vendors like the one used by Identity Guard utilize end-to-end encryption, making it so data can only be read on two ends — by the sender and the recipient.3
Once we entered our login credentials for our banking institution to connect to Identity Guard, we were prompted to set the thresholds for our alerts for different kinds of transactions — account transfers (which includes debit cards), credit card purchases, loans, investments, and “other” — meaning that Identity Guard would notify us any time any transaction was made over a certain amount.
We’re not really big spenders, so we always prefer to keep all of these thresholds pretty low. Even though we get more alerts this way, we’d rather be safe than sorry. That said, you can dial-in your financial monitoring settings however you wish. We think you’ll like the functionality here.
Once we set our thresholds, we were directed to our transaction monitoring page. We can’t show you this because there’s too much sensitive information on it, but take our word for it — it’s really detailed and highly organized. We could swap between accounts with ease and see the details of every transaction — who it was for, when it was made, and how much it was for.
So that was it for the setup items in the tutorial, but since we purchased the top-tier plan, there were still some bells and whistles to activate. Let’s take a look at those now.
The first perk we found was home title monitoring. While home title theft is a fairly rare occurrence, it’s still a threat you should protect yourself against. Believe it or not, an enterprising thief can sometimes steal enough personal information to forge a deed to change the ownership of a property’s title which they can then sell or borrow [citaiton id=”4″]against.[/citation] Seriously scary stuff.
Now this is pretty unique functionality we don’t come across often. In this section, we had access to all of the tax information on our property down to the latitude and longitude. Good news if we ever need to get home via sailboat and sextant. We also had access to the deed information, which can come in handy during tax season. Another piece of good news is there was nothing to activate here — Identity Guard began monitoring our home from the information we gave them when we set up our account.
Moving right along…
Next, we had “install safe browsing,” but we ran into a bit of a snag here. When we clicked the link, we were asked to download an .xpi file, but since we’re on a mac, the file wasn’t executable.
If you run into the same issue, try dragging the file over into your web browser window. If you’re on a platform like Firefox or Chrome, it should automatically install as a plug-in, and you’ll be off to the races. Small but important detail here!
This plug-in is super-robust and includes protections like ad blockers, HTTPS protections, phishing email protections, and even mining attempt protections. What’s mining you might ask? As crypto-currencies became more popular, websites have popped up to mine them. Essentially these sites run scripts without authorization to exploit the power of other people’s hardware which ends up killing the performance of the impacted machine. Sound confusing? It is, but don’t worry, Identity Guard is going to protect against it.
Did You Know: Cryptocurrency relies on decentralized networks using blockchain technology, which is essentially a distributed ledger maintained over a distributed network. Their big appeal is that they aren’t issued by any central authority, making them immune to market manipulations. In theory, anyway.5
Here we could also link to our social media channels, and this was the second time Identity Guard let us down. Unlike more robust social media monitoring functionality like IDShield, the only platforms Identity Guard offered protection on were Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We don’t use the latter two, and we were unable to connect to the former since Identity Guard doesn’t support Facebook’s new layout. We could switch back to a previous iteration, but we’d rather see Identity Guard update their service to stay current with the platform. This wasn’t a deal-breaker, just something to keep in mind.
Interesting to note, though, included in this section is Google. By linking Identity Guard to our Google account, it automatically updated our privacy settings to prevent Google from tracking our movements, saving information from our contacts, saving our personal information, and sending us personalized ads. We’re sure some hardcore privacy folks will really appreciate this, but we sort of like syncing our Google calendar to other services. Luckily each one of these protections could be toggled on and off, which we liked.
Next on the punch list was Identity Guard’s lost wallet protection. Similar to the title protection, there was nothing to set up here. This is simply a service Identity Guard offers to help customers replace important items should their wallet (or purse) go missing. Now, it’s been a while since this has happened to us, but we did have a tendency to misplace credit cards in our 20s when we were *ahem* hanging out with friends. Figuring out how to cancel and replace everything is a huge headache, but Identity Guard will immediately get one of their representatives on it to replace and restore everything. That’s peace of mind, right there.
The final item in the dashboard to look at was the security freeze tile. While Identity Guard can’t place freezes for you, it certainly walks you through the process in the most complete way we’ve seen thus far.
A quick word on security freezes — this is probably the single best thing you can do to protect yourself from identity theft. Freezing your reports makes it so bad actors cannot open any new accounts in your name. It’s free to do, doesn’t impact your credit score, and only takes a few minutes per bureau. Unless you’re actively pursuing a loan or a mortgage, we highly recommended you freeze your credit reports.
Alright! At this point we noticed we had a few notifications to deal with. Let’s take a look at what Identity Guard found, and how they suggest we should address it.
Luckily, there was nothing too scary here. We’re currently in the process of buying a house, so the majority of these alerts were retroactive notifications that transactions occurred over our thresholds. Not a big deal — we’ve been moving some money around. After reviewing them all, nothing looked nefarious.
The second type of alert we found were “historical dark web alerts.” Identity Guard found that our login credentials were discovered on the dark web, but the breaches were so old we weren’t too concerned.
Did You Know: Although the terms “dark web” and “deep web” are often used interchangeably, they’re actually two different things entirely. The deep web simply refers to areas of the internet that aren’t indexed by search engines. The dark web, on the other hand, refers to areas of the internet that are intentionally hidden and require specific configurations, software or browsers to access.
We did appreciate the “what should I do?” section of the alert itself, though, which gave us the actionable information we’d need if we deemed the alert to indeed be a threat.
So that’s that for the purchase, set-up and day-to-day use of Identity Guard. We will say that getting started and learning the ropes was incredibly easy, especially compared to some of the clunkier services we’ve tested. We hit a couple snags here and there, but it was mostly smooth sailing.
Overall, we were blown away with the attention to detail and the robust functionality of Identity Guard, which is why we’ve ranked it number one on our best identity theft protection report for 2020. While the app left something to be desired, the service more than made up for it with the richness of the desktop experience. Add to that all the extras and add-ons, and we were more than satisfied.
If you’re comfortable spending the money, we can’t recommend Identity Guard enough. But remember that we chose their premium plan at $29.99 per month. If the price tag is a little daunting, it might be worthwhile to look at other comprehensive protection services like IDWatchdog, which offers similar protections for $19.95 per month.
That said, while Identity Guard is not the cheapest option out there, we found it to be the most comprehensive, hands down.
Per month, the Basic plan is $7.50, Total protection is $16.67 and Ultra protection is $29.99. This is fairly standard for the industry.
Yes, Identity Guard’s coverage varies pretty dramatically between their triers of protection. Be sure to carefully go over each plan’s offerings before selecting the one that’s right for you?
Unfortunately, no. Identity Guard does not offer a free trial. We’d like to see this added to their policies.
Yes, but only if you select the Total or Ultra protection tiers.
Yes, Identity Guard does have a mobile app; however, the desktop experience is clearly prioritized.
Lemonnier, J. and Latto, N. (2019, July 23). How to Create a Strong Password — That You Won’t Forget. AVG. https://www.avg.com/en/signal/how-to-create-a-strong-password-that-you-wont-forget
Oshea, B. (2020, January 24). What Is a VantageScore? NerdWallet. https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/vantagescore-fico-score-the-difference
Unuth, N. (2019, August 12). What is End-to-End Encryption? Lifewire.
Marino, J. (2019, November 28). Protection Against Title Theft: What You Need to Know. ThisWeek Community News. https://www.thisweeknews.com/lifestyle/20191128/protection-against-title-theft-what-you-need-to-know
Frankenfield, J. (2020, May 5). Cryptocurrency. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cryptocurrency.asp