Clark Howard: Freeze your credit for the best security

LifeLock is a company I am regularly asked about. It is a heavy advertiser on both the Web and radio. Yet while it’s a legitimate business, it’s also one of the most over-hyped services out there. The company sells into the fear about having your identity stolen.

Identity theft is a real problem. The odds that you’ll have your identity stolen are around one in 15 during a given year. So LifeLock has done a great job making you feel safe if you pay them money. Their service starts at $10 monthly or $109 annually.

Yet the company got in trouble about five years ago for deceptive advertising and doing, ironically, a poor job protecting its information. The company entered into a settlement with the states and the feds and restitution followed.

Now LifeLock is facing a new action that says it’s continuing to be negligent in protecting people’s data. The courts will ultimately have to decide the merits of this claim. But the company’s stock value has collapsed in the meantime.

Want more meaningful protection from identity theft than LifeLock has to offer? Do a credit freeze. You’ll pay zero to $10 per bureau, depending on your state. This will shut a criminal down cold when they try to apply for new lines of credit in your name.

Freezing your credit files has no impact on your existing lines of credit, such as credit cards. A credit freeze will cost you from zero to $10 per bureau (every state is different), but I think it’s worth it. You MUST freeze your credit with all three bureaus.

If you have kids, I’d recommend a credit freeze for them too. Unfortunately, not all states allow a parent or guardian to freeze their child’s credit. At the time of this writing, Georgia is among the states that allow it.

Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Find more answers to your consumer questions at Clark’s website

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