Some days I sit down to write this column and the words pour from my mind through my fingers and onto the keyboard. Other times, like right now, all systems go blank—one big expansive, frustrating void.
Just as I was about to run outdoors and bang my head on my new stone wall, I got that little ding letting me know I had mail—this time from Nancy.
Dear Mary: I’m interested in signing up for LifeLock. Do you feel it would be better to take the LifeLock Ultimate Plus (the most expensive) or the LifeLock Advantage plan and why? Thank you for your help. Nancy
That’s when I remembered that I wanted to tell you what happened to me a few days ago. (Oh, this is so good!)
Due to the fact that we have just recently relocated from big city life in Southern California to laid back country life in Northern Colorado (we do have a stone wall), my husband and I needed to open a bank account in our new village (not a city or a town … we live in a village!).
The bank employee handed us a keypad and asked us to input our Social Security numbers into the bank’s system. That’s it. Nothing else. In about two seconds flat, she had on her computer screen all of our personal information including banking history, all previous addresses and phone numbers for the past 40 years. That was a sad confirmation for me that personal privacy has become a thing of the past. To tell you the truth, it was creepy.
Well, just as I was trying to make sense of how on earth my information was so accessible to this bank, my phone went off, with a red-hot alert from … LifeLock!
As a longtime LifeLock member, I have my profile set to receive a text message if my Social Security number is ever used to open a credit-card account, a bank account, used to secure medical services or in any other way.
Within seconds of handing over my Social Security number, I got an ALERT on my phone with a voicemail message and a text message, too, telling me that a bank account was being opened using my identity.
I was so excited, I blurted out something like, “LifeLock rocks! I just got an alert that someone is using my identity to open an account and I need to let them know it’s me, it’s okay.”
Apparently I said it rather loudly, because everyone in that small bank branch was duly impressed, especially the bank manager. This had never happened in this particular bank, which should tell you just how sparsely populated our new area is.
In all the years I’ve been a member of LifeLock, I’d never received that kind of alert, which I consider a good thing. The only alerts I’d received up to that moment were when a registered sex offender moved into the neighborhood, which happened more often than my comfort level could handle.
It was gratifying to experience LifeLock in action. I did feel rather smug in light of all the attention. Thank you, LifeLock.
As for Nancy’s question, let me start by saying that if cyber thieves can steal U.S. Federal employee’s identifying information and hack into the IRS website and breach 100,000 accounts, what makes me think that I can keep my information any safer than those agencies? I can’t, so here’s my new credo: I can’t fully protect my identity, but I CAN take steps to stop thieves from using it against me. That’s what my LifeLock Ultimate Plus membership does.
The reason I have the Ultimate Plus option is that it monitors for every possible way that my identity could be used by thieves—including attempts to take over my existing bank accounts, to open new bank accounts (getting that alert was so cool), activity on investments accounts, even file-sharing network searches monthly credit score tracking and sex offender registry reports.
The reason I have identity theft protection at all is for peace of mind. I want to know that no matter how criminals might try to use my Social Security number or other information, LifeLock is going to be my eyes and ears to let me know about it in time to stop them dead in their tracks. I want the most protection I can possibly afford.