You Have Been Hacked Sign illustration design over white

How a Startling Red-Hot Alert Made My Day!

Some days I sit down to write this column and the words just 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.

You Have Been Hacked Sign illustration design over white

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. (Oh, this is so good!)

Relocating 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.

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, family members’ information, 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, to change the deed on our home, and or any other potential cybercrime. I want to know everything and I mean at the moment it happens.

Within seconds of handing over my Social Security number, I got that 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.

Back to Nancy’s question, let me start by saying that if cyber thieves can hack into the IRS, breach the accounts, and steal the personal data of 700,000 taxpayers, what makes me think that I can keep my information any safer than the IRS and FBI? With cybercrime reports increasing as much as 300% since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic according to the FBI, how can I have any confidence at all that I can outsmart the cyber thieves and their cybercrimes to keep them from stealing my identity, my bank and investment accounts, and even my home? 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 membership does.

I upgraded to the Ultra Plus membership years ago and recommend it highly because it protects against cybercrime by monitoring my credit card accounts, monitors my home’s title, keeps tabs on my credit scores, and sends me an alert whenever my score might change—to name a few of its features.

The reason I have the option is that it monitors for every possible way that my identity could be used by thieves—including attempts to take over 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 and now home title monitoring to detect deed fraud, too.

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. And I want the most protection I can possibly afford.

When you check out the Lifelock membership options, keep this in mind: If you have a free Rakuten account, right now, you will get 60% Cash Back (regularly 30%) on new Lifelock memberships. Wow, 60%. I’ve never seen that before.

For more than a decade, I and my entire family have trusted LifeLock. I think you can, too.


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22 replies
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  1. Debbie B. says:

    Hi Mary,
    Thanks for the info on Lifelock. I’ve been on the fence about it, but I HIGHLY respect your opinion so will be enrolling soon!
    Lastly, like Denise above, I too LOVE your posts!! I’ve followed you for years and always look forward to your info! Don’t know if you realize how much this info has helped me (and I’m sure others) with making important decisions!
    Be Well, Be Safe and Take Care,
    Debbie B.

    Reply
  2. Denise Draw says:

    Too funny! (Or not.) Your “Hacked Alert” on the subject line in my email got my Everyday Cheapskate newsletter banished to the possible spam/don’t open this if you aren’t sure who it is file with all shortcuts disabled. Guess that system works, too! Love your letters!

    Reply
  3. Julie says:

    I had Lifelock for many years. It started at $8.99/month and then increased to $11.99/month. That’s when I could no longer afford it so I closed my account. But, there are ways you can protect yourself (mostly for free) from identity theft including getting a locking mailbox; changing all your passwords to stronger passwords OR use a Password Manager program; putting a freeze on all your accounts with the three credit reporting bureaus; getting security software for computer/phones (I have Bitdefender Total Security $40-$50/year); change your Wi-Fi password on your modem/router; use a VPN (I use FireFox browser); check your credit reports regularly; and back-up your computer regularly. These are some starters to protect yourself. And, yes, I believe anyone can be hacked but you can make it difficult for the thieves to get your information. Your bank is a good source of free information on how to protect yourself as well. The Auto Club of Southern California (AAA) offers a free identity theft plan in addition to a paid subscription plan. These are just a few options for the person who is either on a budget or a do-it-yourself person.

    Reply
    • leslie r says:

      thank you. i’ve already done some of the things you mentioned, will now do the rest. i’m a low-income senior and paying for a membership is not an option for me.

      Reply
  4. Naomi says:

    I just changed to the Norton LifeLock Ultimate Plus. For an additional $10, I get the full protection of Norton Antivirus for my computers along with the full LifeLock coverage. LifeLock is owned by Norton.

    Reply
  5. Olga says:

    What about seniors? I am 83, live in a seniors residence. have 1 credit card which I use only on occasion. My only concern wld be my bank acct and investments. What do you suggest for seniors?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Olga, I suggest you look at Lifelock! Age does not exempt one from having his or her Identity stolen. You’ll see there are several options. Find the one that best fits your situation and your exposure to risk. Hope that helps!

      Reply
  6. Suzanne J Patterson says:

    The plan you select should serve your needs. Not everyone will need all of the services they provide. Read about the different plans and what they cover.

    Reply
  7. Linda Hutchinson says:

    Good info, but you didn’t answer her question – which type of plan is recommended? Is the less expensive plan sufficient? Why pay for the ultimate? Is that fir businesses? Thanks

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Good points and I’ll amend to be more clear! For now, I highly recommend the Ultra Plus that is for individuals, not businesses because it includes monitoring my credit cards, monitors my home’s title and keeps tabs on my credit scores, too—to name a few of its features.

      Reply
  8. Bill says:

    I still don’t see where you answered Nancy’s question. Does that mean you’re implying the Ultimate Plus is the choice?
    Also, are you saying that this ‘Rakuten’ discounts every annual premium or just new membership?

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      I upgraded top the Ultra Plus membership years ago and still recommend it highly. In addition to basic credit monitoring, it includes monitoring my credit card accounts, monitors my home’s title, keeps tabs on my credit scores sending me an alert whenever my score might change—to name a few of its features. I have amended the post above to make this clear. Sorry for any confusion!

      Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Currently Rakuten is giving 60% cash back for all new Lifelock memberships. I recommend Ultimate Plus for Nancy, provided she wants her credit card account monitored and or she owns a home and is concerned about monitoring its title, and so forth. Ultimate Plus is my choice for those reasons.

      Reply
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