When you hear the name Todd Davis, it might not ring any bells right away. But you may remember the CEO of Lifelock from his 2007 advertising campaign, where he included his social security number on billboards and held up his social security card in television commercials to show the public how confident he was that Lifelock could offer the ultimate protection against identity theft. A 2008 Associated Press article from CNN.com describes additional variations of this publicity stunt, including radio appearances by Davis and his occasional venture into crowded downtown areas where he would shout his social security number from a bullhorn. But while he may have demonstrated personal confidence in his product, his confidence was not well placed.
According to the same AP article, Davis by his own admission was aware of more than 87 attempts made by others to steal his identity, including a successful attempt made by a man in Texas to secure a $500 loan using Davis’ drivers license number. The Phoenix New Times reported in 2012 that at least 13 successful attempts have been made at stealing Davis’ identity to acquire everything from cell phones to loans and lines of credit. The fact is that Lifelock and similar companies cannot protect consumers from all forms of identity theft. The advertising claim that Lifelock could prevent identity theft sparked several successful lawsuits against the company for false advertising and a $12 million fine from the FTC in 2010.
A 2010 investigation by ABC7News.com in California noted that many services Lifelock has offered in the past included steps consumers could accomplish for free on their own with a few phone calls. For example, consumers can place fraud alerts on their credit history free of charge with the three credit reporting bureaus, a practice Lifelock was banned from continuing after settling a lawsuit with Experian in 2009. With black eyes for false advertising and for offering services for a fee that are free to the consumer, Lifelock has enough self-inflicted wounds to make any customer think twice about becoming their client. Despite efforts Lifelock has taken to use national celebrities such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh to provide credibility to the company while peddling its services, the extent and validity of services Lifelock and similar companies offer should be considered carefully before making any purchase.
So while services such as Lifelock really are often too good to be true, there are steps consumers can take to shield themselves from identity theft. Consumers can and should take advantage of the opportunity to receive a free copy of their credit report once a year from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion through AnnualCreditReport.com. Consumers should check each report carefully for errors and unauthorized uses of their credit, and then – if necessary – utilize the fraud alert processes mentioned above. The purchase of a good, cross-cut shredder to destroy documents containing sensitive personal information can also help reduce instances of identity theft. And last but not least, keep your social security number private. Todd Davis has done an excellent job showing consumers what NOT to do, including the negative consequences of sharing your sensitive personal information.