Like LifeLock and IdentityForce, Identity Guard provides up to $1 million of remediation, including lost wages and stolen funds, if your identity is stolen. But Identity Guard also provides security tools, such as a password manager and antivirus software, that few other identity-protection services offer.
Identity Guard's individual service plans are cheaper than LifeLock's and about the same as IdentityForce's, and it offers big discounts for couples and families. In 2016, Identity Guard implemented IBM's Watson artificial-intelligence platform on its lowest-tiered plan to help scan the internet for misuse of Identity Guard customers' personal information. (I reviewed Identity Guard Platinum, which did not have Watson at the time.) The experiment seems to have succeeded, and Identity Guard plans to deploy Watson on its higher tiers in early 2018. This review will be updated after that happens.
Overall, IdentityForce UltraSecure + Credit and LifeLock Ultimate Plus are more comprehensive; each actively monitors credit-card and bank accounts and alerts users to data breaches and the local presence of sex offenders while Identity Guard doesn't. But Identity Guard Platinum beats them on credit reporting, offering new credit scores and reports from all three credit-reporting agencies every month (pictured above).
I signed up for Identity Guard's most expensive plan in the fall of 2017, along with those of five other identity-protection services, and used each concurrently for three months. To make sure I had an unbiased experience, the services were not told my name or identity.
Cost and What's Covered
Identity Guard lacks a free service, but the Total Protection and Platinum plans both have 30-day trials. The basic Identity Guard service includes the Watson artificial-intelligence processing and natural-language analysis, but lacks reports from credit agencies. It includes alerts of a bank-account takeover and costs $20 per month.
Also at $20 a month (discounted to $17 a month for Tom's Guide readers), the Identity Guard Total Protection plan ups the ante with ZoneAlarm antivirus software, quarterly credit scores and updates on credit reports, a password manager, anti-keylogging software and an analyzer that can look at different credit scenarios. It's the bargain in Identity Guard's lineup. You'll need to give up bank-account takeover alerts and the Watson artificial-intelligence program, though.
Identity Guard has been using IBM's cloud-based Watson artificial-intelligence engine to scan for several dozen parameters across the open and dark portions of the web.
At $25 a month, the Identity Guard Platinum plan almost provides it all: monthly credit scores and full credit reports from all three agencies, bank takeover alerts and the security utilities included in Total Protection. At the time of this writing, Platinum lacked only the Watson scanning.
Identity Guard has Platinum plans for couples ($28) and families ($30); the latter covers a spouse and an unlimited number of children under 18. You'll have to pay sales tax, which raised my $25 monthly fee to $26.83.
Credit Scores and Monitoring
With Identity Guard, I was able to check my credit scores at any time. The program monitors Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. However, it does so without either a FICO or a Vantage 3.0 score, which are competing composite scores to gauge an individual's general creditworthiness. LifeLock and Credit Sesame both let you see Vantage scores.
For the past year or so, Identity Guard has been using IBM's cloud-based Watson artificial-intelligence engine to scan for several dozen parameters across the open and dark portions of the web. Until now, Watson has been part of only Identity Guard's most basic program. The company intends to add the feature in early 2018 to its Total Protection and Platinum plans.
The idea is that artificial intelligence can see patterns that otherwise might be missed, such as by incorporating unstructured and fragmentary data for indications of a breach or fraud. Watson adds a new element to protecting your identity, but as of this writing in January 2018, it was too soon to tell how much of a difference it really makes.
Identity Guard scans the LexisNexis database of legal, governmental and newsworthy incidents. The system looks through payday-loan providers and court records, and also monitors the top 10 largest U.S. financial institutions, for attempted or actual fraudulent use of your information.
There's also the company's kID Sure feature for watching out for children's personal information, which monitors everything from Social Security numbers to motor-vehicle-department records. Had my identity been stolen, the service would have offered assistance in freezing my credit.
Identity Guard doesn't monitor it all, however. It doesn't keep tabs on activity in your credit-card or bank accounts (though it does watch for mention of the account numbers in criminal forums), doesn't alert you to data breaches or sex offenders, and doesn't monitor medical records for your name. Most other services I reviewed did all of these.
Nor does Identity Guard monitor activity on your investment accounts, which Credit Sesame and LifeLock both do.
Insurance and Services
As is the case with LifeLock Ultimate Plus and IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit, Identity Guard Platinum comes with $1 million for remediation and restoration of your stolen identity, including reimbursement of stolen funds that your bank or other financial institutions won't cover. By contrast, ID Shield has a $5 million limit, but those cover the cost of private investigators, not stolen funds.
Should you need their services, Identity Guard assigns you a dedicated case manager, but there are limits to the amount you'll be recompensed. For example, you'll get up to $2,000 per week for up to five weeks for missed work.
The alerts said that my Social Security number had shown up in unexpected places, and also could tell me whether my name, street address or email addresses had been changed on any of my accounts.
Identity Guard will bring together investigators, lawyers and specialists to help you regain your identity and lost funds. They'll even cover the fees and overnight shipping charges for getting a new driver's license or passport. If you've ever had your identity stolen, you'll understand how much of a long, expensive process restoring your good name can be.
Identity Guard goes the extra mile by giving you a list of creditor contacts, along with their addresses and phone numbers, for all the credit cards or other accounts you've set up. This is a great thing to have when you're following up on a credit-reporting error.
Notifications and Alerts
Identity Guard's alerts notified me that my Social Security number had shown up in unexpected places. Other identity-protection companies also do this, but Identity Guard went further by also telling me whether my name, street address or email addresses had been changed on any of my accounts.
These notifications will come via email and SMS text messages to your phone, but you can also see them in the Identity Guard desktop browser interface. Had I lost my wallet, Identity Guard would have offered to help by closing out the old cards, having new ones issued and rushing me up to $2,000 in emergency cash as a credit-card advance.
Over the three-month period during which I used the service, Identity Guard sent me 17 notifications, striking just the right balance between too much and too little information. Many of the notifications were mundane confirmations and updates for each account covered, but the service also gave me a useful monthly report.
It took me 9 minutes to get Identity Guard Platinum set up on my computer, making it one of the easiest identity-protection services to get started. The average setup time of the six services I tried was 12 minutes.
I began by entering my date of birth and Social Security number, and then paid for my subscription with a credit card. After I answered six authentication questions, Identity Guard did a quick background check on me. It found deed transfers, tax assessments and five of the last six places I've lived, going back more than 30 years.
Next, the service delivered my latest credit report, including an account of who had checked my credit over the preceding year. After I entered my credit-card and bank-account information, the Platinum service was set up and started monitoring my identity and life.
Identity Guard doesn't let you secure your account on the desktop with two-factor authentication, which would require anyone logging in from a strange location with your username and password to provide a code sent only to your registered mobile phone. But Identity Guard does secure its mobile apps this way. Of the six services we reviewed, only IdentityForce and ID Watchdog offer two-factor authentication on the desktop.
I sent each identity-protection service the same email query about whether my information had been compromised in the Equifax data breach. Identity Guard's support people sent me a generic reply to my Equifax email, but immediately called me after I had sent a separate email with a question about pricing.
The company provides 24/7 support (pictured above) and help if you think your identity may have been compromised. On the site are a bunch of FAQs with further tips.
Unlike many of its competitors, Identity Guard's interface not only provides a link to its support website, but also a way to send an email to support staffers. There is also a toll-free number to call in case of credit disasters.
Identity Guard is also one of the easiest services to cancel — just click on the Cancel link in the Help section. When I did this, a confirmation email that my subscription had been ended arrived in minutes.
MORE: Identity Theft vs. Credit-Card Theft: What's the Difference?
Interface and Utilities
To get to Identity Guard's browser interface, you need to log in to the company's website; the login field is in the upper right of the front page. Once you log in, your Home page will be crowded, and you'll have to do a bit of scrolling to see everything.
The interface breaks out four main categories that lead to 10 detailed sections. That's much easier to scan through than the 31 individual items listed by Identity Force.
One tab is for Credit, which includes credit-agency reports, scores and an analyzer to try out different financial scenarios. The Identity tab shows recent activity, public-records reports (pictured below) and monitored data. The Wallet Protection tab can protect the cards in my wallet if it's lost or stolen by registering the loss with the issuers and speeding replacements to me.
Identity Guard comes with a number of very useful security programs that are grouped under the Computer tab. There's the ZoneAlarm Internet Security Suite (ISS), which pairs antivirus protection with a firewall. (ISS is no longer sold at retail, having been replaced by ZoneAlarm's Extreme Security suite.)
The Platinum plan comes with ID Vault, an unlimited password manager that also fills out credit card numbers and other personal information in web forms. It also includes PrivacyProtect, a keyboard program to thwart keyloggers.
Among the other identity-protection services we tested, ID Shield comes with a password manager, LifeLock offers antivirus software for a bit extra, and IdentityForce has anti-keylogging software, but only Identity Guard included all three.
A floating Quick Links navigation column appears on the right side of most pages in the web interface to instantly get you to your most-used settings. When I got my monthly credit card bills, I used Identity Guard's interactive Credit Card Pay Off calculator. It showed me that if I raised my payments by $80 a month, I could pay off my balances in less than two years, rather than let the debts balloon.
There are also Identity Guard iOS and Android apps (pictured above), each of which take up 2.3MB of space. Their main screens show your credit scores as well as any alerts to credit problems. A pullout menu from the left leads to features such as alerts, FAQs, a newsletter and a link to any outstanding Alerts.
MORE: How to Protect Your Identity, Personal Data and Property
LifeLock may be better known, but based on testing and analysis, Identity Guard is an equally good choice for identity protection because it's cheaper to use and includes useful security software that you'd otherwise have to buy separately. Identity Guard also offers more timely updates on credit reports and scores. However, IdentityForce beats both by offering LifeLock's breadth of features at Identity Guard's price.
Nevertheless, Identity Guard is in a state of flux as it prepares to implement the Watson artificial-intelligence platform across all its plans. This review will be updated after that process is complete.
Credit: Tom's Guide