IdentityForce not only keeps an eye out for fraud and lets you see your credit scores and reports at any time, but it will spend up to $1 million to get your life and identity back, including reimbursement of stolen funds. It has just as many useful features as LifeLock, but costs less.
The service lets you monitor your creditworthiness and potential instances of identity theft via a phone, tablet, desktop computer or laptop. It's one of the few identity-protection services that let you secure your account with two-factor authentication.
The one thing IdentityForce won't do is show you a composite creditworthiness score, such as a FICO score or VantageScore. (Both Credit Sesame and LifeLock offer VantageScores.) Nevertheless, IdentityForce is Tom's Guide's Editors' Choice for an identity-protection service.
In the fall of 2017, I signed up for IdentityForce's most expensive plan, as well as those of five other identity-protection services. I used each service concurrently for three months. To make sure I had an unbiased experience, none of the services were told my name or email address.
Costs and What's Covered
IdentityForce lacks a free plan, but you can try either of its plans for two weeks without paying. The entry-level UltraSecure service includes personal-information monitoring and $1 million in identity-theft insurance, but it lacks credit monitoring. It costs $18 a month ($15 a month for Tom's Guide readers), or $180 a year.
The UltraSecure+Credit $24-a-month ($240 a year, but discounted to $20 monthly/$200 yearly for Tom's Guide readers) plan adds credit scores from the top three agencies and access to the company's credit simulator for running what-if scenarios.
You can add children to either subscription for an extra $2.75 a month per child. But if you want to cover even more people, you can sign up for one of IdentityForce's recently introduced family plans: $25 a month for UltraSecure, or $36 a month for UltraSecure+Credit. Each covers two adults and an unlimited number of children or young adults under age 24.
IDShield has a cheaper family plan, at $25 for up to 10 people, but it doesn't offer as many features. LifeLock's priciest plan, which is most directly comparable to IdentityForce Secure+Credit, is $30 per month, and you can add children for $6 each per month.
IdentityForce has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, as do LifeLock and Identity Guard. It has eight negative consumer reviews on the BBB site, many of which complain about a lack of alerts for items that should have been noteworthy.
In our experience, few people go to the BBB site to leave positive reviews, but comments on other consumer-oriented websites had similar complaints about a lack of substantial alerts from IdentityForce.
It's worth noting that IdentityForce lets you fine-tune the number of alerts you do receive according to the type of accounts being monitored and the amount of money involved, so perhaps the service's default settings are not sensitive enough.
Credit Scores and Monitoring
Like most of the services I tried, IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit kept tabs on my credit files with the three top agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
I could see my credit scores with all three bureaus at any time, but the company does not provide access to a composite score, such as a FICO score or VantageScore 3.0, to summarize your overall creditworthiness. LifeLock and Credit Sesame do let you see the VantageScore, which is not the same as the FICO score that lenders actually look at.
While reports and scores are always available to view, they are updated only every three months. That's more frequently than LifeLock, which updates all three bureaus' reports and scores only yearly. (You can buy credit reports and scores "out of cycle" from IdentityForce; it's $10 for a single bureau and $15 for all three.) Of the services I tried, only Credit Sesame and Identity Guard refreshed reports and scores every month.
I really liked the credit simulator that let me play out different scenarios for raising my credit scores. Sadly, the only strategy that the simulator said would work for me was paying off a substantial portion of my credit card debt.
I was able to see my credit scores with all three bureaus at any time, but the company does not provide access to a composite score, such as a FICO score or VantageScore 3.0.
The IdentityForce services kept an eye out for my information on the open and dark web, as well as for court records for indications that fraud might be afoot. It monitored my Social Security number and other personal information, kept an eye on social media accounts and medical information, and checked payday loan services and paid online people-search services, such as Spokeo.
The one category lacking from IdentityForce's monitoring was investment and retirement accounts, which you'd think would be prime targets for crooks. Of the six services I tried, only Credit Sesame and LifeLock monitor those types of accounts.
Insurance and Services
As is the case with LifeLock Ultimate Plus, IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit provides up to $1 million of assistance and reimbursement to restore your credit and lost funds in the event your identity gets compromised. It limits lost-wages reimbursement to $1,500 per week for five weeks and limits the cost of an initial legal consultation to $1,000. Rival service IDShield promises to spend up to $5 million, if needed, but doesn't cover lost funds.
In the event of an identity theft, IdentityForce promises to do whatever it can to give you your life back. This includes investigating the break-in, filling out forms and paying for out-of-pocket expenses, including travel costs and child or senior care related to mending the damage. It also promises to reimburse you for funds stolen electronically from you that your bank or payment-card issuer wouldn't cover.
Notifications and Alerts
Think of IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit as an early warning system aimed at letting you know of a breach or break-in as early as possible, to proactively protect your credit. I was able to receive alerts via my phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.
Any account registered with UltraSecure+Credit will be monitored continually for activity, as well as for appearances of your name in court records, address changes and payday loan companies. IdentityForce even says it can remove your name from databases for sending out preapproved credit card offers. That's something I would have really appreciated, but I kept getting those offers anyway.
IdentityForce's sex-offender monitoring lets you know if someone with a dark past has moved into your neighborhood. The database for this is updated periodically, and IdentityForce found five such registered offenders in my area. But I was disappointed that I could neither widen nor narrow the scope of the neighborhood search and that the feature lacked a map.
On the other hand, IdentityForce reached back about 25 years to document my residences. By comparison, another service, ID Watchdog, went back about twice as far. IdentityForce missed or ignored at least eight homes that I had lived in over the years.
During my three-month test period, the company sent me three notifications, the least of the six services I tested. That's good because nothing bad had occurred, and IdentityForce wasn't intrusive. It's bad because my credit scores changed (albeit slightly) during the period, and IdentityForce should have noticed.
As previously noted, IdentityForce does let you fine-tune the number of alerts you receive, such as by raising or lowering the monetary amount of a purchase needed to trigger an alert. You can decide whether purchases, withdrawals or transfers merit alerts at all.
Initiating service with IdentityForce started on the company's website, where I entered my Social Security number, date of birth and email address to set up an account.
After typing in my credit card information, I tried to enter a password for the account, but the site's password checker was slow to respond, taking several minutes to process the data. When it finally approved my login credentials, IdentityForce's Dashboard popped up, asking for more information, such as my phone numbers. After I complied, it sent an authentication email with a code that I needed to enter to activate the account.
The setup process took just a bit longer than 20 minutes to complete — a lot longer than the 12-minute average.
At this point, I added my credit cards, including the one I used for my IdentityForce subscription payment. It also wanted my account numbers and passwords for online banking. However, that might be dangerous information to provide, as it could be used by crooks if IdentityForce's servers were to get hacked.
Some other services, such as LifeLock, ask for similar information; it's always up to you whether to provide it. An IdentityForce service representative assured us that the company took the latest security precautions to guard user data. A page on the IdentityForce website states that the company complies with PCI DSS v3.2 — a must for handling credit card data — and that sensitive customer information is encrypted according to the AES-256 standard.
Once I answered three authentication questions, the account was ready. All told, the setup took just a bit longer than 20 minutes to complete — a lot longer than the 12-minute average among all six services I tried.
Finally, I set up two-factor authentication, ensuring that a code would be sent via a text message to my mobile phone every time I tried to log on to the service. This process worked much better than ID Watchdog's technique of sending the code to its phone app.
IdentityForce has 24/7 service support, as well as online resources such as FAQs, information on how to change account settings and a primer on identity theft. As I did with all six services I tested, I sent an email to IdentityForce's tech support asking whether my identity had been compromised in the Equifax data breach; my efforts yielded no reply.
Unfortunately, there's no place in the IdentityForce user interface to stop the service subscription. But a call to the company's support line was all it took; I got a confirmation email that my service had been terminated a few minutes into the call.
Interface and Utilities
To connect with IdentityForce on a PC or Mac, you need to use the website interface. Like other identity-protection services, IdentityForce uses a secure encrypted connection but tries to shoehorn too much information into its screens, so be ready for some scrolling up and down.
Along the top of the main screen are the following categories:
- Dashboard (the main screen)
- My Services (what's monitored)
- Alerts & Reports (intelligence on sex offenders living in your area, court monitoring and banking activity)
- Downloads (online identity-protection tools; more on this in a moment)
- Manage Account (to change settings)
- Resource Center (information about service)
- Support (for problems)
The main Dashboard screen has recent alerts up top, followed by credit scores from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. I periodically clicked to receive an updated report of my credit and what to do to improve it. Of the services I tested, IdentityForce was the only one that told me I needed more revolving credit to improve my scores.
It's one of the few identity-protection services that let you secure your account with two-factor authentication.
The My Services page does a good at visually summarizing your credit and identity situation. You get a green check mark for things you don't need to worry about and a triangular warning street sign for those that require more information. On the downside, with 31 categories to cover, it's too much to look at.
IdentityForce includes online PC protection tools that are used to bolster, but not replace, an anti-malware program. The tools continuously run in the background, looking for attempts to remove personal information through keylogging, phishing and other methods. You can use them to prevent screenshots from being taken. However, these work only on Windows; there's no Mac equivalent.
IdentityForce also has apps for Android and iOS. The 9MB Android software took a couple of minutes to load on my Samsung Galaxy Note 8. There's a plain interface with a prominent blue stripe across the top. You need to dig into the app to get to your credit scores, but it puts recent alerts in your face.
With three-bureau monitoring, stolen-funds reimbursement, quarterly credit reports and a wide assortment of extra features at a reasonable price, IdentityForce UltraSecure+Credit offers perhaps the most bang for your buck of any identity-protection service.
It's not perfect, though: IdentityForce could add a composite credit score, monitoring of investment accounts and a higher default frequency of alerts. Both Credit Sesame's and LifeLock's priciest plans have those features, but IdentityForce still offers a better deal.
Credit: Tom's Guide