Money for Nothing

Don't fall victim to the identity-theft protection scam

Ironically, the people most likely to buy the services are those least likely to need them. According to LifeLock's literature, most of their customers are 35 to 50, well off, and "not the most susceptible to identity theft."

Police say the hardest hit are young people in their 20s or people of modest means. One California victim described how, after a thief withdrew the $2,000 in her checking account, she was forced to ask her employer for a loan because a bank took two weeks to put the money back.

Believe it or not, even shredding — that staple of identity protection — isn't necessary for many of us, especially if you live in a house with individual garbage collection rather than share a trash bin with neighbors.

Jackie Mercandetti
Last month, LifeLock expanded its offices and moved into this building near Tempes Town Lake.
Identity thief Richard Hainsworth faces sentencing in Yavapai County after he bought a motorcycle using a Mesa mans good credit.

Al Shiya, a spokesman for Phoenix's public works department, says that once a garbage truck picks up a trash barrel, there is "zero risk" of identity theft from pilfered garbage. Green-barrel garbage is compressed, put in a pit and covered by dirt in the city's Buckeye landfill the same day it's picked up or the next day. Nobody scavenges at the landfill, which sits on thousands of acres and is surrounded by a high, chain-link fence. Blue-barrel recycling garbage is sorted at a secure facility.

"There have been no incidents in anyone's memory here where anyone's identity was compromised within this process," he says.

Expert Bob Hartle believes none of the ID-protection services — except the ones you can get for free — has any real value. He doesn't trust them, either.

Anyone considering such a service should read the fine print, he says. Many companies require you to give them power of attorney, which Hartle says could be misused. He points out that while some companies say they do criminal background checks on their employees, you won't know if they really do.

The monitoring and relief services help you only after theft has occurred, so you're paying month after month for something you don't normally need. If you do get zapped, it's no big deal to get the problem fixed, he says.

True, the services might sound appealing if you're lazy and have money to burn, but Hartle insists you won't get anything you can't do yourself in very little time.

Most people don't really need a fraud alert on their credit reports. Unless you've published your Social Security number — like LifeLock CEO Todd Davis did — or somebody hacks into your employer's human-resources computer, placing a fraud alert isn't worth the bother.

A fraud alert probably won't prevent crime, as the Davis example shows. A lender may not call a major credit bureau, which means an alert won't be found, or a lender may see an alert but choose not to call its customer.

An alert also may stop you from taking advantage of a good credit offer. If your contact number for a fraud alert is your mobile phone, you'd better have the phone in your purse or pocket before you try to open a new credit account or you'll be stuck.

But some experts recommend fraud alerts as a simple precaution. Most times, an alert should prevent the type of identity theft in which criminals open accounts under your name.

The right to place a fraud alert on your credit report is relatively new, provided courtesy of Congress via the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, also known as the FACT Act. The main problem for consumers is that the law allows the credit bureaus to lift the fraud alert after 90 days, making it easier for their customers — lenders — to do business. If you want permanent protection, you need to renew the alerts every three months.

Companies that place the alerts for you, like LifeLock and Debix, say that going without their service is like mowing your own lawn or changing your vehicle's oil yourself.

The analogy is flawed, because mowing your lawn or changing your own oil is actually hard work. Sweat will probably be involved, and the chores will take a chunk of time, unlike performing for yourself the service that LifeLock offers.

Placing a fraud alert yourself is a cakewalk. All you have to do is dial the toll-free phone number of one of the major credit bureaus. The process will take less than five minutes, maybe as little as two or three minutes. You have to notify only one of the major credit bureaus of a fraud alert because that bureau will then notify the other two. If you let six months go by without placing an alert, no biggie — remember, you probably don't need it in the first place.

If you've already become a victim, and you've got an official identity-theft report, it would be downright dumb to pay someone to place the fraud alert. That's because victims have the right to place a seven-year fraud alert, eliminating the need for frequent renewals.

Pulling your credit report is another service these companies offer that you can do for free. Simply log on to the secure Web site, or call 1-877-322-8228 and punch in some personal data.

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The LL products were not developed in a jail cell in 2003. The nefarious origin was developed in the back of a taxi cab in March 2005, in less than 35 minutes with the help of a taxi driver named “Jimmie” who came up with the information on fraud alerts, because of his misfortune in Id Theft in 2002, and learning of placing credit fraud alerts by then Gov. Janet Napolitano in Arizona in September 2003 for 2 yrs. originally, then changed to every 3 months in February 2005, and the Original intellectual idea for “Lost Wallet” and “True Credit Address” & “Red Alerts”, a self replicating software product came from “Jimmie”. Also marketing channels of advertising were discussed. You should have seen Mr. Maynard after learning of the fraud alert system and product ideas, he lost his mind repeating”oh my God”, “oh my God” ( a light bulb turned on!) on a business idea. The 2003 jail story and a taxi drivers bank ID theft was used together as a marketing idea. A Phoenix New Times reporter was standing outside the cab in March 2005 when a 1% handshake deal on all “Liflock” profits was discussed mutually between “Jimmie” and Mr. Maynard as he exited the vehicle on Mill Ave in Tempe, down the street from the now, new offices of LL. I’d say be careful with the company, as the thing the taxi driver got was “LL” idea theft, no recognition or $$ for the product ideas in 9 years…


Partnered with Pre-Paid Legal, Kroll does not claim to prevent thieves from obtaining and misusing personal information � that would be impossible. What they do offer; however, is a promise to monitor their customer's credit and quickly inform them of suspicious credit activity and fully restore their credit to its previous status. In conjunction with a legal plan ($3 more otherwise), the cost is $9.95/mth for monitoring through Experian or $12.95/mth for monitoring though all three companies. This plan covers the primary member and their spouse, a considerable difference from most companies that require a membership each.

My friend was a victim of IDT a few weeks ago and Kroll called to inform her before she even noticed. Her bank accounts were already drained and Kroll of course instructed her to freeze any other funds, which she did. Within hours, the thief also attempted unsuccessfully to drain retirement accounts and had secured a driver's license in her name. Without the identity protection, she would not have known about the financial theft in time to freeze several accounts and may not have become aware of the license until possibly the thief had a traffic accident that she became responsible for financially or criminally if it involved manslaughter, even involuntary.

This is where the legal insurance becomes necessary. It can cost a little as $17 for 24-hour access to quality attorneys across the United States, including Hawaii and not Alaska. This includes the primary member, their spouse, legal dependants age 21 or less, full time students age 23 or less (with documentation), and disabled dependants for life (with documentation).

Plan include:Will preparation including revision yearly for the primary member ($20 for spouse or dependants) � we agree monthly revision would be excessive!Phone Consultations on Unlimited MattersUnlimited Contract and Document Review (up to 10 pages) One phone call or letter per (unlimited) subjectTwo business letters per yearYour lawyer will represent you against moving traffic violations (even in your absence) Your lawyer will defend you when you are charged with Manslaughter, Involuntary Manslaughter, Negligent Homicide, or Vehicular Homicide - I have not heard of any other insurance covering this!60 hours (Standard plan) of your Provider Lawyer's time at no additional cost when you or your spouse is named defendant or respondent in a covered civil or criminal action filed in a court of law. Your hours of legal service also increase over time.50 hours of your lawyer's time (including preparation and representation) in the event of an IRS audit25% discount on other services

I live in OR and was looking at PPL here. Coverage varies slightly as state laws are not the same. Further details under Plan Benefits:


As you can see, there is much more to the Pre-Paid Legal insurance plan than described in this article! Unfortunately, it doesn�t seem like thorough research was executed here.The $25 price quoted probably comes from our Expanded plan, which offers additional court representation hours, not identity theft protection. I personally recommend the Identity Theft protection and the Standard plan because I doubt many people will need more.

Best wishes, Sally Identity Theft Protection & Legal Insurance

cyber secure
cyber secure

Here is an email that I wrote to the Houston Chronicle...LifeLock must be stopped before too many people get hurt.

The Houston Chronicle ran an advertisement this past Thursday (September 20, 2007) for LifeLock. In the advertisement, Todd Davis claims that his service is so secure that he posts his true Social Security Number. I have attached a few articles below that prove, beyond a doubt, that the LifeLock service is not secure. His social security number was in fact stolen and used to obtain loans. It is also alleged that the founder of LifeLock stole his own fathers identity to obtain a loan to start Identity Theft Prevention about irony!

Our firm, Learn Privacy ( has publically challenged Todd Davis and LifeLock's claims. We can show, and have shown, at least 15 other ways to use his SSN for ill-gotten gains. There is absolutely no known way to secure one's identity. You can only make it difficult for a person to steal it and you can also recover from it...that is it. No one, including the finest minds at M.I.T., Harvard, Yale, Princeton or any other organization has ever devised a way of preventing the theft of a persons identity.

Here are just a few quotes about LifeLock's founder...

"His credit-repair company was shut down by authorities in the early 1990s for false advertising and deceptive practices. Forced closure means that a federal court order has banned Maynard from working in the credit-repair industry � forever."

"If it were based in Nevada, LifeLock would be subjecting itself to potential criminal liability for obtaining money or services under false pretenses"

Ray Stern
Ray Stern


Police in Texas have accused LifeLock of coercing a confession from the mentally disabled man who stole Davis' identity to take out a loan. No charges will be filed against the suspect because of LifeLock's involvement.For more details, see:


This too is a bit off topic for this particular article by Ray Stern, but I'm relieved to learn I'm not alone after reading comment # 9 here. I too was in disbelief at reading the irrational comment, a totally misdirected accusation coupled with an inability or unwillingness to read, that was posted by New Times writer Sarah Fenske the day before this # 9 comment was posted. (It was among comments posted to her "The Real Rip-Off Report" story.) I must say her unfounded screaming accusation was like witnessing a two-year old throwing a temper tantrum. Uncanny, thin-skinned, shallow, unfounded and unprofessional to put it simply. And she calls herself a journalist?


Who is this idiot above? He has Nunner brains. The comments obviously aren't shut off! And, besides, what's this fool's rant got to do with the LifeLock story?

Nuner U. Bidnis
Nuner U. Bidnis

Well, well, well.

It didn't take long for PHOENIX New Times to resort to abridging your First Amendment Right to Free Speech. Our writers can say anything bad they want about other people or businesses, but the minute you say anything bad about them... they shut off the ability to have a reasoned discussion about their lapses of judgement. Notice that the comments are shut off the the post below as of this post.

I posted my comments [#13] to the Sarah Fenske article, "The Real Rip-Off Report"

[Read the pleas of this author, Ray Stern, for help with this VERY story.]

Sarah first responds to me in her anonymous tirade as "hatefuckingliars" which is illogical and reveals her venom. Believe me, this is the real portentous Christian-in-uncharitible-clothing.

Then she later responds by denying my allegations, introducing counterallegations (even accusing me of being Ed Magedson, which shows her dementia; Ed could never be this cogent! or show this level of mastery of language and grammar, as witnessed by his attached appeal in the original article.)

Fenske shows how truly desperate she is and then finally gets her buddy, John F. Brewington, who admits putting her up to this hit piece, while also being under investigation himself. Then she shuts down the ability to respond. True to New Times standards... "Accept no truth but New Times truth." Dissent is never tolerated and if it angers an advertiser, it (or you) are out. Sounds like Soviet Russia more than the voice of the people.

Sarah never mentions that and she also never admits that she failed to fully research the issue. The whole SEO issue is one that is so hotly under scrutiny that it should probably be part of this story.

Here is what the FTC has to say about companies like QED Media, which incorporates the sheer malevolence of Russo, Stanley, and Brewington. Sarah never reported that Russo and Stanley, hired by Brewington, had been convicted of making threats (that's assault, folks) and ordered to cease and desist their harassment of Magedson. I guess Sarah has joined this gang of thugs.

Here is something else that Sarah concealed about her research of SEOs like QED Media [This is from the Google Webmaster Help Center, parts actually extracted from the Federal Trade Commission website]:

"What's an SEO? Does Google recommend working with companies that offer to make my site Google-friendly?

SEO is an abbreviation for "search engine optimizer." Many SEOs provide useful services for website owners, from writing copy to giving advice on site architecture and helping to find relevant directories to which a site can be submitted. However, a few unethical SEOs have given the industry a black eye through their overly aggressive marketing efforts and their attempts to unfairly manipulate search engine results.

While Google doesn't have relationships with any SEOs and doesn't offer recommendations, we do have a few tips that may help you distinguish between an SEO that will improve your site and one that will only improve your chances of being dropped from search engine results altogether.

Be wary of SEO firms that send you email out of the blue. Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:

"Dear,I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories..." Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for "burn fat at night" diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a "special relationship" with Google, or advertise a "priority submit" to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or through the Google Sitemaps program, and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever.

Be careful if a company is secretive or won't clearly explain what they intend to do. Ask for explanations if something is unclear. If an SEO creates deceptive or misleading content on your behalf, such as doorway pages or "throwaway" domains, your site could be removed entirely from Google's index. Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any companies you hire, so it's best to be sure you know exactly how they intend to "help" you.

You should never have to link to an SEO. Avoid SEOs that talk about the power of "free-for-all" links, link popularity schemes, or submitting your site to thousands of search engines. These are typically useless exercises that don't affect your ranking in the results of the major search engines -- at least, not in a way you would likely consider to be positive.

Some SEOs may try to sell you the ability to type keywords directly into the browser address bar. Most such proposals require users to install extra software, and very few users do so. Evaluate such proposals with extreme care and be skeptical about the self-reported number of users who have downloaded the required applications.

Choose wisely. While you consider whether to go with an SEO, you may want to do some research on the industry. Google is one way to do that, of course. You might also seek out a few of the cautionary tales that have appeared in the press, including this article on one particularly aggressive SEO: http://seattletimes.nwsource.c.... While Google doesn't comment on specific companies, we've encountered firms calling themselves SEOs who follow practices that are clearly beyond the pale of accepted business behavior. Be careful.

Be sure to understand where the money goes. While Google never sells better ranking in our search results, several other search engines combine pay-per-click or pay-for-inclusion results with their regular web search results. Some SEOs will promise to rank you highly in search engines, but place you in the advertising section rather than in the search results. A few SEOs will even change their bid prices in real time to create the illusion that they "control" other search engines and can place themselves in the slot of their choice. This scam doesn't work with Google because our advertising is clearly labeled and separated from our search results, but be sure to ask any SEO you're considering which fees go toward permanent inclusion and which apply toward temporary advertising.

Talk to many SEOs, and ask other SEOs if they'd recommend the firm you're considering. References are a good start, but they don't tell the whole story. You should ask how long a company has been in business and how many full time individuals it employs. If you feel pressured or uneasy, go with your gut feeling and play it safe: hold off until you find a firm that you can trust. Ask your SEO firm if it reports every spam abuse that it finds to Google using our spam complaint form at Ethical SEO firms report deceptive sites that violate Google's spam guidelines.

Make sure you're protected legally. For your own safety, you should insist on a full and unconditional money-back guarantee. Don't be afraid to request a refund if you're unsatisfied for any reason, or if your SEO's actions cause your domain to be removed from a search engine's index. Make sure you have a contract in writing that includes pricing. The contract should also require the SEO to stay within the guidelines recommended by each search engine for site inclusion.

What are the most common abuses a website owner is likely to encounter?

One common scam is the creation of "shadow" domains that funnel users to a site by using deceptive redirects. These shadow domains often will be owned by the SEO who claims to be working on a client's behalf. However, if the relationship sours, the SEO may point the domain to a different site, or even to a competitor's domain. If that happens, the client has paid to develop a competing site owned entirely by the SEO.

Another illicit practice is to place "doorway" pages loaded with keywords on the client's site somewhere. The SEO promises this will make the page more relevant for more queries. This is inherently false since individual pages are rarely relevant for a wide range of keywords. More insidious, however, is that these doorway pages often contain hidden links to the SEO's other clients as well. Such doorway pages drain away the link popularity of a site and route it to the SEO and its other clients, which may include sites with unsavory or illegal content.

What are some other things to look out for?

There are a few warning signs that you may be dealing with a rogue SEO. It's far from a comprehensive list, so if you have any doubts, you should trust your instincts. By all means, feel free to walk away if the SEO:

owns shadow domains puts links to their other clients on doorway pages offers to sell keywords in the address bar doesn't distinguish between actual search results and ads that appear in search results guarantees ranking, but only on obscure, long keyword phrases you would get anyway operates with multiple aliases or falsified WHOIS info gets traffic from "fake" search engines, spyware, or scumware has had domains removed from Google's index or is not itself listed in Google If you feel that you were deceived by an SEO in some way, you may want to report it.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) handles complaints about deceptive or unfair business practices. To file a complaint, visit: and click on "File a Complaint Online," call 1-877-FTC-HELP, or write to:

Federal Trade CommissionCRC-240Washington, D.C. 20580 If your complaint is against a company in another country, please file it at"

Rob Anderson
Rob Anderson

Ray Stern is absolutely clueless. He clearly has no idea about the concerns or affects of identity theft as a whole. He's quick to point out some of the industry's perceived shortcomings, but lacks the journalistic integrity and expertise to cover all sides fairly. I guess that's par for the course for a paper that's more focused on selling advertising spots for massage palors and hookers than it is for reporting the accurate facts.

The real Danny Lents - IdTheft
The real Danny Lents - IdTheft

Identity theft insurance certainly seems like a very profitable scheme for the insurance companies. Let�s say they charge $13 per month and they have 500,000 customers. The current US population is approximately 302 million, so 500,000 customers only represent 0.16% of the population. Even with only 500,000 customers, a company can bring in $78,000,000 per year by charging $13 per month.

Most of the insurance customers won't make claims given that less than 4% of Americans become victims each year. Even all ID theft victims who are insurance companies wont' make expensive claims because of claim caps, deductibles and other limitations.

It's easy to see why the ID theft insurance companies are making the big marketing push.

Would you be able to trust that someone else has done a through job of taking care of issues involving your identity theft? I think most of us would feel compelled to verify an ID theft insurance company actually did the work -- you may as well do it yourself.


Bold & Beautiful
Bold & Beautiful

Damn Dan, why don't you just get a job with the New Times and write your own article. By the sounds of it, LifeLock won't be able to deal with a customers issues if they did get their identity stolen!! Todd deserves what he got. What a idiot to give out his SS# to the public. He should have known better. But then again, he let Maynard be a investor in the company!!


On behalf of LifeLock, I would like to provide for New Times readers some of the information that was given to the reporter in response to his questions, but not used or addressed in this story. We strongly believe that this information shows, in no uncertain terms, that LifeLock�s protections do work to greatly reduce the chances of identity theft and that all but a small handful of LifeLock�s 200,000 plus customers are satisfied with the service.

Please consider:

� According to a statistic reported in the original May 31 New Times story about LifeLock, an average of 3.7 percent of Americans were victims of identity theft and FTC statistics showing about 100 out of every 100,000 Americans have fallen victim. LifeLock is aware only seven (7) reported identity thefts among its well over 200,000 customers, or roughly .0003 percent. It�s also just a fraction of a fraction of the national average reported in New Times on May 31. Seven is seven too many, but we believe this information pointed to a very important bottom line: LifeLock is effective in preventing identity theft.� LifeLock has six documented Better Business Bureau complaints in its history. While LifeLock also believes that six complaints is six too many, this is also a highly enviable record in the service industry where any growing company of LifeLock�s size could easily generate hundreds of complaints without necessarily being tarnished. None of these complaints involved identity theft, all were addressed and all but two were resolved to the customer�s satisfaction.� The average cancellation rate for LifeLock is seven percent, again an enviable attrition rate for any service. None of the cancellations were the result of stolen identity.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide this context for New Times readers,

Robbie SherwoodRose & Allyn Public Relations


As a Certified Identity Theft & Risk Management Specialist I must agree with Dan. You did a great job in stating some of the facts, but should research the entire issue. There are articles writen everyday about somebody who was arrested because someone else commited a crime in there name. Or found out someone had had surgery using their identity, or even working in their name. You can google any of these and find thousands of creditable articles about these other areas of identity theft.The Gardner report says that there were 15 million victiums last year and the FTC state it can take on average up to 600 hours to fix the problem. I believe most be should be aware of identity theft and do not have the time to fix the problem.

Dan Robison
Dan Robison

I am always entertained by the "experts" that say that you can do everything yourself for free. On the one hand, I applaud the New Times for their recent articles exposing the CreditLock marketing as unreal and imperfect. Then on the other hand as someone who spends many hours everyday researching, teaching, and helping others be able to restore their identities, I have to wonder if you consider your "expert" the last word.The news reports aren't lies nor is the scrambling by local, state and national governments to turn the tide a waste of time, money and energy. Just because some retired guy who has all the time in the world to fight his own battle says that restoring your good name which took your whole life to establish is a do-it-yourself project, that doesn't mean that the rest of us are going to drop our guard.Let's face it. Credit fraud is only 28 to 44% of the problem depending on who's statistics you believe and your "expert" seems to think that the banks and credit card companies are going to eat the losses carte blanche. The FTC provides through several laws, what the timeframes for consumer liability is and it's not a free ticket out of jail just cause you deny it after the fact.Since there is medical, criminal, IRS, Social Security, Drivers License, criminal AND financial identity theft, does this mean that if Pierre, an illegal alien steals your identity in Florida, gets arrested for shoplifting in Kentucky with your identity, gets a traffic ticket in South Carolina for speeding, has knee surgery in Alabama, buys a house in Tennessee and sells it 2 months later, gets a job in Georgia and after working for 6 months starts a business in Texas, your expert can deal with all state laws and jurisdictions, repair the medical records individuals don't have access to, then take care of the warrants for arrest in both states. Of course the buyers and sellers of the real estate will worry about the legal issues they have, the social security administration will blindly give you credit for the payroll deductions the thief didn't pay, the IRS won't care about the taxes owed on the business, not paying all the creditors of the business is no problem, and the landlord, the sales tax department, and on and on will just shred the files and move on?So the solution is that they all call you up and when you say that despite the fact that none of those things were done by you, that you have no liability, no problems with bill collectors, government agencies, lawsuits and can walk away Scot-free with no damage. Your "expert" shows little or no knowledge of the seriousness and extent of the Identity Theft problem.Identity Theft is a global reality. The ones that call the bank, they forgive them and move on are lucky (this time around).Thank you for pointing out how lacking CreditLock is. If anyone thinks they can solve everything they don't watch the news. After a few years of fraud alerts that are placed where no fraud exists yet, no one will pay attention to them. It will be the same as crying wolf.The best organizations that train people to know and understand Identity Theft prevention, protection and restoration are not on the forefront. You won't see Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura advertising them 10 times a program. Since it may cost an ounce for prevention, you won't see the penny pinchers buying it, cause they do their own taxes, represent themselves in court, and possibly perform their own surgery because they don't believe in doctors or going to the hospital either. Their lives are simple and so is Identity Theft; so simple it has no solution.In my limited experience in going from asking 25 people in a room if they have heard of identity theft with 10 or so not raising a hand a year or so ago, to everyone knowing and 5 or more out of the 25 being a victim, I would say the alarm bells are ringing.Less than 5% of the thieves get caught(just the stupid ones).Tens of millions of victims, with billions in losses and no end in sight, and we don�t need to keep tabs on our financial situation on a daily basis you say?Tons of new laws are being enacted with most of them targeting what businesses do to help the consumer.Over 158 million records lost (that we know of) by government, schools, business, even the Girl Scouts which is more that the thieves could get around to using in the next 10 years and some don't see cause for alarm.Stop beating up on those that are at least doing something to offer help to all of us out there. Please verify your sources and get your fact straight. That's why CreditLock has done so well; misinformation. While you're at it, forget about finding more know-it-all old codgers to help the rest of the millions. Just cuz' you've had the flu don't mean you can concoct the vaccine.


What about thieves who steal your medical information or driver's license info or just plain commits crimes in your name? This article covers only financial identity theft. What does one do for the above crimes which seems they would be considered as identity theft as well?

As far as credit monitoring, I can do this one my own, but I can only get for free, my credit report 3 times per year which does not show my credit score. So its possible someone can open account in my name the day after I get a credit report, but I might not know about it til 4 months later when its time to get my next free credit report. Is that scenario possible?

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