CXO

Announcing your social security number on national radio is a bad idea

When LifeLock CEO Todd Davis started announcing his social security number to the world, security gurus everywhere predicted trouble on the horizon. So it will not surprise anyone that Lifelock is now the focus of two different lawsuits, both focusing on the ineffectiveness of the service.

In a series of commercials that have caused everyone in the security industry to roll their eyes and/or wince loudly, LifeLock's CEO, Todd Davis, offers up his Social Security number as "proof" that his company can keep a client's identity from being stolen. But according to a class action lawsuit originating in Maryland, New Jersey, and West Virginia, the service fails to deliver. In fact, it has even failed Mr. Davis.

From the Associated Press:

Attorney David Paris said he found records of other people applying for or receiving driver's licenses at least 20 times using Davis' Social Security number, though some of the applications may have been rejected because data in them didn't match what the Social Security Administration had on file.

Davis acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that his stunt has led to at least 87 instances in which people have tried to steal his identity, and one succeeded: a guy in Texas who duped an online payday loan operation last year into giving him $500 using Davis' Social Security number.

Paris said the fact Davis' records were compromised at all supports the claim that Tempe, Ariz.-based LifeLock doesn't provide the comprehensive protection its advertisements say it does.

"It's further evidence of the ineffectiveness of the services that LifeLock advertises," said Paris, who is lead attorney on the three new lawsuits, the latest of which was filed this month.

Basically, all LifeLock really does for the consumer is place a fraud alert on credit accounts and arrange for the consumer to receive three credit reports a year. It doesn't guard against Drivers License fraud, medical fraud, or any fraud committed that doesn't go through a credit reporting bureau. Any consumer can do the things that LifeLock charges $100 a year to do for free. It only requires the consumer to take a few minutes and make the requests.

Each of the credit reporting bureaus will provide you with a copy of your credit report free each calendar year. And you can place a fraud alert with all three credit reporting bureaus by going to their Web sites and filling out an online form. So really, all LifeLock does is provide a convenience factor.

More from the Associated Press

LifeLock is also being sued in Arizona over its $1 million service guarantee, which the plaintiffs claim is misleading because it only covers a defect in LifeLock's service, and in California by the Experian credit bureau. Experian accuses LifeLock of deceiving consumers about the breadth of its protection and abusing the system for attaching fraud alerts to credit reports.

Security experts say complaints about the company reinforce the time-honored wisdom of keeping your Social Security number secret.

"There's been a lot of marketing, a lot of hype about LifeLock," said Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. "The question is, 'How much protection does it really buy you?'"

"There is no company that can guarantee they can protect you (completely) against identity theft," Stephens said. "Absolutely nobody can do that."

I try very hard to keep my support customers aware of best practices where their own information is concerned. When Todd Davis started blaring his SSN in his commercials, I got more than one question asking if LifeLock was so good a service that it would be safe to do that. My answer has been a consistent "No."

What things do you teach your end users about safeguarding their personal information online?

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