Those of you who know me are aware that I am not very fond of Lifelock – and USAToday is giving me even more reason to not like them.
Lifelock, when it works as planned, can be a useful tool for monitoring your credit. However, since it is an unregulated private company, all you can do is hope that things work as they would like them to. That does not always happen.
In this case, Suzanna Quintana says that he ex-husband opened a Lifelock account in her name and, for several years was able to see every financial transaction she did – opening a bank account, getting a credit card, leasing a car, etc.
This particular problem stems from the fact that, as I have written about before, using non-public personal information as a way to prove someone’s identity in the age of the Internet is a joke. Her ex-husband (at the time he opened the account they were separated and living in different states, however the activity continued after they were divorced) knew her name, birthday and social security number. It appears that this is sufficient to open an account.
She discovered the account in March when her kids were visiting their father and discovered a spreadsheet detailing her financial transactions on her ex-husband’s computer and shared it with her.
She says that Lifelock did not respond to emails, delayed responses and denied her access to her account.
Early this month, after the Arizona Republic contacted them, Lifelock acknowledged they were slow to respond to Quintana and offered to pay her legal fees.
Kelley Bonsall, Lifelock’s chief spin doctor said that they were distressed that someone used their service this way. I am sure they are.
The Sheridan County Sheriff’s Department validated Lifelock’s slow response – when they asked for information in June, it took the Sheriff months to get the information they asked for.
Lifelock is not new to being on the wrong side of the law. Last month they announced they were setting aside $120 million to deal with a class action and handle claims filed by the FTC and 35 state attorneys general that they were in violation of an earlier settlement regarding making false claims. They settled that first lawsuit by paying the FTC an $11 million fine.
At the time of the first lawsuit, when they were they were promising to protect your identity, they did not even have a formal information security program.
The company issued a letter of apology which Quintana says distorts the situation and is worded to minimize the company’s role in the illegal activities. Given that they are in the middle of a fight with the FTC regarding violating their earlier settlement, the last thing they want is new allegations that their security is not up to par and that they are not responding to complaints promptly.
Lifelock represents the problem as a squabble between a husband and a wife (thereby trying to dismiss any liability), even though they were separated, living in different states, she had a restraining order against him and they were later divorced, all while this activity was going on.
More importantly, apparently, I can open a Lifelock account using your information and you likely would never know. I would have access to your credit information and be able to follow your financial transactions. While this is likely illegal, companies like Lifelock are new and do not fall into any of the neat buckets that lawmakers have created. They are not a credit grantor nor a credit reporting agency, so they are not covered by the fair credit reporting act (FCRA). In fact, the only part of the government that seems to have any control over them is the FTC and that has been a long and convoluted fight.
As far as I can tell, there is no easy way for you to find out if someone has done this to you. I spoke to several people at Lifelock trying to get an answer to this question, but was not successful.
So, unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer to how you can protect yourself. Perhaps the FTC will ask that question now that USAToday blew the whistle.
While this is likely not common, Lifelock did acknowledge another case like this one occurred earlier this year. How many fraudulent accounts exist is an unknown. I doubt Lifelock would know if I opened a fraudulent account, so they can legitimately claim ignorance. And, as we all know, ignorance is bliss.
Information for this post came from USAToday.