Our series on identity theft protection apps will evaluate the features, pricing options, competition, and also the overall value of using each app. However, these are not full hands-on reviews since evaluating identity theft protection apps is almost impossible. It would require several months of testing, purposefully hacking accounts to see if the protection app works, handing over personally identifiable information, performing multiple credit checks, and risking exposure of the reviewer’s personally identifiable information.
The Internet increasingly becomes a dangerous place. Apart from the trolls lurking on social media waiting to shame and harass you at every turn, and in addition to the websites that drop a cookie onto your computer and track what you do online, there is an even darker side. Criminal organizations are capturing your personally identifiable information - such as credit cards, home address, and date of birth - and selling them to the highest bidder. Hackers are actively on the prowl looking for ways to compromise your financial endeavors - everything from stealing your 401K login to assuming control of your social media accounts.
Experts now claim this illicit activity on the Dark Web (opens in new tab) (as it is called) accounts for about 5% of all Internet usage on a global scale. That’s astounding. Some apps provide at least some assistance - they can protect you when you type in a credit card number at an ecommerce site, for example, and notify you that the connection is not secure. Others offer protection as they allow you to perform a credit check (opens in new tab) and analyze how much personal information is exposed online.
Rather than piecemeal together protection, a better approach is to find a better solution for all of your needs. One of the most comprehensive identity theft protection (opens in new tab) apps is called IdentityForce (opens in new tab), and it has an exhaustive list of features, which now also includes a VPN (opens in new tab). The app is not merely trying to protect your credit card or social security number, and it’s not intended to only analyze leaks but to protect you against them. In evaluating the features and pricing plans, it provides some powerful tools, including the ability to call or chat with an identity theft protection expert at any time. The only minor gripe is that the premium plans are a bit pricey compared to lesser, more entry-level theft protection apps.
Plans and pricing
IdentityForce offers a choice of plans for their services. Also, discounts are offered for those that pay annually, which is a plus as the upper tier plan does get expensive.
At the lower tier is the UltraSecure Plan (opens in new tab). It has a cost of $17.95 per month (which is on sale from the regular price of $17.99/month), or $179.50/yr which works out to a discounted $14.96/month for those that want to commit. This plan includes a long list of features such as Dark Web monitoring, Social Media monitoring, Identity Theft alerts, and $1 million of Identity Theft insurance.
Then there is the upper tier plan, that is designated as the UltraSecure & Credit plan (opens in new tab). The cost rises to $23.95/month, and is offering a similar paltry four cents a month discount for the sale. It can also be paid annually for $239.50/yr, which works out to a more substantial discount at $19.96/month. It has all the features of the lower tier, and adds a few more such as the Fraud Assistance, along with Credit Freeze & Credit Report. This is tri-bureau comprehensive credit monitoring, and covers credit monitoring, credit reports, credit scores, a credit score tracker, and a credit score simulator.
Then there is also ChildWatch (opens in new tab), to protect from the rising issue of child identity theft. This is an additional charge, but it is not disclosed the actual cost. This additional service also brings up that plans are only for individuals, and we did not find a family plan that would likely make more sense for a family unit to protect everyone for one charge than to a la carte a plan together.
Interface and mobile app
When it comes to theft protection and choosing the right app, it all starts with the website because you can see which features are available and determine the professionalism of the company. A few identity theft protection companies seem sketchy right from the start based on a poorly designed and hard to follow website. IdentityForce spells everything out in crystal-clear detail, including pop-ups that explain exactly what every feature does.
The app itself presents all of the information in a simplified format where you can easily type in a driver’s license number, passport information, personal info, and other data. IdentityForce uses a dashboard that lays out the options clearly with a row of icons on the left and large sections for dealing with all of the factors that pertain to identity theft protection, such as credit checks, bank information, auto loans, retirement packages, and much more.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS. The Android app has a low rating of 2.4 out of 5 stars, with multiple user complaints of an unstable app with a variety of issues such as the app just closing, and login problems. The iOS version of the app is a little better with a score of 3.1 out of 5 stars, with similar user issues of credit scores not updating, “Server error messages,” and account lockouts due to login issues.
IdentityForce is not short on features and it now adds a VPN (opens in new tab) tool into the mix too. In fact, that’s one initial surprise as you wade through all of the different options for protecting your identity. It is part of the mobile app’s Mobile Defense Suite, and can alert “Users to a wide array of threats including rogue apps, spyware, unsecured Wi-Fi connections.” Unfortunately, this also means that the VPN can only be used on the mobile platform, and won’t secure a PC. We also could not find additional key info on the VPN, such as where it is located, if it has a ‘No logs (opens in new tab)’ policy, or an integrated ‘Kill switch (opens in new tab)’ so we would likely go with a more known dedicated VPN.
Moving on, a few of the most interesting features include a way to monitor a “payday loan” hack. This security problem involves someone using your identity to secure a cash loan. If you are alerted right away, you can immediately start addressing the problem with your bank or credit card company. IdentityForce also alerts you about any fraud commited by a sex offender - someone who might be using your personal information to bypass local laws about reporting their identity and location.
Another important feature included with IdentityForce is that it can spot malware (opens in new tab) and phishing scams. Sometimes theft protection apps only offer this capability through a separate virus protection app which requires an additional monthly or yearly fee. IdentityForce monitors all keyboard inputs as you work and can block website downloads or suspicious activity. Both premium plans for IdentityForce include $1 million of theft protection.
IdentityForce has one main competitor of note: Norton Lifelock (opens in new tab). Both products include similar features for performing credit check surveillance, monitoring for compromises to your bank account or credit cards, and malware and phishing scam blockers.
The biggest difference is that both of the IdentityForce plans include $1 million of identity theft protection insurance, which means if your bank accounts or credit card is compromised you can trust that the company will recover out-of-pocket expenses and lost wages. With many of the theft protection apps, you can expect to find significantly lower levels of insurance protection, starting with plans with $100,000 of insurance and moving up the scale as you pay a higher monthly fee.
IdentityForce offers many extra perks beyond the typical credit check monitoring features, malware blockers, and identity theft insurance. The most impressive feature available in both premium plans is the included $1 million of insurance, while the VPN service on your smartphone is an added bonus too. However, misses of the service cover the glitchy and low rated apps, the lack of a family plan, and the additional cost for child protection. We do find it helpful that the app bundles everything into one dashboard for protecting your identity rather than splitting out features among a host of apps you have to install and maintain.
We've also highlighted the best identity theft protection (opens in new tab) services