Our series on identity theft protection (opens in new tab) 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.
Keeping our identity secure is critically important to what we can accomplish, such as having a clean record, excellent credit, and no criminal background. It provides a springboard for financial health, making it easier to find employment, purchase a car or home, and even take out a bank loan, such as for starting a new business. The problem is that many of us are now spending an increasing amount of time online. Particularly during the pandemic, people now work remotely and use video chat tools, to communicate over Slack, and browse websites unceasingly.
While most folks will hope that it never happens to them, the reality is that if your identity is stolen, even through no fault of your own, everything will change in an instant. Suddenly, banks will suddenly turn down loans, and employers will see problems when they do a background check (opens in new tab). Therefore, identity theft protection (opens in new tab) is now more important than ever.
An excellent option to consider if you are concerned about becoming the victim of identity theft, either now or sometime in the future, is IDShield (opens in new tab). This product places an emphasis on fraud intervention using licensed private investigators on your behalf. You simply grant them the Power of Attorney, and then they go to work, and deal with the credit agencies to restore your good name. Truth be told, we have some issues with this approach to identity protection, as we would prefer an identity theft protection app to focus more on preventing fraud, rather than dealing with it post hoc. Another concern is that when a website doesn’t quite explain the terms and features sufficiently, it sometimes creates some confusion about what the product actually does.
Plans and pricing
A selling point here is that IDShield is one of the most affordable identity theft protection apps out there. At a cost of $14.95 per month for an individual, the main IDShield plan (opens in new tab) includes $1 million of insurance protection to help restore your finances, recoup lost wages, consultations with experts, and credit monitoring through a single credit bureau. The higher tiered plan (opens in new tab) costs $19.95 per month and monitors all three major credit bureaus. If you pick the family plan (opens in new tab), the cost goes up to $29.95 for one credit bureau and $34.95 for three but protects you, a loved one, and up to 10 of your dependent children.
Those fees work out to be lower than the two most obvious competitors in this space, Norton LifeLock (which has a confusing tiered pricing plan but costs $30 per month for the plan that includes $1 million insurance protection) and IdentityForce, which costs $17.99 for similar protection. IDShield does not indicate any discount for an annual plan on its website, but there is a 30-day free trial offer. Furthermore, all plans include malware protection (opens in new tab) from Trend Micro Maximum Security, Trend Micro’s VPN Proxy One, and a password manager (opens in new tab).
Prior to describing the apps for the desktop and mobile, it’s important that we mention the IDShield website. Even more than other apps that you can download and start using from, say, the Windows Store without analyzing the features too much, identity theft protection really needs some self-education. The more educated you are about the identity theft field with how criminals can damage your reputation, destroy your credit, and even impersonate you and commit crimes, the better.
In fairness, IDShield does make an attempt to relay some information, but it hits some speed bumps. First, the main website includes descriptions of what is available in the app, but it’s too easy to not see the tiny “See more” option that explains additional features.
Additionally, some of the wording comes off as too generic, and does not really touch on specifics. Specifically, the consultation feature gets described this way, leaving out any meaningful details: “Our IDShield Licensed Private Investigators will work for as long as it takes to restore a member’s identity to its pre-theft status to ensure that they are not held responsible for the debts created by the identity thief. By performing comprehensive restoration services, consumer reports are returned to their pre-theft status and other records are cleared of the activity created by the identity thief.”
In the app itself, just like in other areas, there’s just not enough detail explaining what the features actually do. By way of comparison, Norton LifeLock does a much better job presenting the options in a dashboard layout that works more like a wizard. It clearly displays how many steps are left, or how many accounts you need to configure.
IDShield overly focuses on your credit score, and some of the info that is meant to explain features really ends up explaining the general concepts of credit monitoring instead. This is not only true in the desktop app, but also the mobile apps for iPhone IOS and for Android.
IDShield also tends to be a bit light on features, with the exception of the consultation with licensed investigators. Again, this all relates to what you can do after the identity theft occurs. The app monitors credit bureaus for you, and provides alerts for any credit issues so you can deal with them right away before they become insurmountable problems, such as a low credit score. However, some of these features annoyingly get listed multiple times.
Via the IDShield website and also in a feature comparison document (opens in new tab), you’ll see “Unlimited consultation” and “Licensed private investigators” listed, but really that’s just a different way of saying the same thing. Another example of this relates to social media monitoring which is also not that impressive since it tracks whether you post illicit images, make drug references, or use foul language. However, it doesn’t monitor whether your account has been hacked.
Somewhat more impressive is how IDShield stays vigilant about your identity. While Norton LifeLock is superior at presenting the tools to help with protecting your identity, IDShield has the capability of monitoring when someone uses your address, phone, or other personally identifiable information. The app also tracks public court records and spots pay-day loan fraud if someone attempts taking out a loan by using your name and identity.
An additional detail is that the app provides an alert when a sex offender moves into your neighborhood, but doesn’t go further to alert you if a sex offender tries to steal your identity. That’s a unique feature in IdentityForce that sets it apart.
IDShield goes up against its main competitor, as do all of the identity theft protection apps: Norton LifeLock (opens in new tab), the towering giant in the identity protection field. It offers a well-designed dashboard that presents each feature clearly and walks users through all of the steps. Using that app is easier to see the progress you’ve made in configuring tracking and monitoring. IdentityForce (opens in new tab) also offers some useful extras including alerts about sex offenders stealing your identity.
IDShield really comes through as you can ask experts to resolve credit and identity problems via the power of attorney. However the details about what they actually do specifically are in short supply, and repairing credit and identity once compromised is arguably less valuable than protecting it up front. In fairness though, having a team of people working on a fraud case is helpful. IDShield tends to cost less per month than some competitors so it may be enough if your main goal is to protect your credit.
An important point here is that IDShield might be better off with a different name. As the main claim to fame is for working with investigators to deal with fraud cases, a more preferable name might be IDRestore. In all seriousness though, it’s a low cost app when put up against the competition.
We've also highlighted the best identity theft protection (opens in new tab)