Identity theft company’s TV ad backfires
May 24, 2008
In the TV ads promoting his company’s service, the CEO of an identity fraud prevention agency in the US brandished his Social Security Number and dared everyone to try to steal his identity. Now, he himself has become a victim of identity theft.
(Sample TV ad of identity theft protection company LifeLock showing CEO Todd Davis making the dare can be seen below.)
The TV stunt resulted to more than 87 instances of people trying to steal his identity and Davis’ Social Security Number was used at least 20 times by other people applying for a driver’s license.
One guy in Texas eventually succeeded. He was able to get $500 from an online loan company after using the Social Security Number advertised on TV.
From the New York Times:
Davis learned about the fraud in Texas when the payday-loan outfit called to collect on the loan, he said. He didn’t get an alert beforehand because the company didn’t go through one of the three major credit bureaus before approving the transaction.
Davis said it’s possible driver’s licenses have been issued to other people in his name because of the widespread availability of his personal information — and because of what he described as the flimsy mechanisms in place to report that kind of fraud.
LifeLock charges customers $10 per month or $100 a year to place a fraud alert on credit accounts and arrange for the consumer to receive three credit reports a year. It doesn’t really guard against Driver’s License fraud, medical fraud, or any fraud committed that doesn’t go through a credit reporting bureau.
More and more customers are realizing this limitation and have resorted to suing the company.
LifeLock is 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.
”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.”
Even LifeLock’s CEO knows that now.