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Debix identity-theft protection service is newly cheap, might work

July 30, 2008 |  7:00 am

LifeLock co-founder Robert Maynard Jr. Years of identity-theft horror stories show that the world has no shortage of entrepreneurs and quick-buck artists angling to sell you some peace of mind.

Probably none has made quite so big a belly-flop splash as LifeLock, the service that slaps fraud alerts on your files at the three major credit bureaus, and perhaps commits fraud in order to do so.

LifeLock has advertised heavily and claims to be doing great, despite the little flap over the fact the company's co-founder was jailed on fraud charges earlier in his career and barred from the credit-repair business. Oh, and then there's the attention-grabbing bit by the company CEO, who fearlessly published his own Social Security number only to see it promptly stolen and used for fraud.

Other, quieter companies have the same basic approach, assisting clients by putting fraud alerts on files and then renewing them as they expire every 90 days. The alerts tell businesses they had better get in touch with you before issuing any new credit to someone using your name. LifeLock, Trusted ID and the rest typically charge about $100 a year, although you could do the same thing yourself for free.

Debix, however, does more, and does it for less. The company just dropped its price to $24 a year, and it puts a different phone number on the fraud alerts, so that potential creditors call Debix, and Debix tracks you down. Voice samples and secret codes round out the set-up; early reviews are enthusiastic.

While we're on the subject though, please know two things. First, you can do a whole lot for $0, including getting your own credit reports and putting a freeze on them so no new creditors can peek, making them highly unlikely to issue credit in your name.

Second, none of these systems prevents all types of identity fraud. A truly helpful rundown of how all this stuff works, and what questions to ask those peddling anti-ID theft services, has just been released by the nonprofit Privacy Rights Clearinghouse.

-- Joseph Menn

Photo: LifeLock co-founder Robert Maynard Jr. Credit: Courtesy of Wired