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.
Almost every review or news report about Experian IdentityWorks has to start with the same disclaimer, and this review is no different. Whether that’s actually fair is debatable. IdentityWorks is an identity theft protection app from the company Experian. You may know the name. In 2015, this consumer credit reporting company announced one of the most well-known data breaches up to that point involving a data leak of over 15 million customer records. The truth is that many data breaches have occurred since, but perhaps it was the irony of a credit reporting agency announcing a massive breach that made worldwide headlines.
That was five years ago. Serious movie fans will know this reference, but it might remind you of a scene in the movie The World According to Garp when Robin Williams is shopping for a house. A plane suddenly crashes into the living room. He decides to buy it. “The chances of another plane hitting this house are astronomical,” he says. The same is true here. Experian likely strengthened their data security more than other companies. And, you could argue that the chances of another severe data breach would be “astronomical” at best.
Plans and pricing
What is it about identity theft protection apps thinking we might have “up to” 10 children? Sure, that might be your choice, but the Census Bureau has a different take. (The average number of kids has stayed pretty consistent at two per family. In the U.K. it’s even fewer.) That hasn’t stopped IdentityWorks from offering pricing plans for one or two adults with up to 10 kids to use the app. It is easily the most confusing rubric we’ve found. You can select one adult with no kids, one adult with up to 10 kids, or two adults with up to 10 kids. At each level, you can then pick the Plus or Premium plans. Costs range from only $9.99 for one adult with no kids up to $29.99 for two adults with up to 10 kids. Honestly, the main difference here is level of insurance.
With the Plus plan, you have access to $500,000 in insurance protection for dealing with bank account problems, credit issues, or emergency travel. With the Premium plan, the amount goes up to $1 million, which is in line with most of the identity theft protection apps.
Thankfully, we’re dealing with a major company here that knows how to design an app. Similar to how Norton LifeLock presents everything in a clear and understandable interface, IdentityWorks also uses a dashboard with tabs up top and a wizard that shows how many steps you have completed or accounts you have configured. Unlike PrivacyGuard, the interface is clean and subdued, as though you are working on something more serious and not playing Pokemon. (The PrivacyGuard site and app is a little too colorful.)
Despite the incredible amount of information on their website and in the app about the threat detection topic and hundreds of blog posts at Experian.com, IdentityWorks still tends to mirror the features found in Norton LifeLock and others. You can check your credit score and monitor your credit, see if a sex offender moves into your area, and get notified if someone tries to steal your bank details. Fairly standard stuff, but IdentityWorks does add a few interesting extras.
One that doesn’t come up too often with other apps is a court records verification. You can see an alert if there is a check or change to your court records (if they even exist in the first place). IdentityWorks also does a better job of simulating credit checks and FICO scores. The Plus and Premium plans differ in how often you can view and analyze these credit checks – with Premium, you can see a daily FICO credit score which might be a bit too often.
Experian has one main competitor, and it’s Norton LifeLock. Anyone familiar with the identity theft field will know that LifeLock is a leader, and they will likely also know about Experian. While Norton is primarily a security company, Experian is primarily a credit reporting agency. That gives them a leg up in the industry and all of the ways you can destroy your credit (or have other people destroy your credit for you). There is a decision, though, about whether you care more about identity theft in terms of security and privacy – your good name tarnished – or whether it is related to your credit and buying a new house or a car.
In the end, the nod goes to Norton LifeLock compared to Experian IdentityWorks because the main concern here is personal security, not just your credit. In fact, credit is only one aspect of identity protection. There are concerns about how a criminal can damage your reputation and what it takes to expunge your record. You might want to know more about how someone is impersonating you online to their own gain in addition to credit and financial concerns.
Experian IdentityWorks does provide some excellent educational info. If you do care mostly about credit and finances, it is a good option even if you’re biased about the data breach.