Identity Guard Ultra: Specs
Frequency of credit reports: Yearly
Frequency of credit scores: Experian monthly
Credit-improvement simulator: Yes
Address-change monitoring: Yes
Data breach alerts: Yes
Investment account monitoring: Yes
Medical records monitoring: Yes
Payday loan monitoring: Yes
Sex offender alert: No
Security software: Browser extensions, anti-phishing mobile apps
Title-change alerts: Yes
Two-factor authentication: Mobile apps only
Identity Guard takes a unique approach when it comes to identity-theft protection, as it has help from an IBM Watson supercomputer. Using this artificial intelligence to scan the dark and open portions of the web, Identity Guard can help identify vulnerabilities and identity theft at an earlier stage than its competitors.
Identity Guard has inexpensive family plans and an innovative social-media report, and it has a unique ability to catch tax-refund fraud quickly. Its top-tier Identity Guard Ultra plan nearly matches the best identity theft protection services IdentityForce UltraSecure + Credit or LifeLock Ultimate Plus feature-for-feature.
However, Identity Guard is not optimal when it comes to credit monitoring, as it offers full credit reports only once per year. For monthly three-bureau reports and scores, go with MyFICO Premier or IdentityIQ Secure Max.
Read on for the rest of our Identity Guard Ultra review.
Identity Guard: Costs and what’s covered
Identity Guard offers three identity-protection plans for individuals and has discounted annual plans. Tom’s Guide readers get about a 20% discount for each plan, but the company does charge sales tax.
The Value subscription costs $9 a month or $90 a year and combines $1 million of insurance for lost funds with a dedicated case manager for an identity-theft incident. Its standout feature is the unique use of the IBM Watson supercomputer to detect potential threats online. However, the Value plan doesn’t include any credit-score monitoring or credit reports.
A big boost in service is Identity Guard’s midrange Total program, which costs $20 a month individually or $200 a year. You’ll also get a monthly VantageScore 3.0 credit score based on your Experian credit file, and monitoring of your credit files at the three credit-reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
The VantageScore 3.0 credit score is not as helpful as the rival FICO score used by most lenders when gauging creditworthiness, but it’s still good information. Regarding your credit files, you’ll get instant alerts when something suspicious happens, but no access to full credit reports. The protection also notifies you if your bank account is being taken over or a new account is being set up in your name.
Identity Guard’s top-of-line Ultra plan adds a Social Insight report that uses IBM Watson artificial intelligence to examine things like your Facebook postings and timeline to identify potential vulnerabilities. It also adds monitoring of your credit-card and investment accounts and watches for address changes and home-title changes. The Ultra plan costs $30 a month or $300 a year for an individual.
If you want to protect your entire family, another version of the Value plan costs $15 a month or $150 a year to protect two adults and an unlimited number of children up to age 18. The family version of the Total plan costs $30 a month or $300 a year, while the Ultra Family plan costs $40 a month or $400 a year.
All Identity Guard plans come with two useful extras: an anti-phishing app for your phone or tablet and extensions for the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers to warn of known malicious websites and tracking cookies.
The company got an A+ grade from the nonprofit Better Business Bureau as well as a 4 out of 5 rating from the for-profit Consumer Affairs. This makes it among the most highly regarded identity-theft-protection providers in the business. Consumer complaints largely revolved around billing issues.
|Identity Guard Value||Identity Guard Total||Identity Guard Ultra|
|Family plan||$15/month, 2 adults & unlimited kids||$30/month, 2 adults & unlimited kids||$40/month, 2 adults & unlimited kids|
|Credit reports||None||None||Equifax, Experian, TransUnion|
|Credit bureaus monitored||None||Equifax, Experian, TransUnion||Equifax, Experian, TransUnion|
|Frequency of credit reports||None||None||Yearly|
|Frequency of credit scores||None||Experian monthly||Experian monthly|
|Type of credit score||None||VantageScore 3.0||VantageScore 3.0|
|Bank accounts monitored||No||Yes||Yes|
|Credit-card, investment accounts monitored||No||No||Yes|
|Address and title -change alerts||No||No||Yes|
|Max. ID-theft coverage||$1 million||$1 million||$1 million|
Identity Guard: How we tested
In the late summer of 2020, I subscribed to five of the biggest identity-theft-protection services, including Identity Guard’s Ultra plan. All were paid for by me, for which I was later reimbursed by Tom’s Guide.
Over the next three months, I used the browser-based interface on my Lenovo ThinkPad T470 and the mobile app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 20 to check on the service’s alerts, notifications and changes to my credit and identity, as well as my credit scores. I used the credit simulators and utilities when provided.
I filed issues with each company’s support staff and recorded how long it took them to respond and resolve the issue. At the end, I canceled each service and recorded how long it took to get a confirmation of the cancellation.
Identity Guard: Credit scores and identity monitoring
Identity Guard Ultra cuts out the details and focuses on a couple of essential credit-monitoring elements, such as by putting my Vantage Score 3.0 credit rating in my face.
When I signed up for the Ultra plan, I was sent my most recent credit reports with all three major bureaus. I would have gotten a second batch a year later.
There’s not much value to this, as the credit agencies are obligated by law to provide you one credit report per year for free. Some other identity-theft-protection services can give you one or three credit reports quarterly or monthly, and many have added the ability to buy additional reports for a few dollars each.
Identity Guard Ultra has recently added transaction monitoring for bank, investment and credit-card accounts. It can stop duplicate charges on your credit card and interrupt a bank-account take-over or the opening of a new account in your name.
It keeps an eye on court records for things like bankruptcy and home-title changes. The service also monitors payday loan companies for new loans taken out in your name.
Using the computational power of IBM Watson supercomputers, Identity Guard uses artificial intelligence to spot potential vulnerabilities. It continually rates your identity-theft risk and even keeps an eye on your social media presence.
While Identity Guard Ultra searches dark Web databases, chat rooms and hidden websites for instances that your personal data might have fallen into the wrong hands, it has one big flaw for many families. Unlike IdentityForce, the service doesn’t warn you if a registered sex offender has moved into your neighborhood.
Identity Guard: Insurance and services
If worse comes to worst and your data shows up online or your identity has been breached, Identity Guard Ultra can step in and help you freeze your credit. Unlike LifeLock and IdentityForce, Identity Guard offers no once-click approach to doing this. but Identity Guard customer-support personnel are a phone call away.
If your identity is stolen while Identity Guard is on watch, the plan has a $1 million insurance policy underwritten by American International Group that covers lost funds and the costs of lawyers, consultants, court fees and other expenses, including getting a new passport, driver’s license and other documents.
The insurance will reimburse you for up to $1,000 for travel and up to $2,000 per week for lost wages if you have to miss work to sort out the situation.
Identity Guard’s website can speed up the process of canceling stolen credit cards and getting replacements. Registering your current cards with Identity Guard can streamline any eventual recovery effort.
A leader when it comes to identifying tax-return fraud, Identity Guard has a relationship with the “largest online tax preparer,” although company representatives declined to say exactly which one. It can tell you if fraudulent tax documents have been filed in your name.
Identity Guard: Notifications and alerts
Over my three-month period of using Identity Guard Ultra, its alerts strived for a balance between missing the obvious and being overwhelming. The service not only can tell you if someone has made an address change at the Post Office, but can let you know of fraudulent uses of a Medicare or health-insurance-card number.
There are precise thresholds for the alerts but none for the duplicate-transaction service. I set up the alerts to be sent not only to my phone but via email as well. In three months, I got five alerts, including one that a mortgage application I filled out resulted in credit reports pulled from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Each alert had a choice at the bottom of the screen to tell Identity Guard if it was you who was responsible for the alert so the service could stop worrying.
Identity Guard: Setup
After going to the Identity Guard website, I clicked on Start My Membership, then selected the Ultra service.
I created an account and filled in my personal information: my name, address, phone number and Social Security number. I paid for my subscription with a credit card; Identity Guard doesn’t take PayPal.
After a moment, the interface asked me to log in using the credentials I had just set up and took me to the service’s dashboard. I then went through six identity-check questions that included queries about my mortgage, past addresses and phone numbers; it strained my memory at times. Later, I needed to answer more than 30 questions to help IBM Watson’s AI monitoring recognize my data.
According to Identity Guard, all your data is encrypted while in transit and while stored on the company’s servers.
Identity Guard’s customer-support representatives are on call from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In an emergency, you can leave a message and the company promises to get back to you in an hour and with experts ready to help solve your identity problems.
The support portion of Identity Guard’s website has self-help articles with everything from help getting started and FAQs to common glitches and ways your identity can be compromised.
I sent an email to Identity Guard asking about its family pricing plan and received a reply nine hours later. Unfortunately, all the email message did was refer me to the company’s customer-support phone number. Once on the phone, I got an answer.
Identity Guard: Interface and utilities
Like other identity-theft-protection services, Identity Guard has mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, and a web-browser interface for notebooks and desktops.
The browser interface for Identity Guard Ultra is bright, open and works well at 100% zoom with an HD display. Everything is in view, with no scrolling required. It is the rare identity-theft-protection service whose web interface least looks like a website.
Identity Guard’s online Dashboard presents you with 10 boxes including Alerts, Home Title Monitoring, access to your credit report, privacy settings, wallet protection and help using the Safe Browsing extension. The TransUnion and Experian VantageScore 3.0 ratings are there too.
The interface’s main categories include Alerts, Watchlist (for the dark-web monitoring) and Credit. The Privacy section analyzes your Facebook transactions and produces a Social Insight Report.
Identity Guard provides Safe Browsing browser extensions to screen out known malicious websites, plus similar Android and iOS apps.
Identity Guard: Cancellation
Ending the relationship with Identity Guard could have been fast and easy, but the real world got in the way. I clicked on Cancellation in the My Account section of the interface, then on Cancel Online, which seemed easier than calling the support line.
After answering a question about why I was canceling the service, I clicked to sever the tie, but got a “server error” warning several times. My cancellation finally went through after a couple of tries. I received an email confirmation of the cancellation immediately, but it did not take effect until the end of that monthly billing cycle.
Identity Guard review: Bottom line
Value is the name of the game for Identity Guard, which has moderately priced protection plans that combine identity-theft-protection basics with advanced artificial intelligence monitoring. That said, Identity Guard lacks IdentityForce‘s desktop two-factor authentication, MyFICO’s actual FICO scores and LifeLock‘s full security suite. Still, Identity Guard’s use of artificial intelligence just might keep you half a step ahead of identity thieves.