The commercials seemed reassuring.
They led viewers to believe LifeLock could keep consumers’ sensitive data as safe as some financial institutions. Last week, the Federal Trade Commission called such claims deceptive and told LifeLock executives to stop making such claims.
In fact, the FTC told LifeLock the same thing back in 2010. That’s when the company, FTC and 35 state attorneys general — including Maine’s — reached a settlement requiring LifeLock to stop making deceptive claims, to tighten up the way it safeguards the information it collects from consumers and to pay $12 million in refunds to consumers.
Last week, the FTC filed documents with the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The agency claims the documents prove LifeLock violated the 2010 order by falling short in three areas:
— Failing to protect customers’ sensitive data.
— Falsely advertising that it used the same high-level safeguards as financial institutions to safeguard those data.
— Failing to meet recordkeeping requirements set forth in the 2010 order.
Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, doesn’t have much of a sense of humor when she thinks agreements aren’t being followed.
“It is essential that companies live up to their obligations under orders obtained by the FTC,” she said. “If a company continues with practices that violate orders and harm consumers, we will act.”
The Associated Press quoted a LifeLock spokesman as saying the FTC actions relate to past practices and that the company is prepared to defend itself in court. LifeLock says it has been talking and cooperating with the FTC for the past year and a half.
The documents filed with the court are sealed, so we don’t know what information the FTC has to back up its claims. The court will decide which documents would be unsealed.
Consumers still need to decide how best to protect their sensitive data. Some may feel paying LifeLock or a similar company amounts to money well spent. Others may feel they can do the best job of keeping an eye on their own credit card statements, getting their free annual credit reports and doing everything else necessary to keep their personal and financial data secure.
Consumer Reports advises that, whatever consumers do, they should act fast if they discover their Social Security numbers have been accessed. Consumer Reports advises putting a security freeze on credit reports with the three major reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. That would keep creditors from accessing your file if a crook tries to open a new account in your name — without that access, creditors are likely to deny the application.
If you’re not a victim of identity theft, the freeze should cost no more than $6, according to a change in the law approved during the last session of the Maine Legislature. If your identity has been stolen, there is usually no charge to freeze your account.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer, ME 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.