Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

Scott Monty - Strategic Communications & Leadership Advisor

One of the industry areas we regularly cover in The Week in Digital updates is Privacy / Security / Legal. In fact, the latest issue had so many data breach stories that we pondered renaming the newsletter "The Week in Hacking." As digital marketing and communications increasingly involves the storage and analysis of personal data, marketers and consumers alike need to be educated on how protect our information.

We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Jeff Bell, CEO of LegalShield, to explore some of the options available to people who are victims of identity theft and in need of on-demand legal services.

If you're not familiar with LegalShield and IDShield, these are monthly subscription services that give you access to law firms and a comprehensive identity monitoring and restoration solution. While you may not want to pay hundreds of dollars an hour for such services, this gives you access when you need it.

Why LegalShield?

One of the things that intrigued us about Jeff is that he is a former Ford executive. But he also went on to lead the Interactive Entertainment Business group at Microsoft - specifically the XBox division, where he grew subscribers from 4 million to 12 million in under two years. But we also wondered why he chose to join the company.

"Legal services is like the pet health insurance business - it requires explanation and you have peace of mind when you have it," Bell said. In addition, his background in digital marketing and digital sales means that this technology-based solution for legal services was a good match.

"It's a disruptive idea - like Uber, where consumers are demonstrating a dissatisfaction with smelly cabs that are late and drivers that are discourteous."

LegalShield CEO Jeff Bell

A Collaborative Economy Company

With the addition of a mobile app - one that has a red button that contacts your legal firm - technology is at the center of the service. A recent acquisition of Shake, a startup that allows you to create, send and sign legally binding documents, has improved the mobile elements. And by pooling the services of 39 law firms in 49 states, individuals are given access to a wide variety of legal services, rather than being tied to one form of law (tax, real estate, employment, litigation, etc.).

Jeff put it best: "In your life, you don't need a lawyer; you need a law firm."

When you consider how a 20-something, just starting out in a new job or trying to get an apartment, might not usually have access to a lawyer. But with a fairly low monthly fee (under $20), they can get contracts reviewed and receive legal advice whenever they need it - as easily as with the touch of a button on their iPhone or Android phone.

While many personal services have been lumped into the collaborative economy bucket, professional services have been a little slower to adapt. Startups are already lining up to create the Uber for healthcare; the Uber for legal services is already here.

The Connection with IDShield

The identity theft business is fairly closely associated with legal services. About 70% of the time you have an identity theft issue, you also have a legal issue. Hence, the formation of IDShield. Now, that's not to say that you must subscribe to LegalShield and IDShield together, but it's good to know that there's a connection between the two lines of business under one roof.

How many times has your personal information 

been exposed to hackers? (New York Times)

Here's the sad truth of identity theft: no one can guarantee protection.

Despite what some companies will tell you - including one that is under investigation by the FTC for deceptive advertising - you're never guaranteed 100% protection. However, you have to be vigilant and prepared, and there are ways to do that.

Most identity theft services focus on your financial institutions - credit cards and bank accounts, primarily. But what you should be concerned about are data breaches and theft that includes things like your email accounts, date of birth, old addresses, Social Security number, driver's license, passport, etc. The real crime is when they steal your identity.

Monitoring and Restoration

Once your identity has been stolen, it's extremely difficult to deal with the process to get it back. A recent example in The Wall Street Journal included the mother of a 39 year-old with Down syndrome, who battled with hospitals and insurance companies over her son's medical bills which had been run up because someone stole his Social Security number. Without the intervention of the WSJ, it was going nowhere.

This is where IDShield stands above the competition. There's a stark difference between identity theft monitoring and identity theft restoration. IDShield has a relationship with Kroll investigators, and once you've had an incident that requires their services, the team of 60 investigators "handle everything and members can go on living their lives, getting updates from the investigators," according to Bell. With a limited power of attorney, they can actually do the heavy lifting that the victim would otherwise have to do themselves.

Once they've tracked everything down, they expunge the black mark from your record. Bell said, "The only list we can't get your name off of is the OFAC no-fly list." But once things are all wrapped up, you'll have your identity back - completely restored. That's impressive. 

And it's no small promise, either. The company says that it will spend up to $5 million to restore your identity for you. And with some 10,000 restorations in the last few years, they're keeping busy.

Ultimately, you need to do your homework on this stuff. But for my money, it's reassuring to know that there are professionals on the case and available when I need them. Just like the ride-hailing apps I use.

Image credit: Don Hankins (Flickr)