This is definitely the strangest identity theft protection service I’ve had to review. I’ve looked at several who treat their identity theft protection options as a side product, but most of those are already active in the consumer protection space, like Experian and Allstate.
Costco though, feels like a company that has no business being in this space. As a result, I had very little hope that this service would be any good, even though it was backed by Experian, which does give it a bit more legitimacy (even though I was not a particular fan of their IdentityWorks service).
Imagine my surprise then when my use of it turns up that the service is actually quite good, albeit flawed and limited.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
2. Quick Guide
Why Even Get Identity Theft Protection?
Identity theft is not a new problem, and has been an issue that’s simmered in the background since before the advent of the internet. Fraud has existed almost as long as society, and while the internet has brought many good things for our society, it’s brought just as many bad ones along with it.
One of those is the rise of identity theft from something uncommon and arguably easily avoided, to something the average person might have to deal with on a daily basis. Millions of people have their identities stolen every year just in the United States, and worldwide the threat isn’t any smaller.
Having identity theft protection is a lot like taking many other common-sense protection measures, whether it be buying car and health insurance or investing in a home security system.
Having advanced warning when a bad actor gets ahold of your information is invaluable, as is getting the help you need to turn a disaster into something manageable.
Why Should You Trust Us?
Every service we look at is tested using testing information consistent across all our reviews. This gives us the perfect use case scenarios and consistent hits and misses we can point to between each service.
Once all the data has been collected, each service is rated between 1 and 10 on each of our six criteria, then given an overall score based on those ratings. The scores are listed below in order of importance:
- 1. Monitoring and alerts
- 2. Threat resolution
- 3. Insurance
- 4. Ease of Use
- 5. Cost
- 6. Additional services
The first three criteria are by far the most important, and where the bulk of the final score is derived. The bottom three options should be considered tiebreakers or nice extras. Having poor ease of use can be offset by particularly exceptional monitoring or threat resolution. On the contrary, having poor monitoring or threat resolution is an unforgivable offence for one of these services; it will always result in a low score if they fail on one of those most important categories.
All in all, Costco Complete ID has a great reputation for identity monitoring, recovery services, and offers insurance coverage of up to $1 million. And this company has an affordable price of $8.99 a month, barely the cost of a decent meal, as long as you’re a Costco member. It is a well-rounded ID security package, which covers most of the bases. Also, it won’t drain your wallet dry.
|Criteria||Costco Complete ID (7/10)|
|Ease of Use||4/10|
|Monitoring and Alerts||8/10|
Ease of Use: 4/10
I do not like how Costco handles the layout of its website at all. The signup process for this service is a bit of a pain, being fairly lengthy and involving the use of your Costco Membership number.
You need to sign up for Costco (or renew a membership) before you sign up for Complete ID, which means you’re going to be spending a lot of time putting your information into the service.
Once signed up and logged on, things are not much better.
Have a quick look at the dashboard; what I could capture in a single image in any case:
As you can see, it pre-adds some of your information to the signup process before you input further information. This is nice, but the way it’s presented is not.
This is one of those dashboards that does not make very good use of its space. A lot of scrolling is required to get to anything you need, when instead the horizontal space could have been used to better contain the information and make it easily viewed at a glance.
The dashboard also doesn’t contain all the relevant information you might want to view. Instead, you need to navigate by this rudimentary bar of dropdown boxes at the top of the page.
I spent some time trying to figure out how to get back to the Alerts page after signing in for the second time. Initially it put me right on that page before I clicked to Home to look at what else was on offer. It is actually none of these options. Instead, the way back to Alerts is shown here:
ith system messages and the like, and it should light up if you have any notifications. It may in fact do so if anything new crops up.
However, it is also the only way to navigate back to Alerts, and that’s all it does. It doesn’t even create a standard dropdown or quick list of new alerts to view, and just links back to the main page.
Just awful on every account, but technically functional I suppose. It does, however, lead us to something good.
Monitoring and Alerts: 8/10
After the frustration of the signup process and how annoying it was to navigate the site, the monitoring tools on offer were a breath of fresh air.
In terms of breadth there’s nothing fancy. You get the pretty standard suite of basic monitoring tools:
- Dark web and data breach monitoring
- Payday loan monitoring
- Social security number monitoring
- Bank account monitoring
- “Neighborhood watch alerts”
Not the most robust package of tools out there, by a long shot.
But the quality of each tool is something I was surprised by. While the speed was slower than average (it took about a day for any alerts to pop up), the accuracy cannot be denied. On first logging in a day after signing up the service bombarded me with dozens of alerts laid out in the categories shown above, which can be opened in an expanded list format.
Some of this is largely fluff. I was greeted with a list of every address I’ve ever been on the lease of, which is something I’ve come to expect from these smaller services.
But the dark web and data breach monitoring overall seems top notch, with everything I’d expected to see being represented and with a lot more detail than most services manage (which account was compromised, the name and email address of people who had used my phone number in the past, and so on).
Most of these are already dealt with, but it’s still impressive to see everything on display in a quick and easy fashion.
Likewise, I was pleasantly surprised at how good their “neighborhood watch alerts” were. This is what would generally be described in other services as sex offender and criminal registry monitoring. Usually what you get is a quick alert that a hit has been found in your neighborhood, usually with a name attached.
In this case, Complete ID provided not only a name, but a physical description and, in most cases, a synopsis of the exact offense the offender had committed to be added to the registry in the first place.
That makes Costco Complete ID probably the best sex offender registry monitoring on the market. It’s certainly better than every other service I’ve looked at.
Threat Resolution Services: 9/10
The core of any identity theft protection service’s resolution package is their customer support, and Complete ID surprises once again by being one of the very few services on the market to offer 24/7 US based customer support as part of their threat resolution.
The representatives are friendly and seem quite competent, and the availability, of course, can’t be understated as a huge positive.
The only real gripe I’d have here is that there’s nothing in particular that stands out that Complete ID offers as a unique option (for example, private investigators) but I can’t fault the service for simply being exemplary at the primary feature that determines threat resolution viability.
Complete ID also offers a very good insurance plan to all members. It has a full $1 million coverage for lost funds reimbursement (referred to as “cash recovery” in their summary of benefits) as well as expenses. However, it’s worth noting that these two things are rolled together, unlike other options. You cannot claim up to $1 million in lost funds, and also a separate $1 million in expenses.
Still, this is better than some other options offer, and likely to be more than enough for the average person. As an added benefit, Complete ID’s insurance has no monetary limits listed other than the $1 million maximum, which means you are not restricted in how much you draw for any one particular benefit. This means you could, theoretically, draw up to $1 million in just lost wages, though justifying that would be…difficult, to say the least, for most people.
The only exception to this appears to be that reimbursement for legal fees cannot exceed $125 an hour, so keep that in mind.
Additional Services: N/A
This category is extremely complicated in this case and will be gone into more detail under “Cost” below.
Suffice to say that besides the benefits listed below, the only thing of any real substance Complete ID offers is a nice little FAQ sidebar on their dashboard:
It’s a very nice collection of commonly asked questions someone new to identity theft phenomena may have, and it’s good they’re so easily accessible.
I have avoided talking about one of the major drawbacks, or perhaps benefits depending on perspective up to this point, because it wasn’t necessarily relevant to the functionality of Complete ID as an identity theft protection service.
However, it is quite relevant when it comes to analyzing the cost or perceived value of Complete ID as a service.
The issue, of course, is that Complete ID is only available as a service if you are already a Costco member. This means you cannot buy Complete ID as a completely separate service. It will always come as a package deal.
Still, for quick reference, here is how much Complete ID will run you just on its own:
|Complete ID||Business and Gold Star||Executive|
|Child Identity Monitoring||3.99/month (47.88/year)||2.99/month ($35.88/year)|
In both cases, the same benefits are offered. The only difference is that a discount is applied for members with a Costco Executive level membership as opposed to their Business or Gold Star (the basic package) membership plans.
Taken out of context, these prices are extremely good for what you get, among the cheapest on the market. This goes especially for the price available to Executive members which is equivalent in cost to the lowest price options offered by big name services, but is quite a bit better than those same service tiers and compares favorably to their middle tier options (which often cost twice as much).
Of course, the rub is that these prices do NOT exist in a vacuum. They are only available to existing members.
This means that for the Business/Gold Star plan you need to tack on an extra $60 per month, and for the Executive you need to bump that up to $120. This means that the yearly price for your Costco membership and Complete ID combined is going to be identical no matter your Costco membership package.
This price is not at all good compared to the average market value, and is very behind the curve in terms of cost. Worse, much of this price is locked in as an annual fee which cannot be truncated or negotiated. If you want to try Complete ID, you have to commit to $60 to $120 up front before you factor in the price of the service.
Now, of course, this is ignoring all the other benefits a Costco membership can get you. It’s arguably a large money saver for many households to be able to buy in bulk at these warehouse style stores, and I’ve enjoyed having a membership to Costco and some of its competitors with similar business models off and on throughout the years.
But it does put the service into a bit of a weird light in terms of cost or value. If you’re buying the Costco membership JUST for Complete ID…that’s pretty expensive. If you already have a Costco membership or could make good use of one and are on the fence about getting it? It’s a potentially smart choice.
Costco Complete ID is a service I went in expecting to hate and came out with a surprising amount of respect for. It has very good monitoring accuracy, and the detail with which each of its alerts reports to you potential problems is refreshing given how vague many other services can be.
On top of that it offers great threat resolution and a very solid insurance plan, all at what on the surface seems like a great price.
However, all of this comes with a big caveat: it requires an existing Costco membership, which drives up the price and potentially the inconvenience by quite a lot.
Ultimately this service sits in a very weird spot. I’d say for Executive members it’s a no-brainer. Getting this kind of protection for an additional $8.99 per month is a great deal despite the frustrations of its website layout.
For Gold Star and Business members, it’s iffier. At $13.99 a month itt’s competing, and somewhat unfavorably, with other budget services like Identity Force and IDShield (which we’ve already reviewed), but does have something to speak of on its own merits that may make it tempting.
However, for those on the fence about, no interest in, or no use for a Costco membership in the first place? I’d say give it a pass. Complete ID is a solid service, but not a hot selling point for Costco membership as a whole.
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