Debix tries to broaden the reach of its smart identity theft service

Debix is one of the smartest services I’ve ever seen to combat identity theft. It can stop the theft of your identity as it happens. Today, the company is slicing its prices so that a single consumer can protect himself or herself against identity theft for $24 a year.

Debix operates an efficient electronic network that is built on the premise that while a thief can convince an institution that he is you, the thief cannot convince you that he is you. Debix provides a secure and automated phone call requesting authorization and the consumer says whether the transaction is legitimate. It verifies through your phone number and your voice whether the person being called is actually you. It can check your voice against a recording of your voice that you make when you open a Debix account.

“We think a lot of snake oil has been sold in this space,” said Bo Holland, chief executive of Debix. “We can stop fraud because we come at it from a technical and common sense point of view.”

More than half of identity theft victims reported in 2007 that their personal information had been used to start a new line of credit in their name, according to the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center, which provides victim support and public education about identity theft. Jay Foley, the ITRC’s executive director seems to be a personal fan of the service. “Bo has been talking to me since he came up with the technology,” he said. “It exceeds my expectations. No one else has stepped up to the plate.”

Debix’s identity protection network has been operating since January 2007. Since then, more than 400,000 paying consumers have used it and it has stopped more than 1,400 identity theft attacks, saving $9.3 million in losses, Holland said. In the fourth quarter of 2007, Debix monitored 30,000 requests for new accounts. It found 380 were frauds. Of those attacks, not a single one was successful.

If Debix detects an attack, it immediately turns the call over to one of its investigators, who collects the facts and engages law enforcement while the case is still hot.

Debix previously charged $100 a year. The company has a test drive program that users can take to understand how it works.

Under the new pricing, individuals can get Debix Identity Protection for $24 per year and families can buy Debix for less than $12 per person per year.  Small families with one adult and up to four children living in the same household costs $48 per year. Large families with up to five adults and ten children cost $144 per year.

The company was founded in 2004. It hasn’t spent any money on advertising during the 19 months the service has been available. It raised $9.3 million in May from Merus Capital and Trellis Partners. Last year, the company raised money from angels Gideon Yu, the current chief financial officer at Facebook, and Launny Steffens, a former vice chairman of Merrill Lynch & Co.