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Equifax "3-in-1" Credit Monitoring Service (Product Review)

After Discover changed its credit monitoring vendor, I started looking for a replacement service. Since the three national credit bureaus all offer credit monitoring services, I thought that I'd look at Equifax's offering. This blog contains posts with reviews of the Experian Triple Alert service and a comparison of several services from Experian.

I performed a simple Google search since I didn't know the name of Equifax's service. The first search result included a link to the Equifax home page, and that's where I went:

Equifax home page

First impressions are everything. In the center column, several bullet points summarized the company's credit monitor service features. This was easy and quick to read. Next, the page presented a huge "Get Started' button. The problem: the page lacks links to important service details. To properly evaluate a service, consumers need:

  • Examples of their credit report formats from all 3 national credit bureaus
  • Examples of the e-mail notices
  • Details about the ID-theft insurance
  • Expanations of why Equifax's offering is superior to other credit monitoring services

The page didn't present links to any of this information. If the site has it, the presentation forces users to hunt for it.

My first impression: the company produced a consumer unfriendly home page that lacks links to important service details.consumers need to properly evaluate the service. The "Get Started" button links directly to a service registration form page. The home page seems arrogant in its expectation that 4 bullet points are enough for consumers to make an informed purchase decision. No, that's not enough. Either Equifax doesn't understand this, or doesn't care.

This poor presentation is a strong indication to me that Equifax would likely be a difficult brand to interact with, if I registered for their credit monitoring service.

Normally, at this point I would move on to a competitor's web site, but I decided to give Equifax another chance. I clicked on the "View All Products" button which linked to:

This page was a little better. It provides links to the service detail page for each service. The presentation makes it difficult to compare offerings. Does the "3-in-1 Monitoring" service contain everything that the "Credit Watch Gold" service contains? The copy doesn't say so explicitly, so the consumer is left to guess or to read lots of copy. If a consumer doesn't know much about credit monitoring, this page is difficult to use. (I would later discover the site has a service comparison page, but the link to that comparison is buried on the service detail pages and not on this page where it should be.) I selected the "3-in-1 Monitoring" service link.

If I've learned one thing when evaluating credit monitoring services it's this: closely read the page content. There's a lot of explanatory copy on the 3-in-1 Monitoring service detail page. The service detail page lacks links to examples of the various service features. The service contains some basic features (e.g., monitoring of the consumer's credit reports at all 3 national credit bureaus, automated alerts, insurance, 24/7 access to customer service) and some nifty value-added features (e.g., customizable alerts, lock/unlock Security Freeze on your Equifax credit report). The $20,000 of insurance is more than what's available in the Experian Triple Alert service, but the Equifax site doesn't provide any links for users to read details, terms, and conditions about its insurance offering. As a wise person once said, "the devil is in the details."

This is important: the 3-in-1 Monitoring service summary on the All Products Page says, "... unlimited access to your Equifax Credit Report." This is important because only provide the full text of the consumer's Equifax credit report. If there's a problem with the consumer's Experian or TransUnion credit reports, this service provides minimal help. It only alerts you to any changes in those credit reports, and does not provide access to the full text of other branded credit reports.

This means the consumer is left on their own to retrieve their TransUnion and Experian credit reports from those services or another credit monitoring service provider. This could be time consuming; a potential inconvenience if the consumer is trying to determine and fix a credit report with errors, or damage done by an identity thief. Also, additional fees will probably apply to retrieve other branded credit reports.

Consumers need access to the full text of all three credit reports, not just one. Any service that describes itself as comprehensive really isn't comprehensive if it doesn't provide the full text of a consumer's credit reports from all three national credit reports.

Note: the "3-in-1 Monitoring" service page does not mention outsourcing and whether Equifax offshore outsources any of its operations. I know from prior research that all three national credit bureaus announced offshore outsourcing in 2003. (I haven't seen any evidence since to the contrary.) To stay competitive and to manage costs, credit bureaus currently offshore outsource portions of their credit reporting operations, and likely do the same for their credit monitoring services. I would expect a credit bureau like Equifax to mention its offshore outsourcing arrangements so consumers can make a truly informed purchase.

Is $20,000 in insurance enough? You have to decide that for your situation. It's hard to tell because the site doesn't provide a link to the contract or legal terms and conditions. I've Been Mugged readers should read my review of the Experian Triple Alert service to understand the insurance issues.

The bottom line: the Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring service didn't look like a good deal to me. It claimed to be comprehensive, but isn't. It was a frustrating site to use, and my guess is the actual service isn't any better. Site pages lacked links to important service details and examples. While the service detail pages include a "Take a Tour" link to examples, this content was incomplete and didn't answer most of my concerns. Plus, the "Take a Tour" link was in a tiny font size and easy to miss.

Like the Experian site, the Equifax site was skimpy on explaining important details and benefits. The site didn't show me how its customized alert feature works. The site did a poor job of proving the benefits it claimed. The site didn't contain a copy explaining why it is better service than competitive services. I got the impression that the site pitched weak claims that would be easily believable by uninformed consumers.

Frankly, if the site pitching Equifax 's services to potential customers is this bad, then the actual service for customers probably is worse.

All of this left me with the impression that Equifax is: a) a difficult brand to do business with, and b) not very consumer focused. If I signed up for Equifax's 3-in-1 Monitoring service, it would probably be a frustrating experience. No thanks. I'll continue looking elsewhere for a credit monitoring service.

If you use the Equifax 3-in-1 Monitoring service, please share your experiences. Why did you sign up? What works well? What works poorly? How well do the alerts, credit resolution, and insurance reimbursement services work?

Comments

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dlbeadles

Since you're comparing id theft providers, you ought to check out Identity Guard from Intersections:
http://www.identityguard.com/ipages/bt1/tp30daysfree1.html

Monitoring

Great post! thanks for tips and idea share in credit monitoring.i learn more from it. we will come back often.

Once again, thanks!

Waldo

I have a comment on the Equifax service as well. After approximately 2 years of membership I recently contacted them to cancel based on the fact that I thought their monthly charge was exorbitant considering the services I received.

On Sunday, July 12, I spoke to one of their customer service reps. The immediate response was to offer me continued membership at half the monthly charge I had been paying. I stood my ground and informed her that it was my intention to cancel. She informed me on the call that I would still be able to access my membership services until July 15, when the cancellation would be effective, and I received a confirmatory email which stated the same.

Today, July 14, I received an email from Experian stating that my credit or FICO score had been updated. Naturally I was curious about the change and tried to access my account to obtain a report. On the freecreditreport.com website, I was informed that I could access my report only by paying $14.95. My next step was to phone the customer service number. I was informed that I no longer had access to my account and the half-price offer was again extended. I told the customer service rep that my membership benefits should not have expired until 11:59 pm tonight, July 14, as stated in the email I received from them. She informed me that the company processes cancellations the day before the actual date.

I spoke to a customer supervisor and was told the same thing. In short, I received no redress for cutting me off a day early. Not only did I consider the early termination of my benefits an unacceptable business practice, but I also feel that the message I received today regarding a change in my credit score was nothing more than a seedy business practice as well.

I have already enrolled in another service, Lifelock, and hope my experiences with them will be better.

Sea Foam

A service you can trust? to be rude that is...

After receiving an unexpected email from Equifax (below) I contacted the phone number provided to check on the matter. I told the agent I was speaking on a cell phone and wasn't comfortable. He gave no suggestion other than if you don't provide the data I can't help you. After I provided the data he repeated it again verbally which was unnecessary if had he typed in my data correctly and found my account. (thanks for protecting my privacy)

I explained that I had received this email and he most flippantly told me that I did not have an account and that an email was not sent. How arrogant is that?

I have on occasion used equifax since 2001 and have received coverage as a XXX employee and xxxxx account holder. I asked repeatedly to be connected with a supervisor and he would not and continued to say that they would just say the same thing to me as he had. I asked again and again and he asked me if you talk to the supervisor and he tells you the same thing will you agree. I told him my discussion was between the supervisor and me and I wasn't agreeing to anything.

I have never been treated so rudely by a "customer service" agent.

I then talked to the supervisor who handled the call much differently but on asking where he was located so I could reference his name and the agents name he couldn't provide any location or division or employee id or even answer if he was in the US or not - for "security reasons" Lord knows you have all my information but I can't even know where these people are?

What kind of a business is Equifax running these days? This experience does little to suggest there is any kind of operational knowledge let alone excellence. Have you sold the name to someone else in a third world country or inmates at the local pen?



----- Forwarded Message ----
From: "Member.Benefits@equifax.com"
Sent: xxxx, 2009
Subject: Equifax Credit Watch (TM) Gold With 3 in 1 Monitoring - No News is Good News


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dear XXXXXXX,
For the last month, Equifax Credit Watch (TM) Gold With 3 in 1 Monitoring has been helping protect you from identity theft. We've been monitoring your credit file and are pleased to inform you there were no inquiries or other critical events reported in the last month. In this case, no news is good news! If any key changes are reported, we will notify you via e-mail.

Please call us at 1-877-47GUARD (1-877-474-8273), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may e-mail us anytime at gold.creditwatch@equifax.com . Or you may write us at Equifax Consumer Services, Inc. PO Box 105496, Atlanta, GA 30348.

Thank you for allowing us to provide you continued identity theft protection.

To turn off valuable Equifax and third party offers in your alerts click here.

Your Equifax Customer Care Team

Victor Martinez

I use one that my company just came out with and it's very cool because not only serves as credit monitoring (partnered with Equifax), but it also helps you develop a strategy (a fast pay plan) to get out of debt. It's called DebtWatchers and it costs the same as Equifax already charges per month ($14.95, and you cancel at any time), plus the added features of debt management and automated alerts. Check it out and feel free to contact me for further questions: victormario98@hotmail.com
https://my.primerica.com/clientportal/what-is-debtwatchers.html

Julia

I recently signed up at this site, and you were right... the site doesn't work half of the time, especially when I try to start a dispute. When I contacted the "Tech Support" department, I was told that I their records didn't show any errors on my account. They did, however, respond quickly to the disputes that I managed to get done online. I suppose that is the most important thing in my case.

Maria

I currently have Equifax and am not too happy with what they're offering me...for one I can't update my report even though the customer service rep says just to click on "get a new report". And yet when I clicked on it a window popped up saying "oh, you already ordered this product". (Also, it should be noted I have their Credit Report and Score service, not the 3-in-1 because I already have TrueCredit doing that for me.) I'm seriously considering canceling their service because the $14.95 I just paid is better off being used for cupcakes and books.

Joe Edelman

I tried mycreditscore and I have to say it was not worth the investment. I believe that if you are on top of your bills and you know what is going on with your financial situation a credit monitoring services is superfluous.

All you have to do is spent properly, pay your bills on time and you will really have no problems.

George

Maria and Joe:

Thanks for sharing your experiences and views. I am sure that readers will find them helpful.

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

John

I signed up for the service - worked with it for one session and then couldn't log in.

The password reset/retreival option didin't work and I was directed to a phone number. After providing all the information I could I was told I needed to provide a second credit account for verification. I have ONE credit card... after going back and forth I tell them to cancel my account. They can't do that without a second form of account verification. So - now I'm on hold waiting for a supervisor so I can cancel my account. They want me to email them a copy of my drivers license and social security card... I have no easy ability to do so. This is becoming a pain in the ass. Their customer service has much to be desired and for this reason I do not recommend this service.

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