While watching late-night television recently, I saw an advertisement for Farmers Identity Theft Shield. Readers of this blog know that I'm looking for a replacement credit monitoring service after Discover changed its credit monitoring vendor. The Product and Service Reviews
page in this blog lists all of the credit monitoring services I've reviewed so far. Today's post includes a review of Identity Shield from Farmers Insurance.
Farmer's service is coverage a consumer would add to an existing Farmers homeowners insurance policy. It isn't sold separately. The Farmers site does an average job of explaining their offering. The site does not provide a price, so it is difficult for consumers to determine if the Farmers offering is a good value for their money. Some key features of Farmers offering:
- Coverage of $28,500 expenses
- $1,500 indemnity
- Monitoring of credit files and publicly accessible records for fraudulent activity, for two people
- Annual identity report with details of the customer’s credit file and public records
- Professional on call to answer questions regarding identity safety concerns
- Assistance in replacing lost, stolen or damaged identification documents (birth certificate, passport, etc.)
- E-mail tips and news to help prevent identity theft
- Access to Farmers’ informative Web site www.FarmersIdentityShield.com
Actual ID-theft victims would also receive:
- Identity resolution services for the entire household
- 24/7 access to an advocate at Identity 911 to guide the victim through the identity recovery process
- Preparation of correspondence necessary to notify all relevant
parties of the fraud (credit bureaus, financial institutions, etc.)
- Creation and maintenance of a case file of all phone calls, documents and results
- Assistance in placing fraud alerts and security freezes with credit bureaus
The focus of the site is to get a consumer to talk with a Farmer insurance agent. While that is a reasonable goal, the site is very weak on providing details. It could and should do both.
The site doesn't explain what the "$1,500 indemnity" means. The insurance coverage is a little more than available from other providers, but the site doesn't provide a link to the full text of the agreement so consumers can read the coverage details. As I discovered in prior product reviews, the important details about insurance coverage and expense reimbursement is covered in the detailed agreement, which the Farmers site doesn't provide.
The Farmers site does not list specifically which credit bureaus it monitors. The copy implies all three national credit bureaus, but I look for precise copy statements, not implications. the site does not explain the training and qualifications its phone-based professionals have, so the user cannot evaluate how beneficial this phone support might be. The site does not even link out to the sub-contractor, Identity 911. This is critical since Identity 911 would provide assistance to ID-theft victims.
I reviewed briefly the www.FarmersIdentityShield.com site and quickly noticed that much or most of its content is a copy of the Identity Theft Knowledge Center site run by Identity 911. I guess that Identity 911 allows its clients to reuse its news, tips, and informational content. While this may greatly help Farmers, it left me wondering how much Farmers Insurance really understands about identity theft. Farmers seemed to have hired a subcontractor to do all of the heavy lifting.
The site says that consumers get an "Annual Identity Report," but the site doesn't show an example report. So, consumers are unable to learn exactly what's in this report and how beneficial it might be (or not). Is it the full text of the consumer's credit reports at all three national credit bureaus? Or is it a Farmers-created summary? And, an annual report may not meet many consumers' identity protection needs. When an alert informs the user that there's a change to one of their credit reports, the consumer wants to see that report immediately... not wait for the annual identity report which could be months away.
Would I buy this product? No way. The site is skimpy on details. Many of the service features and descriptions are vague. No demos or online tutorials. The site does a very poor job of explaining and proving the service benefits and features.
The site didn't offer any explanations of why Farmers Identity Shield might
be better than other credit monitoring services. The user is left to make their own comparisons and analysis. It seems that Farmers quickly cobbled together an offering, with the hope that poorly informed consumers would buy it without asking hard questions. Part of the services Farmers seems to charge for (e.g., placing Fraud Alerts and Security Freezes), I have already done and consumers can do for themselves for free. It is very easy and a fast 5-minute phone call for a consumer to place a Fraud Alert on their credit reports.
More importantly, the site fails to state the monthly fee for the service. How can consumers make a decision about a service when the site doesn't state the price?
During the upcoming weeks, I will review more credit monitoring services. You can access prior reviews at the Product and Service Reviews page, or via "Product Reviews" in the right-column tag cloud. To
receive alerts about future reviews, click on either of the e-mail or RSS links in the right column.