Consumers' Identity Theft Concerns Grow
Recognizing the Tilt in the Playing Field

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Credit Monitoring Offers

Last week, I received via surface mail a letter from Bank of America offering their credit monitoring service. The offer was slickly disguised as a quiz:

"Bank of America want you and your money to be safe. that's why we're inviting our valued customers to take the enclosed quiz."

Are they serious? No way a quiz is going to protect my personal data. A quiz can inform me, but not protect me. Of course I read the rest of the letter just to see exactly what this bank was pitching:

"Receive your Personal 3-in-1 Credit Report, 3 credit scores when you try the bank of America Privacy Assist Premier service for 30 days at no cost."

It seems that the Privacy Assist service provides quarterly updates and the full text of 3 credit reports (e.g., TransUnion, Experian, and ), your credit score, and prompt notification (presumably via e-mail)
for about $12.99  a month. The fine print on the activation form mentioned the actual provider of the credit monitoring service is Intersections. The letter didn't provide a web site address for Intersections, so I looked them up online. Here's how Intersections describes itself:

"Intersections Inc. (NASDAQ: INTX) is a leading provider of branded and fully customized identity management solutions. By integrating its technology solutions with its comprehensive services, Intersections safeguards more than 5 million customers, who are primarily received through marketing partnerships and consumer-direct marketing of the companys IDENTITY GUARD brand."

According to a recent MarketWatch article about small cap stocks:

"One company Evans says has strong potential is Intersections Inc. which provides identity theft prevention, mitigation and resolution services to consumers with credit cards. The major card issuers, with the exception of American Express, use Intersections."

Also, the BofA letter presented a vague statement about identity theft insurance:

Up to $25,000 identity theft insurance at no additional charge to you (with no deductible).

I am really skeptical when I read statements or offers about "identity theft insurance." The statement really needs supporting detail, which the BofA letter doesn't provide. Some of the questions that come to my mind when evaluating an identity theft insurance offer:

  • What are the deductible options?
  • What is covered -- actual $$$ losses, expenses to restore credit, or both?
  • What proof is required to receive payment on a claim?
  • How fast are claims paid?
  • Does the insurance cover losses within the USA or worldwide?
  • Does the insurance cover identity fraud, where criminals use your personal data during a crime?
  • Does the insurance cover identity fraud in the USA or worldwide?
  • Does the insurance coverage extend to my estate?

Is Privacy Assist a worthy credit monitoring service?

Not for me. The pitch was lame. The letter seems focused on consumers who know little or nothing about identity theft, don't have a credit monitoring service, don't know their rights about access to free credit reports, and haven't been the victim of a data breach by an employer or prior employer. Plus, there are far better quizzes available online. (See my prior post about what makes a good identity-theft quiz.) This BofA offer contains pretty basic quiz questions:

  • When was the last time you checked your credit report?
  • Do you carry your social security card with you?
  • Do you review financial statements and phone bills for authorized use?
  • have you ever been denied credit for reasons unknown to you?
  • Have you ever received a credit card you didn't apply for?
  • Do you shred mail you've received for pre-approved credit?
  • Have you ever been the victim of identity theft or credit card fraud?

What credit monitoring service offers have you received in the mail? What did you think of them? I've Been Mugged readers want to know.

Comments

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socorro

DO NOT USE THIS SERVICE!!! I just got off the phone w/ these losers. They sent ALL my credit information to the WRONG address. Luckily for me, it was my Mom's address but when I called to update the address they said I could not access my account because I didn't know the address! So instead, they would continue to send MY personal information to the incorrect address.

If ANYTHING, this service puts you MORE at risk for fraud!!

George

Socorro:

Sorry to hear of your troubles with this service. I hope that you are able to get them resolved. If not, you should file a complaint with the FTC and the BBB. (The link to file a complaint with the FTC is on the Resources page in this blog.) If you decide to change to a different credit monitoring service, let us know who you pick and why. Good luck!

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

Greg

I was charged for this service without signing up for it. Luckily, I noticed the very first time they charged me the $8.99 for Privacy Assist, and after only about 5 minutes on the phone they were willing to cancel the service and refund me the money (but not until after running through all the wonderful things Privacy Assist would do to preserve my fabulous credit score). However, the woman I spoke to there claimed her computer shows I signed up for the service online on June 4...the problem is that I opened the account in a BofA branch on June 12. So I'm not sure how I signed up for a service when I didn't even have an account.

It seems BofA's financial troubles are causing them to do some semi-shady things, hoping people won't catch on. So I suggest everyone pay attention to their accounts.

justyouraveragejoe

I was taken in by this same scam. A man called my home in July informing me that he was calling from FIA card services, I verified if this was a sales call and he lied that he was not selling and said that he was from the card services. He said in these days there are lot of identity thefts and seems that there was a hack into a batch of creditcard numbers at thier end. They were sending out the credit reports and i was to check if there were any misuse of my account. I confirmed if there is any charge for getting the credit report and he said that there was no charge and they sending it out to all people whose account maybe compromised. So they they had reason to believe my card account could have been misused and that they needed to send me the credit reports so I could make sure that my account was ok. He then proceed to tell my credit card number and he asked to confirm my social before he could proceed further. i confirmed my social. He then asked if he could record what we were saying and if i agreed to do this. I said yes. He then proceeded to very quickly read some terms and notices. I halted him saying he was too fast and i did not understand most of it. He lied that its part of his job to read out and make sure i heard it. He was pretty glib and kept on talking. I halted him again and he was pretty irritated and kept on talking.

I immediately went online and monitored my credit card account for a couple of weeks. No credit reports were mailed to me. Today Aug 14th i seen my credit card statement and there is a charge $12.99 a couple of days back by Privacy Assist.

I called Privacy Assist to check what was going on. The lady on customer assist was trying to convince me that it was a good deal to have protection. I said i m not interested. For the last so many years I have been regularly solicited to buy credit protection, and i never brought it. I then proceeded to tell the lady that i did verify if the guy who called was selling and how the guy lied. She then offered to lower the monthly charge if it was too high. It was like she did not understand that i did not want the service period. After much annoyance and petty talk she finally said that she will discontinue.

I asked for her to refund the money charged and she point blank refused, saying it is my fault that i accepted and BofAmerica customers wer given 30 days...it was like she never heard anything i told her about the guy lying and conning me. I finally told her i will lodge complaints. I told her in the first instance i got the card from Wachovia and not BofA. Secondly i never agreed to the service and finally i never got any credit report too. On and on it went, i was really getting angry. I told her to verify the call made by her rep and she had no right to call me a liar. After much trauma she finally agreed to refund the money.

I agree with earlier comments that 1. They are deliberately scaring someone with a lie so they can steal from the average man and this is so wrong. 2. Giving thier dishonest affiliates my credit card number and asking to verify last four digits social security number is also wrong. 3. The customer assist person tried her dammest to hook me to the service and refused to refund $12.99.

It is sad to hear that the USA employees at customer assist have to work in such pitiable circumstances. My heart goes out to them and urge them to leave as soon as they get better oppurtunities. It will not be easy in this economy. But harassing clients or being a fraud is not the better alternative.

For the most part the majority of customer assists call centers are outsourced and the people there are least concerned about service to Americans. I sometimes am inclined to beleive that they take deliberate pleasure in stickin it to Americans. I hope to be wrong in this, as the only ones to blame are other greedy Americans who outsource in the first place just to fatten thier bonuses.

BTW I agree that "tigereyze" has a vested interest in the company. He probably is employed by the company as PR and his job is to discrediting the folks who are complaining.

Do not trust such Corporates to be honest, or act responsibly, when it comes to this scam. They don't really care and just want your money.

George

Justyouraveragejoe:

Thanks for sharing your experience and sad to hear of the grief it caused. I am sure that readers will find your experience helpful. I encourage you to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and with the consumer protection agency in the state where you live.

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

decoy

I've had a similar experience to average Joe's. I don't remember signing up for the service, then started noticing a $12.99 fee. I already had Identity Guard through Costco, so I explained I wanted to to cancel. The lady convinced me to keep the service, as ID guard doesn't offer insurance. Later, I found that ID Guard DOES offer insurance, and I was paying for 2 credit monitoring services for nothing. On top of that, ID Guard is cheaper and offers more protection.

I called BOA to cancel Privacy Assist again, and had to be transferred to a different number because P.A. isn't actually a part of BOA at all. There's a lot more to the phone call, but basically I ended up arguing, swearing, and yelling at the rep, and I still couldn't cancel my damn service. She kept talking no matter what I said, I tried interrupting her but she just kept on talking saying, "you're not letting me do my job". I told her I was on my lunch break, didn't have much time, and wanted to cancel. She replied "well, maybe you should call back when you have more time". There's more but I can't remember now. What I do find interesting however, is that Identity Guard is highly recommended, whereas privacy assist isn't. However, they are both from Intersections Inc...

George

Decoy:

Thanks for sharing your experience. Sorry to hear of the troubles you have had. You should get accurate information from a phone rep, and it should not be that difficult to cancel. Good luck and let us know what happens.

BOA now offers a new credit monitoring service, Privacy Source, in addition to Privacy Assist. I will review Privacy Source in this blog later this week. Availability of Privacy Source seems to vary by state. To read reviews of various credit monitoring services, click on the Reviews link at the top of the page.

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

Glancy Binkow & Goldberg

Hello, we are a law firm investigating the Privacy Assist program from Bank of America. We would be very interested in hearing consumers' experiences with Privacy Assist as we pursue legal action against Bank of America. Please contact us to share your experiences: pa@glancylaw.com

JayCee

My aunt got a call (a deaf/blind American) and they gave me the hacked credit card numbers at Bank of America schpeil and they wanted to send her her credit report along with a 30 day free trial of their privacy assist premiere plan. They Identified themselves as being Bank of America so I tried doing the best I could for her.

I told them she would not be able to call them to cancel the plan if she did not want it, and I tried setting it up so that if she did not call them back; the plan would be automatically cancelled. The girl on the phone became awful curt at this point saying that she could not make it work that way and told me to have a nice day.

At this point I halted her, believing they were Legitimately B of A and that they had a legitimate security breach, and asked her for a phone number to call so I could request the service for myself, and she gave me the phone number 800-516-9561 (intersections, inc) to call.

I called, and set it up. At one point they asked me to "verify" my social security number (To obtain this piece of information they did not have), and at the very end asked me for a credit card or debit card number to pay for the service. I paused, and said "I thought you guys were my bank", and she said she was a subcontractor working for Bank Of America and did not have access to this type of information. (an understandable security precaution)

I proceeded to finalize the order with verbal confirmations that gave permission to debit my account if I did not cancel within 30 days, believing the fact that someone obtained information on accounts through a security hack at B of A, and thought I would look over my report while keeping this service in place to protect against any immediate danger.

I was fully led to believe in the initial parts of the conversation that a situation had definitively taken place that was putting me at risk with my financial security.

Everything didn't add up - so I've done some post humorous research into this and found pages upon pages of complaints on the actions and tactics of this company. Tomorrow I am going to find a phone call recorder for my smart phone and call them back to immediately cancel my service before even a single day goes by.

Perhaps I will be sending that recording to pa@glancylaw.com (see the previous post) in the near future.

brad bortner

I signed up for this with boa after I lost a credit card, but than had buyers remorse. Cancelling was actually really painless. I called, asked to cancel, they forwarded me to the privacy assist folks, and they cancelled it. The entire process only took about 2 minutes.

Lory

OMG i called this company after seeing a the charge on my bill, i checked and it had been happeining for a few months... i was so upset.. i found all these articles online about people who say they didnt say yes to the service...to make the story short.. i requested that they give me all my money or show me that i agree to it... obviously i didnt agree and i was really mad... well they played me the recording when i accepted the service.. now i wonder if this is what every one is so angry about... did we just agree and lost track??? after cancelling i went to their website, and their service isnt really that bad.. im thinking about getting it again.. i just feel ashamed to call and subscribe after the way i treated their employees and manager for something i did get... any one can give me a good suggestion... i may cosider

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