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Farmers Identity Shield (Product Review)

Farmers Insurance 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.

Comments

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Albert

"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."
If you scroll to the very bottom, you'll notice that this website is copyrighted by Identity Theft 911, LLC, and not by Farmers Insurance Group. This copyright notice is on every page of this site.

"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?"
See http://www.farmers.com/FarmComm/identity_shield_insurance.html#Price

I agree with your observation about the lack of detailed information. However, keep in mind that the company relies heavily on its agents to advertise and explain these details, as opposed to TV, radio, and other ads (that Allstate, State Farm, and so many other companies utilize heavily). This is, of course, intended to pique interest in the consumer and, like you said, "to get a consumer to talk with a Farmer insurance agent."

Just my 2 cents...

Tim Brown

The Farmers Identity Shield program is contracted out to Identity Theft 911 who is a leader in credit monitoring services. The cost is $45 or $65 per year depending on the Homeowners policy you carry with Farmers Insurance. The service provides continuous monitoring of credit files as well as publicly accessible records for fraudulent activity for two people plus 24/7 access to an advocate. Coverage is $28,500 in expenses and $1500 indemnity which is monetary compensation. It also provides specialized services for military members, families with children and those who have lost a spouse.

You can also visit my website for more information. http://www.pimainsurance.com

Nathan

I have this service and think it is great. If you want more details, talk to a Farmers Agent.

emme witt

Hi - I work for Farmers and agree that they are trying to get you to talk to an agent (that's the business). There isn't a monthly fee. It's a yearly fee - that gets paid with your HomeOwner's or Renter's Policy (If that's paid monthly, the fee is divided into that increment). The cost is different for different types of policies - probably why they don't give a cost.

Chrish

Identity is the must for the human it's very need in the human life.

Timothy Paul

Were you evaluating only the website or did you give a negative evaluation of a product, due to it's website? You seem to have accomplished the later --even though the product cannot even be purchased through the website.

Any average consumer could easily learn more than you did, since they would naturally speak to a Farmers agent before purchasing the product. Copies of the policy language are available through any Farmers agent.

It would have been so easy to pick up the phone and speak to a Farmers agent. You did not do your homework. I expect more from a review.

George

Dear Timothy:
Thanks for sharing your comment and opinions. You said:

"Any average consumer... would naturally speak to a Farmers agent..."

While some consumers will, a variety of research studies have documented how consumers do research online. This 2012 study documented hw some consumers rely solely on search engines to research brands:
http://fleishmanhillard.com/2012/01/31/2012-digital-influence-index-shows-internet-as-leading-influence-in-consumer-purchasing-choices/

If your site isn't optimized for search, your brand won't get as many visits, let alone phone calls. And that reliance on search engines places more importance than family, friends, and colleagues -- even in an online world where sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are popular.

How consumers research brands online has shifted. This 2010 study documented how consumers use several online sources:

"... 90% of consumers are utilizing search engines, 48% use online yellow pages and 42% are using comparison shopping engines to research purchases. Nearly 25% are using vertical websites. But the biggest change is that consumers no longer rely on only one resource for information. On average consumers are looking at 7.9 different sources for product information."

http://www.bizreport.com/2010/03/user_view_97_of_consumers_research_products_online.html

And, research of consumers habits in the insurance industry seems to be consistent with this:

"Some 59 percent of the respondents stated that after receiving an insurance offer in the mail they are more likely to visit the insurance company’s Web site rather than call the company. The survey says that more Americans now use the web to engage with insurance companies instead of telephone — a trend that is expected to increase..."

http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2010/05/03/109495.htm

So, while you might want prospective customers to call, the research suggests that more are not.

You might also find this older research report insightful, about how consumers judge a website's credibility:
http://www.consumerwebwatch.org/dynamic/web-credibility-reports-evaluate-abstract.cfm

On balance, I believe that I acted as many consumers do: evaluating the website on its own merits.

George
Editor
http://ivebeenmugged.typepad.com

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