Equifax ID Patrol Review – A Good Choice to Monitor Your Credit Reports and Protect Your Identity?

August 9, 2008

Equifax’s ID Patrol, a new identity theft protection and credit monitoring service, launched recently and I used a promotion code to sign up for a free trial. I’m a big fan of credit monitoring services, as you could probably tell from my True Credit review, especially if they offer identity theft protection as part of the package deal. So, lets review how ID Patrol stacks up against the competition.

Let’s start with a quick walkthrough. To sign up for the service I went to Equifax.com.

It was pretty simple to locate their ID Patrol product since they have a huge banner on the front page.

Then I logged into my account with Equifax. (You can create one for free if you don’t already have one, you don’t have to sign up for anything.) Once I signed up for ID Patrol I was taken directly to a page that showed me my current credit reports at all three bureaus.

Aside from having all three of my credit reports on the same page, my debt-to-credit ratio at all three bureaus was clearly spelled out. The entire thing was easy to read and pretty comprehensive. They get points for that in my book – I’m busy, and if I have to take 30 minutes just to figure out how to use a service I’m paying for, then I’m not a happy camper.

I was pleasantly surprised that all of the main ID Patrol features were visible on the front page and it took me very little time to figure out how to use them.

At first glance this service has a ton of features. You can:

  • View your current credit reports at all three credit bureaus.
  • Freeze your Equifax credit report with the click of a button.
  • Get email alerts any time something changes on your credit reports.
  • They monitor suspected internet trading sites (The ones that buy and sell people’s information and credit card numbers.) and they will alert you if your information shows up on a “for sale” list.
  • You get up to $20,000 of identity theft insurance as part of the ID Patrol package.
  • They have “Identity Theft Resolution Specialists” on call 24/7 in case your identity does get stolen.

Now, since most credit monitoring services offer you three-in-one credit reports, account freezing, and email alerts, I wanted to take a closer look at the other main features to see if the service was really worth the $14.95 a month.

Equifax WebDetectâ„¢ – Suspected Internet Trading Site Monitoring:

It took me about three seconds to add my social security number to the list of numbers that ID Patrol actively searches for over the internet.

The cynic in me was hoping that they didn’t just Google my Social Security number. There is no official list of sites that they monitor since they are supposedly “underground, illicit information trading sites.

I was not 100 percent sold on this particular feature. I mean, to my way of thinking, the identity thieves who are selling information are probably selling large lists at a time – and I doubt seriously that they are letting prospective buyers “Get a peek” at said lists before they pay for them.

So…if that’s the case, how could Equifax monitor those lists for my information, unless they are buying the lists themselves? It just does not make sense to me.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt though, if they did find my information on an “illicit list” then the email alert might give me time to freeze my credit reports and call my bank before any charges were made.

$20,000 of Identity Theft Insurance:

Now the truth is, when your identity is stolen and fraudulent charges are made on your credit cards you are not liable for more than $50 per card. Here’s a quote from the FTC:

  • Your maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your credit card is $50.
  • If you report the loss before your credit cards are used, the FCBA says the card issuer cannot hold you responsible for any unauthorized charges.
  • If a thief uses your cards before you report them missing, the most you will owe for unauthorized charges is $50 per card.
  • Also, if the loss involves your credit card number, but not the card itself, you have no liability for unauthorized use.”

However, if your bank account information is stolen you could end up being liable for all the charges that were drawn on your account between the time that your information was stolen, and the time that you reported the theft to your bank.

I was surprised to find that the $20,000 of Identity theft coverage also pays for:

  • The cost of getting notarized fraud affidavits.
  • The cost of sending certified letters to your creditors and the police.
  • If you have to take time off of work to straighten the mess out they could reimburse you up to $500 per week, for as many as four weeks.
  • “Reasonable” attorney fees, long distance phone calls to your creditors, and, if you had to close out your previous accounts, they even pay for new loan application fees.

24/7 Identity Theft Resolution Specialists:

A search of Experian’s website did not reveal a special number for ID Patrol users to call in case of fraud. They do list an automated 24 hour phone number – so I called it. Disappointingly all it did was give me instructions on how to place a fraud alert online.

Two things here:

  1. You don’t have to use Equifax’s ID Patrol Service in order to call their number and get automated instructions. That service is available to everyone, so no real reason to pay extra for it.
  2. If you really think your identity has been stolen, then you need to freeze all three of your credit reports completely – not just place a fraud alert. Most lenders will refuse to issue you credit if you have a fraud alert on your account – but not all of them. When you freeze your credit report it means that lenders literally cannot pull your credit score to give you a loan, so it’s far more effective than just an “alert”.

In Review:

I am actually going to ditch my first love (True Credit) for this service. Why? Because I am currently paying $15 a month to monitor all three of my credit reports with True Credit, and it has no identity theft insurance. With ID Patrol, I get all three reports, plus the identity theft insurance for $14.95.

Even given the dubious nature of some of the features, it comes down to price vs. functionality, for me. ID Patrol has the extra features that I want, it’s basically the same price, and it’s easier to use.

Another priceless bonus is this: The only ads I ran across while using ID patrol were for an Orange Checking Account at ING Direct, and a Home Depot Account. True Credit’s pages are swimming in targeted advertisements, and that gets old fast.

So, what do you think? Is Equifax’s ID Patrol Service worth $15 a month? Would you use it?


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11 Responses to Equifax ID Patrol Review – A Good Choice to Monitor Your Credit Reports and Protect Your Identity?

  • Jeremiah

    Businesses and credit reporting agencies are offering services that can help individuals safeguard their personal information. These services aim to prevent identity theft cases. This serious crime can negatively affect your personal life and your career by costing you your good credit rating. A shredding company can assist businesses in destroying and disposing records and paper waste in a secure manner.

  • Lance Amant

    i have id patrol .. there have been 4 charges to my card that i did not make; actually 5 but 1 i can do nothing about .. what can i do?

  • Connie Brooks

    @ Christopher – Thanks for taking the time to respond and clarify those points!

    @ Burned Once from your comment:
    >>But that said, I’m skeptical about Equifax’s ID Patrol. For the money you’re spending, you have no idea what they are actually doing for you or how effective it is. You’re buying a pig in a poke to soothe your fear, and the only reason to buy that pig is trust in Equifax to be competent and do the right thing.

    Yes, that is pretty much how I felt about it too. However, even if the identity theft features are ambiguous, the basic features are still far and away better than any other credit monitoring service I have ever used.

    To me, the identity theft specialist on staff was a nice benefit (as Christopher explained, they are going to make that feature more recognizable), as was the identity theft insurance. I took the time to really read through everything the insurance covered, and I was very impressed.

  • Burned Once

    Unlike the other responders so far, I _have_ had my identity stolen… and it’s quite unpleasant. I had my credit reports fraudulently accessed, an account fraudulently opened in in my name, and a substantial charge made fraudulently against one of my credit cards. Fortunately, I was knowledgeable enough to act quickly and I minimized damage. However, I now know that my personal information including my social security number is “out there” so I am still nervous and will be for some time to come.

    I completely disagree with the first response by Ken that “identity theft is pretty to avoid “. My case began after an employee of a former employer of mine left a laptop containing unencrypted personal data from their Human Resources department in her car in her unlocked garage overnight in a neighborhood that had had a rash of burglaries. (The company was VeriSign, and this happened last year. You can do a web search for the news articles if you’d like to verify the facts. You’d think a computer security company would be better, wouldn’t you? But…) Someone please tell me how I could have avoided that by being careful.

    Then look at high profile incidents such as theft of credit information from TJX who was using unsecured WiFi to transmit sensitive data. If the people who have your personal data aren’t careful with it, you can be screwed through no fault of your own.

    For me, part of the (lame) amends by VeriSign included a free year of credit monitoring by Equifax. I’m glad I had it; it helped easy my mind.

    But that said, I’m skeptical about Equifax’s ID Patrol. For the money you’re spending, you have no idea what they are actually doing for you or how effective it is. You’re buying a pig in a poke to soothe your fear, and the only reason to buy that pig is trust in Equifax to be competent and do the right thing.

    I’m ain’t saying they ain’t, I just ain’t sure that they is.

  • Christopher Atwood, VP Product Marketing, Equifax Personal Information Solutions

    Connie, you are right–any consumer that suspects they have been a victim of fraud can contact Equifax by phone or online to have a free fraud alert placed on their credit file. However, Equifax ID Patrol subscribers who have been victims of identity theft also have access to a dedicated team of trained Identity Theft Resolution Specialists. These specialists are available 24/7 to help them understand the process of notifying proper authorities, banks and other financial institutions in the event that their identity is stolen. Equifax ID Patrol subscribers can find the contact information for an Identity Theft Resolution Specialist in the Contact Us section under the heading Product Questions. We plan to revise this section to better reflect the appropriate headings for the contact information provided.

    Regarding Equifax WebDetect, this product feature uses real-time, web crawling technology to constantly scan suspected Internet trading sites and provides alerts to subscribers if their personal information (Social Security number or major debit or credit card numbers) is found. Consumers’ personal information is being bought, traded and sold in unsecured, public Internet chat rooms, blogs and websites around the world each day. Equifax WebDetect alerts notify subscribers that their personal information has been compromised—the data may yet to have been used to actually commit fraud. These alerts enable subscribers to act quickly to take the necessary steps to regain control of their credit information.

  • Eric J. Nisall

    To all those that use the Free Annual Credit Report as the end-all to identity theft, I sincerely hope that you do not have your identity stolen ever. While it has not happened to me, I have a few clients who have had their identities stolen, and not only is it difficult to detect when the theives sit and wait until a significant amount of time has passed, but it is just as difficult to recover from. While I agreee that some of these services are a waste of time, it is still important to check your credit reports more often than simply once a year. There are also a number of other steps that you can take to help protect your personal information in my blog article Do you really need to pay for identity protection?

  • Ben

    Tough Money Love, I can see from your site you’re pretty frustrated with credit scores in general but honestly I think you’re fighting a losing battle. I don’t see FICO or some derivative of credit score going away any time soon; that’s one of the ways many of financial institutions measure risk. I’d say pick your battles and go after things you have more chance of influencing, just my two cents.

  • Connie

    Thank you for your comments, Ken and Debt Help.

    I wanted to add, the the best way to get your credit report for free is to visit http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com. There is no need to sign up for anything to get your credit reports. By visiting that site, you can get all three of your reports in one go – completely free.

    I basically pay for a credit monitoring service because I am in the middle of improving my credit after dealing with some past due medical bills for close to a year. Since I do not currently have top of the line credit, and I am taking an active roll in trying to raise it (paying the bills down, keeping my debt to credit ratio low, etc.) It is worth it to me to have the service so that I can keep up with how much my score goes up every month.

    This is definitely not a service for everyone, but I have found it to be well worth the $15 a month because it allows me to time my credit applications (car loan, new credit card, etc.) so that I can get the best interest rate.

    I agree that some of the identity theft features are ambiguous, but the identity theft protection actually does reimburse you for charges made against your bank account, as well as notarized copies of letters to your credit agencies, and even time off work. Since I was already paying for the credit reports without the additional insurance, I thought it was well worth switching because it was like picking up the insurance at no additional cost.

    Thanks again for your comments!

  • ToughMoneyLove

    This is another symptom of credit score addiction and consumers being led around like sheep by the credit industry. First, the credit scoring companies and their customers brainwash you into believing that your credit score and report are more important than your balance sheet. Next, they persuade you to hand over $15.00 monthly to pay for your addiction. You can get your credit reports for free, once a year which is all you really need. The ID theft protection is almost useless because it doesn’t actually pay for any losses you suffer, such as money siphoned from your bank account. Use your heads people.

  • debt help

    I’ve not had my ID stolen to date, but I bet it can be one frustrating event trying to clear up your record. For those who have had their ID stolen, I would imagine $15 a month is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

  • Ken

    I think it’s a waste of money. You can get your credit report for free every year. Identity theft is pretty to avoid and easy to detect. If something happens that indicates your credit score has suddenly dropped (like getting turned down for a loan?) I could see signing up for just 1 month to see what happened, but $15 each and every month when nothing is wrong? Not worth it, at least not for me.