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.
Soâ€¦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:
- 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.
- 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”.
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?
All posts by Connie Brooks