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Monday, February 25, 2008


Back in August of 2005, the Federal Trade Commission settled a case with Experian Consumer Direct, a subsidiary of the credit bureau, for deception in advertising “free credit reports” by failing to add the customer would be automatically signed up for credit monitoring services costing $79.95 each year. The FTC ordered Experian to give up $950,000 of its “ill-gotten gains. I posted on a personal incident with Experian about a year after this action in which my credit report vanished from the system for a period of two months after I posted some unfavorable comments about the company in my blog, with no explanation from Experian when it mysteriously reappeared. Article one and two. Coincidence or not, I had no record of my credit during that period. Following my first post on this incident, which explained my experience with an Experian customer service department that was completely incompetent, there were 47 comments supporting my findings. Since then, one of the top search engine search topics to my blog has been the problems readers have had with Experian. So now they are at the receiving end and don’t seem to like it. Experian is suing LifeLock, according to one of my favorite blogs, Pogo Was Right, alleging it is losing “millions of dollars a year because of LifeLock’s ‘illegal and fraudulent activities.’” Here’s a copy of the complaint, compliments of Pogo. Experian also claims it suffers a huge expense operating toll-free lines to process fraud alerts for thousands of LifeLock customers. My experience with their toll-free telephone numbers is that, either you can never reach a human being, or, if you do, they are clueless about how to help you. And then there’s the false advertising claim against LifeLock that makes the lawsuit seem like an overblown act of hypocrisy. Don’t get me wrong. I do not believe in paying for identity theft protection that any individual can do free. Aside from the fact that the protection is limited, some companies in this business never deliver what you pay for. There was an offer recently from my U.S. Airways Dividend Miles club for LifeLock, where I can get from 250 to 1000 miles to sign up. Although this may not be a direct endorsement by the airline, it looks like it is, and will be taken by many of its members as a recommendation for the service. In another article on MSNBC, it is reported that LifeLock has 700,000 customers that pay $120 per year for their service. This translates into $84,000,000 in the pockets of the company, most of which results from scare tactics in the media and in advertising, and an unending quest by consumers for “convenience.” On that one word was the junk mail industry built. In the MSNBC piece, Experian contends that LifeLock is no protection against theft already in progress, and in many cases is unable to stop undocumented workers from ripping off you Social Security number to get a job. Are you ready yet to support my grass roots effort to grant consumers control over their names and personal data?

1 comment:

Chris Rocks said...

39 States allow consumers to place a security freeze on their credit file, however, the consumer must typically pay a fee to place the freeze, temporarily remove it, or permanently lift it. How backwards is it that we must PAY to have a for-profit company block access to our personal data?