Photo: Flickr / Mubina H
The Federal Trade Commission has turned the tables on the three biggest credit reporting bureaus in the U.S., calling them out for less-than-stellar practices when it comes to handling consumer identity theft reports. The FTC’s Survey of Experience of Identity Theft Victims drew responses from more than 3,000 identity theft victims on how they felt about their experiences reporting fraud.
The majority were pleased (68 per cent) but what’s upsetting about the report is the nature of many complaints made about the bureaus themselves.
The shady upsell
Several respondents complained about credit agencies that tried to pressure them into paying for additional services when they attempted to report fraud–especially credit monitoring.
Here’s a telling excerpt from the report:
“[T]hey kept trying to sell me a fraud alert package and I often had to ask to speak to a manager to get them to put a freeze on my credit reports.” Likewise, others complained that “[t]hey tried to sell me fraud prevention products” and that it was “very difficult to avoid marketing strategies of CRAs for services.” Several focus group participants also complained that while attempting to place a fraud alert, they were sold various identity theft prevention products.”
There’s been a lot of contention among experts over whether credit monitoring’s just a pernicious way for credit agencies to beef up their bottom line or a useful theft prevention tool.
There are pros (you’ll get instantly up your credit knowledge game) and cons (it costs money and doesn’t prevent ID theft anyway). Either way, consumers shouldn’t be barraged with sales pitches when all they want to do is report fraudulent activity they won’t be held liable for in the first place.
Jumping through hoops
Common concerns noted by respondents were that Experian, Trans Union and Equifax make it too difficult for them to reach a live representative by phone.
And once they’ve got someone on the line, the information exchanged isn’t always the most transparent, especially when it comes to the steps they can take to prevent future fraud.
More than 40 per cent of respondents said they weren’t told they could place a fraud alert on their credit report–a right designed to consumers under federal law, along with getting a free credit report and blocking fraudulent information from turning up on their report.
That’s sort of a big deal, especially since you can only get a fraud alert through one of those three bureaus.