September 16, 2008: Identity Protection . . . Not?!
Recently my bank sent me an offer for an "identity theft protection" service offered by a company called Intersections Inc., an "industry leader in identity theft protection." According to the flyer, Intersections would "monitor my credit with Equifax . . . every business day for signs of fraud and identity theft." How much would this cost me? Why, it was FREE. Yes, FREE, all caps, underlined. All I had to do was "call today."
So I called. A nice lady on the phone confirmed that yes, the service was courtesy of my bank, and that it would be free as long as I had an account there. She took down my information. Then she said "One more thing," and rattled something off. She asked me to agree to it.
"Wait, sorry, I didn't get all that." I said. I could tell that I was giving them some kind of formal permission to look at my file - that was the point - but what were the terms, exactly? And why didn't I hear anything in their formal agreement about what they would or would not charge?
She repeated it. The parts that I'd gotten the first time, including the one-more-thing-we-need intro, seemed word for word. Okay, she was reading from a script!
So I said. "I'd like a copy of this agreement."
"We don't send out copies."
"Oooookay - May I talk to a supervisor?"
Long story short: The supervisor confirmed that they didn't send out copies of their agreement. She said, quite condescendingly (not an exact quote) "This is free. You don't need to worry about it." I said "But what's the record of our agreement, if I'm not signing anything?" She responded "We're recording this."
Is it unreasonable of me to want a written agreement with anyone who's going to be accessing my credit file regularly? Is it naive of me to think that it's a very one-sided little "FREE" agreement if they have a recording of the customer agreeing to their script, and the customer has nothing? Is it a bit paranoid of me to tell them "No, thank you, I don't think I want you reading my file without an agreement, and I'm going to talk to my bank about this?"
Yes, that's right. They had signed me up anyway. After I had explicitly declined their service.
The good news is, 30 minutes after I called my bank officer, we were in a conference call with a supervisor at Intersections, and I am now awaiting a letter from them confirming that I am UNsigned-up and that they have not been into my file.
(You're wondering why I don't blow the whistle on my bank, by name? Well, first, because when I told them what had happened, they dealt with it as quickly as I could have wished - and second, to protect my own privacy.)
Identity theft is a real problem. It happened to one of our staffers recently. But after this experience, I think "services" like this are part of the problem, not part of the solution.
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