A new surveyed conducted by the Federal Trade Commission has more than a few eye-opening revelations for the three major credit bureaus. The survey was based on more than 3,000 victims of identity theft. The goal was to discern how well – or how poorly – the credit bureaus addressed the many problems ID victims endure. The news was less than stellar.
While most say they were overall pleased with the process, there were a few significant problem areas – and each was spelled out in the 73 page report that was just released. You may recall President Bush established the Identity Theft Task Force in late 2007. This “comprehensive national strategy” was designed to not only make recommendations for lessening the potential for identity theft, but also address those areas that appeared to be most vulnerable.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act had already been established and put into place consumer rights that allowed for faster fraud alerts being placed on a requesting consumer’s credit report, the right to request and receive a complimentary credit report from all three major bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – each year, a streamlined manner of blocking verified fraudulent information from appearing on a consumer report and the right to receive a notice of any changes in the law or process of any of the bureaus.
Clearly, there were already considerable laws in place that helped consumers whose identities had been compromised. This latest report is simply another reinforcement in the ever-growing trade of identity theft.
The report revealed, among other things, the efforts of the credit bureaus to sell them additional services when a consumer contacted them regarding fears of having their information compromised. To be sure, a victim doesn’t want to be sold something when he’s panicking over the possibility of having his financial history turned upside down.
One of the participants said that it was “very difficult to avoid marketing strategies of CRAs for services.” The report then said,
These complaints indicate that at least some identity theft victims experience problems dealing with CRAs and understanding their FACTA rights. Although this survey does not demonstrate how common these problems are with identity theft victims in general, it does show that the problems arise and can be frustrating to victims who are already struggling with the impact of identity theft on their lives.
There has been recent debates over whether or not credit monitoring services are even useful or if it’s just another way for the credit bureaus to rake in money from those who have already been victimized. After all, these services cannot prevent identity theft, the most they do is alert a consumer a bit faster that he’s been victimized.
Can You Hear Me Now
Another complaint the consumers had (and most can relate to this – whether or not they’ve been victimized, but needed to contact one or all of the bureaus for any reason) was that reaching a live person was incredible difficult. 80% of the respondents spoke with a live operator, though all attempted to. Of those who did, 36% reported difficulties in doing so.
Once contact was made, only 46% said the customer service representative at the end of the line was “useful” and the other had varying degrees of satisfaction in their conversations. Some reported the representative was not helpful at all, and in fact, some respondents said there lacked a transparency needed to alleviate an ID theft victim’s fears and concerns.
What was really surprising was that 43% said they weren’t informed of the right to put a fraud alert on their credit file. This right, of course, is protected under federal law. They also report they weren’t informed they could request and receive a free credit report.
Remember, too, that if you’re only able to get an alert placed with one or two of the bureaus, your purpose is already defeated since the third bureau treats your file with them as they would any other credit file.
Most respondents reported not speaking to anyone who either let them know they were happy to answer any questions about their federal rights or who actually had a realistic understanding of what their rights were under those laws.
You can view the report in its entirety at http://www.ftc.gov/os/2012/03/factareport.pdf