For Immediate Release - July 15, 2014

State Office of Consumer Affairs Hosts Consumer/Shred Day in Revere

Announces Results from ID Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring Services Survey; Promotes Shredding Personal Documents

REVERE – July 15, 2014 – In an effort to bring attention to identity theft protection and credit reporting, Undersecretary Barbara Anthony of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) teamed up today with local elected officials at Consumer/Shred Day at Revere City Hall.  At the event, OCABR released the results of two surveys: the first survey looked at Identity Theft Protection services and the second one dealt with websites that offer credit reports. The Office found that Massachusetts consumers can save significant money by doing some research into what services they should buy and ways that they can save.

“Consumers can take a number of steps to protect themselves from identity theft, and it’s up to you if you want to purchase these kinds of services,” said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. “Whether it’s Identity Theft Protection services or Credit Report websites, our advice is the same: make sure to compare providers as you shop around so you know what you’re getting.”

“We are excited to be holding our second annual ‘Consumer Shred Day’ in Revere in conjunction with the State Office of Consumer Affairs,” said Revere Mayor Dan Rizzo. “Together, through initiatives like this one, we will do all we can to keep our residents safe from scams and crimes as a result of bank, insurance, and identity fraud.”

“To identity thieves, it doesn’t matter if you’re rich, poor, young, or old.  What matters to them is exploiting your credit and finances for their own benefit,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley. “But by taking steps such as shredding credit card offers and other sensitive mail, you can prevent identity thieves from getting their hands on your personal information and protect yourself from becoming a victim.”

The first survey, conducted from April to June, compared ten Identity Theft Protection services and looked at the price of the service and to the more specific services offered for identity theft protection, such as social security monitoring, lost wallet protection, anti-virus and malware protection, credit alerts, and insurance.

“While consumers are able to perform most of these tasks themselves, some providers offer services that could prove problematic for consumers who try to tackle them on their own,” said Undersecretary Anthony. “Services like insurance and black market monitoring can be difficult, costly, or dangerous to perform without an Identity Theft Protection Service company.”

Consumer Affairs researchers also found some notable variation in pricing between companies. The price points ranged from $9.95 at TrueIdentity.com and IdentityFraud.com to $27.99 from TrustedID.com. The higher prices tended to be from providers offering different sized packages. The more expensive packages typically offer more services, or cover families instead of individuals.

The second survey, also from earlier this year, compared 15 Credit Report Websites with regard to services offered, cost, and other information that is necessary for consumers to maximize their savings.

Of the 15 websites surveyed, only five websites offered free credit reports. Seven required payments and three did not offer credit reports at all. Notably, nine of the 15 websites required consumers to provide credit card information up front and automatically enrolled the consumer in a credit-monitoring service. If the consumer does not cancel this service within a certain trial period, the consumer will be charged monthly for the credit monitoring service. AnnualCreditReport.com does not require up-front credit card information and provides a free credit report. Consumers must make sure to take advantage of free information whenever they can.

“It is important that consumers understand that credit bureaus such as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are required by the FTC to run www.annualcreditreport.com, a website where consumers can get a free credit report from each of the three companies once a year,” said Undersecretary Anthony. “This is because Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are required to release a free credit report through this website. Consumers need to know where to look.”

We encourage consumers to go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get started with their free credit report and pull one report every four months from a different reporting bureau, to ensure that they have a complete picture of their credit history throughout the year.

In general, services at the websites which were surveyed ranged from basic credit scores and reports to more specific credit monitoring services such as credit monitoring, hotline access and credit management tools. Prices were diverse, ranging from free basic packages to premium packages costing up to $20 per month. With so many options, it is important that consumers use this survey to shop around and compare websites in order to make the most cost-effective purchases.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its blog, on Facebook and on Twitter, @Mass_Consumer

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