Sunday, July 31, 2011

Legitimate Credit Monitoring Offer or ...?

Breaches in consumer account data are prevalent. Unless you're a child or live on the street and use only cash for everything, you probably received a notice from a lien holder that its data was broken into. Your notice might include a free offer of credit monitoring. All you have to do to accept this free offer is to navigate to a website and enter every last bit of personal information you have.

"Yeah right," you think to yourself, or you should.

Certainly I knew that Countrywide bank, with whom I had a mortgage, had data stolen several months ago. But how could I ascertain whether the offer of free credit monitoring was just another scam, a bit of clever social engineering? I called the phone number, which was answered by a pleasant-sounding female voice recording. She identified ConsumerInfo as an Experian company. But anyone could take out a toll-free number and find a pleasant-sounding female to record.

I decided to go directly to the Experian website instead. I was familiar with them, since I occasionally get a free credit report from them every three months or so. I searched the site and found this reassuring FAQ result1:
Dear Experian,

I received a letter about an incident with an archive tape being lost with critical data. The letter offers a free subscription to Triple Alert. The site does ask for a Social Security number, birth date, etc. The letter provides a number to verify the issue, but how can I verify it separate from the letter?


Dear BAR,


Your question is a very good one. Here are a few tips for verifying the information for contacting Experian is legitimate:

* Look closely at the Web address provided in your notification letter. Experian owns and operates several different Web sites that provide consumers with credit monitoring products. The following Web addresses are legitimate Experian Web sites:

Please note that there may be other information after the “.com” part of the address. This other information also is legitimate and is no cause for concern.

And so I signed up for the service rather than let the offer lapse as I've done two other times.

Perhaps this will help you figure out whether to accept your offers.


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