Something strange has happened to the Trans Union webpage devoted to security freezes. It’s been changed to push visitors to sign up for a Trans Union ID theft service rather than place a security freeze.
Consumers who follow a link on the Federal Trade Commision’s security freeze information page expecting to learn about…credit freezes….are instead presented with a generic to-do list for victims. It ends with this information:
Step 5: …Lock your credit information by enrolling in TrueIdentity.
You can lock access to your TransUnion credit file with a swipe of your finger or a click of a mouse. You’ll receive ongoing credit monitoring with this completely free service. No credit card required – instant access. Control is in your hands.”
The site then goes on to poo-poo on freezes, like this:
“A credit freeze may be available under your state law. Be aware, a credit freeze may require payment of a fee as well as a waiting period when you want to unfreeze it to apply for credit in the future. For more information, click here.”
Users who “click here” are directed to a website with the filename “place-credit-freeze2,” which seems hastily arranged. But even there, consumers are pushed one more time against setting up a freeze. There’s a chart extolling the virtues of TrueIdentity and the problems with freezes.
“Freezing your credit will prevent lenders and others including (depending on your state’s law) landlords, employers and others from accessing your TransUnion credit report in response to a new credit application,” it reads. “You will need to take additional steps to unlock your credit when you wish to apply for any type of credit. Freezing your credit frequently involves a fee, as does unfreezing your credit.”
If you hunt hard enough, you finally find the correct page:
At least as of this writing. By the way, links in my previous stories to Trans Union’s freeze page are now broken. Sorry about that.
A cynical person might think Trans Union is trying to profit from this disaster. Wouldn’t be the first time a corporation did so. Earlier today, Bloomberg reported that LifeLock has 100,000 new sign-ups since new of the leak hit, so it’s easy to see Trans Union being jealous of that.
Trans Union says in many places that its ID theft service is free. It might be. It’s hard to really tell from the terms and conditions.
At a bare minimum, people who sign up agree to see advertising.
“You understand that in order to receive the free products, you must agree to receive targeted offers by TransUnion and other third parties,” it says.
There also talk of a premium membership that does, in fact, cost money.
“If you elect for a membership including ‘Premium Products,’ you will be charged a monthly membership fee in order to receive the products,” it says.
It’s hard to know what the terms cover, however. The page mentions a gift certificate code, which doesn’t make sense if the product is free. One imagines these terms were written at a different time, to cover a different product.
The folks at Reddit have done a nice job of capturing that different time. On a thread there, you can see “before” and “after” screens showing how Trans Union changed its security freeze page.
I’ve asked Trans Union to clarify its policy on this ID theft service. I’ll update my story when they do.
UPDATE: Trans Union sent me this statement. It doesn’t address the premium issue or the gift certificate issue. I’ve asked follow ups.
“TransUnion’s focus is on assisting consumers concerned about the Equifax incident and ensuring our systems are secure. Most consumers want to be assured their information is safe. We’re encouraged to see a rise in consumers taking greater control of their own credit information by reviewing their credit report, enrolling in monitoring, placing freezes or choosing to lock their own credit information via our free service (True Identity). Advertising allows companies to provide free services to consumers. Many consumers like having the flexibility to lock and unlock their credit files online in real-time rather than dealing with PINs, fees and wait times that may be associated with a freeze under state law.”
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