Trans Union tries to lure security freeze-hunting consumers into ID theft service

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:

https://freeze.transunion.com/sf/securityFreeze/landingPage.jsp

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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About Bob Sullivan 1348 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

7 Comments

  1. I had the same kind of problem trying to freeze my credit report online. In fact I found it impossible so I went to Google to try to see if anyone else had problems & read your article. I followed the link you kindly provided & went through all the steps and at the end got a message saying, sorry we cannot complete your request online, call 1-888-909-8872 to complete the request by phone. Of course they were closed at the time as I did this late at night hoping traffic to their site would be minimal at this late hour. It’s obvious to me they’re making it as difficult as possible in order to sell their membership services.

  2. They are also just adding the monitoring to people who are just trying to get a security freeze. They are also using outside call centers and making us lie and say we work for transunion. I’ve had 20 calls today from people who say they did a security freeze and were charged and enrolled in their credit monitoring program. I hate my job having to lie to people.

  3. Thanks for posting this! I hope this becomes the 2nd largest story, because I’m tired of corporate people not understanding the gravity of a crisis, for the sake of sales. So tone deaf.

  4. In Massachusetts at least, there is a SIGNIFICANT difference between a freeze and TransUnion’s TrueIdentity service. Mass. law states that the freeze may be lifted for a *specific* third party. If you unlock via TrueIdentity, even for a moment, what prevents TransUnion from instantly notifying all their “partners” which then swoop in to grab your credit info in order to spam you with credit offers? Or what if a “bad guy” just happens to attempt to open an account in your name while your credit is unlocked for a few days?

    Does that sound far fetched? Well, try putting an unprotected server with old un-patched software on the Internet, and see how long it takes to get hacked… I’d be surprised if it lasts 24 hours. That’s because bots are constantly attempting to find openings. Maybe crooks will do the same thing with all the leaked Equifax data stolen in 2017, years later, perpetually looking for a lucky break: the day you unlock your TransUnion credit in order to buy a car or house.

  5. This just happened to me. I thought I was just registering for their website only to find I had been charged $19.95. Funny, the price was never mentioned and I had zero knowledge I was signing up for a service. This is as low as it gets. On par with the Nigerian scammers!

    • Yep. This reveals the ugly underbelly of our new existence as serfs of the corporate state. All hail Fox News and our glorious Greed Only Party! I sent my security freezes by certified mail with threat of legal action and report to consumer protection if not done.

  6. I called the Equifax number at the bottom of the equifaxsecurity2017.com website and they were of no help. They person admitted
    1. They were not able to access or check on if my name was breached
    2. They didn’t have access to any Equifax data, checking on their identity theft protection products, fraud alerts, or security freezes
    3. They were a third party who basically was a “human version” of the equifaxsecurity2017.com website to read off general information, but had no further information.
    4. I asked how to contact Equifax directly and they said “you need to go to google and lookup Equifax’s numbers, since we don’t have those numbers”

    Equifax Phone number is 404-885-8000.

    Do not allow them to transfer you to the “customer response line” or “incident response line”, which is the 3rd party who will read the website back to you.

    Then wait for the circle of non-answers, wait while we work on it, and general non-help.

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  10. He wanted a credit freeze, but ended up with a $20-a-month Trans Union service instead — bobsullivan.net
  11. VIDEO: Latest on the hack -- TU freezes still don't work, Equifax hired a music major, and we know how but not why — bobsullivan.net

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