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August 14, 2017

Equifax Continues to Profit from Identity Theft

Equifax has purchased identity theft protection company ID Watchdog for approximately $63 million.  ID Watchdog is a company similar to LifeLock that consumers and/or businesses pay to monitor their credit and "protect" them from identity theft.

Once again, Equifax is turning identity theft into a profit center for its bottom line.

Equifax is charged by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to perform reasonable investigations of disputes made to it by consumers regarding inaccuracies on their Equifax credit reports.  Many times these errors are actually credit cards, car loans or mortgages opened fraudulently as a result of the theft of the consumer's identity.  Sometimes they are collection accounts placed on the consumer's credit report for the purpose of collecting a debt that was fraudulently incurred by the identity thief in the consumer's name.

Unfortunately for the victims of identity theft, Equifax often does not properly investigate the disputes it receives, particularly those resulting from identity theft.  Instead of investing in its investigation department to make it better and thereby possibly comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and eliminate a lot of the problems caused by identity theft, Equifax instead turns identity theft into a means to profit by investing in a company that sells identity theft protection.

If Equifax consistently did the job that it is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to do and actually investigate the disputes it receives, consumers would not need to pay for additional identity theft protection or pay for multiple credit reports per year or monitoring services to monitor their credit.  But instead of doing what it is required to do, Equifax instead chooses to profit from the misery of identity theft victims.

Equifax makes millions each year from the sale of credit monitoring services and the sale of extra credit reports to consumers worried about the contents of their credit report because their identities have been stolen.  A quick glance at Equifax's website makes it clear that Equifax's emphasis is on profiting from credit monitoring rather than properly investigating consumer disputes.  Equifax sells no less than 5 different plans to "monitor" and "protect" the contents of your credit report.  They give these plans catchy names like Premier Plans, Advantage Plans, Family Plans, Patrol and even Patrol Premier, but they all have the same goal, to play on consumers' fear of identity theft to line Equifax's pockets.

The purchase of ID Watchdog provides Equifax with another mechanism to use to prey on consumers' fears.  Instead of fixing the problem by deleting fraudulent accounts when disputed, Equifax wants consumers scared so they will buy more credit reports and purchase more monitoring plans.  Not that Equifax is likely to delete any fraud accounts found by the consumers using Equifax's monitoring products.

Equifax needs to be held accountable for its decision to put its profits over the well being of consumers.  The government has put in place the mechanism to hold Equifax accountable when it passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Now it is up to juries and judges to show Equifax and the other credit bureaus that putting profits over people will not be tolerated.

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