Our series on identity theft protection apps will evaluate the features, pricing options, competition, and also the overall value of using each app. However, these are not full hands-on reviews since evaluating identity theft protection apps is almost impossible. It would require several months of testing, purposefully hacking accounts to see if the protection app works, handing over personally identifiable information, performing multiple credit checks, and risking exposure of the reviewer’s personally identifiable information.
Trust is not something any of us choose to hand over easily. We’re all protective about our identity and who we are, where we live, our finances, and what we do online. It’s true that the Dark Web accounts for 5% of all Internet activity these days -- credit cards and social security numbers are routinely sold to the highest bidder. On social media, trolls are constantly lurking and bludgeoning unsuspecting users who have an opposing viewpoint.
The Internet is a dangerous place, but it’s also where many of us spend countless hours web-surfing and messaging each other. We trust Amazon and Facebook, we rely heavily on Google, we’re all dependent on Microsoft. Our identities in the real-world tend to overlap with our online identities. We know there are risks, but we have accepted them.
Fortunately, while we live in an uncertain age, both because of the recent coronavirus pandemic but also long before that as the battle for consumer protection sprouted to life, there are ways to monitor, track and resolve your personal information. Equifax ID Patrol and Equifax Complete, branded as two different products that provide different functions but from the same company, could be the ally you choose to track and protect your identity. They create a bulwark for personal identity protection and isolate you from online dangers. That’s the good news.
The real question is whether or not Equifax is worthy of your trust. In 2017, the credit reporting company experienced one of the worst data breaches in the history of computing. Nearly 150 million consumer records were exposed, which led to an eventual settlement. We won’t dive into the particulars. It’s safe to say that Equifax is known as much for the breach as their products, and both Equifax ID Patrol and Equifax Complete might give you pause.
Plans and pricing
Interestingly, Equifax ID Patrol and Equifax Complete offer some of the most compelling and well-designed pricing plans of any threat protection app. Equifax ID Patrol is a monitoring tool and costs $16.95 per month. It’s designed as a credit alert app. Equifax Complete comes in two versions. The Premier plan costs $19.95 and includes credit monitoring and provides a monthly credit score. Premier Family costs the same but includes protection for a second adult and up to four kids. (The reason these two plans cost the same is unclear.)
Like many of the identity theft protection apps we’ve evaluated, Equifax ID Patrol and Equifax Complete both look like tax programs. They are no-frills, give-me-the-details apps that are intended to help with serious issues like a bank compromise or someone stealing your credit card information. (We’ll stop reminding you about the ironies of this starting now.) That said, while the interface is boring, it is useful and clear -- tabs along the top of the app are easy to use and you can find the features you need with little to no effort.
The most important point to make about features is that both Equifax ID Patrol and Equifax Complete include $1 million in theft protection insurance. That’s highly unusual at this price point. Many ID theft products require that you move up to the premium package for closer to $25 or $30 per month in order to benefit from the highest insurance premium levels.
Beyond that, Equifax ID Patrol and Equifax Complete offer a nice mix of extra features. For example, ID Patrol provides lost wallet assistance and can scan the Dark Web for issues such as a credit card being offered for sale. However, ID Patrol does not include alerts for fraudulent use of banking account info or your credit card. You have to move up to Equifax Complete for that. The main difference is that only the Complete product provides a credit score.
The story so far is that these are powerful, low-cost programs that include $1 million in insurance and plenty of extras, so you might wonder -- why are they not an obvious choice? They easily match the insurance protection, monitor credit using three credit bureaus, and include all of the identity protection features you would have to normally pay $30 per month for from Norton LifeLock or similar apps. The drawback is, once again, the trust issue. To use the products, you have to hand over key personal details which could be compromised.
Will the stain on Equifax ever lift and will Equifax ID Patrol and Equifax Complete ever warrant serious consideration? That’s not clear. We don’t want to discredit a product forever, although 2017 is not that long ago. While the pricing is sound and the features are robust, there’s too much irony involved here to recommend either product. You have to trust the company that is intending to protect your trust. We’re not ready to make that pronouncement here.
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