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Solid Credit Monitoring with Basic Identity Protections
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Equifax has been around for over a century and is a well-known name in credit monitoring, so it makes sense that they would want to get into the identity theft protection game. That said, it’s not the company’s primary focus. Could the credit monitoring bureau compete with the features we found when we reviewed IdentityGuard or the attention to detail we saw when we looked at IdentityForce? Is comprehensive protection prioritized at Equifax, or is it an afterthought?
The answer, we found, after putting the service to the test was, “yes, but in some ways no.” We know that may sound indecisive, but keep reading and you’ll see what we mean, because there is a lot to like about Equifax’s identity theft protection.
Did You Know: Equifax was founded way back in 1899 by Cator and Guy Woolford as the Retail Credit Company in Atlanta, Georgia.1
We’ll start by saying Equifax actually offers a pretty broad array of services including ID Patrol, Score Watch, and WebDetect. And starting at $16.95 per month, the prices aren’t bad compared to the top identity theft services.
We’re specifically going to be looking at their flagship product, though, Equifax Complete Premier. Their next tier of service, Equifax ID Patrol, offers similar protections for a lower price, but we wanted to make sure we were getting all the bells and whistles for the purposes of this review.
For a more complete breakdown visit our Equifax plans and pricing guide or take a look at this chart for a quick overview.
|Service||ID Patrol||Complete Premier|
|Three-Bureau Credit Monitoring||Yes||Yes|
|Three-Bureau Credit Scores and Report||Yes||Yes|
|Equifax Credit Lock||Yes||Yes|
|Lost Wallet Assistance||Yes||Yes|
|24/7 Access to Equifax Credit Score and Report||No||Yes|
|Equifax Credit Score Monitoring||No||Yes|
|Identity Restoration Services||No||Yes|
|Stolen Funds Replacement||Up to $1 Million||Up to $1 Million|
|ID Theft Insurance||Up to $1 Million||Up to $1 Million|
|Price||$16.95 Per Month||$19.95 Per Month|
As you can see, there are several critical services that overlap, but for the extra three dollars per month, you get some pretty significant bonuses when you upgrade from ID Patrol to Complete Premier.
Also keep in mind that Equifax has a family plan option. At $19.95 per month, it’s similar to Complete Premier, but it comes with protections for up to four children. It’s worth mentioning here that if you’re looking for a family plan, we recently created a comprehensive guide covering the best identity protection for families.
We hate to say it, but we got off to a rocky start with Complete Premier. The site’s registration page had a few functionality hiccups that started us off with a bad taste in our mouth. When we clicked on the “Get Started” button, the registration page didn’t want to load. After several tries, we managed to get it to work, though. Not off to a great start, but hey, sometimes technical hiccups happen. Nothing to get too upset over.
Once we got to the registration screen, we were met with a standard, utilitarian form asking for our basic information, including our full name, our gender, or address, our social security number, our birthday, and our phone number. Pretty standard fare here, and the technical bugs seemed to be gone. There were even automatic pop-ups at points to tell us why they were requiring certain pieces of information. We saw this when we reviewed ProtectMyID, and we really like it when services tell us why they want a piece of information and how they’re going to use it. It’s a trust thing.
After entering our personal information, we were asked to create our account by generating a username, a password, and a security question. Let’s talk about that last item really quickly, though.
There are many experts that argue security questions are no longer effective measures for protection. The reasoning is that if an identity thief has enough access to your identity to be at the point where they’re guessing security questions, it wouldn’t be too difficult for them to figure out the name of your childhood best friend or middle school you graduated from. To get around this, make up an outrageous answer to a security question, but just make sure you’ll remember it.2
Once we were done with that, we were asked to enter our financial information and to select a billing cycle. We could pay $19.95 per month of Equifax protection, or $199.95 annually—a savings of about 40 bucks for the year. This annual plan is something to consider if you’re looking to save a few bucks.
Once that was done, we verified our identity via two-factor authentication and completed our order. Just something to note—after entering the code that is either texted or emailed to you, it can take between 60-90 seconds for the account to become active. Don’t hit the back button, or you might get double-charged.
Did You Know: Double-charges aren’t that uncommon and can result from a myriad of issues from human or technical error to fraud. Pay attention to your credit card statements and scores to keep yourself protected.3
Once we were through that, we landed on our order confirmation screen. This serves as our receipt and also had our transaction code on it, so we printed it out (it never hurts to have a hard copy!). Once that was done, we clicked “View My Product” to launch the service.
Before we get to that, though, one final note about the ordering process. While the website feels a little out of date, everything functioned just fine after our initial hiccup. In all, it probably took us five to ten minutes total to get through everything. The ease-of-setup is actually right in line with other brands we’ve used.
Now let’s check out our services!
First things first: the dashboard. The Equifax dashboard itself looked well organized and detailed, if only a little stale. It included our scores at the top, our alerts in the middle, our credit report below that, and finally, our debt summary. On the right-hand column, we had access to our additional resources like our automatic fraud alerts, our Experian credit lock, our lost wallet assistance, and our mobile alerts. Under that, we had access to articles about identity theft and our insurance documents.
We’ll get into these functions in a minute, but just a word about the overall first impressions: the dashboard felt intuitive and complete, but… it’s just really dated. The design choices are old-school-internet (like, early 2000’s old school). This wasn’t a deal-breaker for us, but design does matter.
And the age of the dashboard actually shows in some of the functionality. Complete Premier is still using flash plugins for the Debt Summary section (and elsewhere on the site.) In 2017, Adobe announced Flash would be phased out by 2020, and across the internet it’s becoming increasingly rare to see it still utilized—particularly in a service that should be as secure as possible (like an identity theft monitoring service), as Flash is a well-known vector of attack for hackers.4
Now we’re not saying that everything needs to be brand new and super slick, but it does inspire confidence when a service feels modern and up to date. We saw this in particular when we tested IDX identity theft protection, but, on the other hand, we saw a great service with similar dated design choices when we took a look at PrivacyGuard’s plans. We’re not saying one is necessarily better than the other, but it’s something to consider. Just be sure the service you ultimately choose is aligned with your preferences.
Did You Know: Flash was created in November of 1996, making it one of the oldest multimedia players online.
It’s time to get down into the functionality. The first item on the list is our credit scores.
Note that this section is super complete. We have access to all three credit bureau scores, a detailed breakdown of how those scores were calculated, and information on how to influence them. We could check out our previous scores and even see the average score for our zipcode. Pretty handy information all around.
We also had access to a “score graph.” This is something we see in a lot of services, but most are better designed than this. The controls weren’t intuitive in the least, and—to be frank—we couldn’t figure out what a lot of it meant. It would have been really helpful to have some sort of tutorial or at least a hover-over-to-get-a-description function here.
Overall: Good, but not great for this section.
We then moved on to our full credit reports. We think this area was much better executed than the credit score section. We were able to explore our credit summary as well as the full-blown reports from all three bureaus. We’d show it to you, but our graphic designer would get a migraine from blurring out all of the identifiable details. Take our word for it—it’s nothing if not complete. So we were well pleased with Equifax here.
Did You Know: It’s perfectly normal for your scores to vary from bureau to bureau. Each organization uses slightly different metrics to gauge creditworthiness, so don’t be concerned if you see a fluctuation of a few points.
That said, it’s also a little dense. Unless you know exactly what you’re looking at, you might miss errors that could be indicative of identity theft. We’ve seen credit reports handled better (with a little more hand-holding) like when we tested and reviewed IDShield, but we can’t knock Equifax Complete Premier too hard here. It’s exactly what it’s advertised as being.
Next, we wanted to move on to the identity side of the service. Over in the right-hand column was our control panel for all of these functions. Some of the options were already switched “on,” but others needed some input on our part.
First on the list was our automatic fraud alerts. This places a fraud alert on each of our credit reports that automatically renews every year. We can’t remember seeing this functionality with any other service, and honestly, it’s fantastic that it shows up here.
Placing a fraud alert on your credit file is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself from identity theft. They work by informing the credit monitoring bureaus that they need to perform more thorough vetting—such as calling you directly—when new lines of credit or loans are applied for.5
We went ahead and activated that service. The fraud alert was automatically placed on our Equifax credit file, and Equifax contacted the two other bureaus to do the same. In a few days, we received a confirmation email to let us know everything was all set up.
Next on the list was our Single-Bureau Lock. Once activated, this locked our Experian credit file, meaning that no one could access it without our explicit permission. We love this functionality and have only seen it a few times before, like when we got acquainted with IDWatchdog’s ID theft protection services. This is an added layer of protection beyond the fraud alert and one that makes sure our reports are extremely secure. Great news there!
After that, we wanted to activate our Internet Scanning. This function monitors sites that deal in the buying and selling personal information like social security numbers and financial information.
Once we clicked “activate,” we were, oddly, brought to what looked like the same screen we reached when we first purchased Complete Premier, but this time it was for a product called Equifax WebDetect. WebDetect is available for standalone purchase, but also comes bundled with Complete Premier, apparently.
So we clicked “view my product,” and we were taken back to our dashboard where we were prompted to update the accounts monitored by Internet Scanning. A little circuitous, but okay. We mention this all so that you know what to expect. We then went into Settings to set everything up.
Here we could add our social security number, up to six credit and debit cards, up to five bank account numbers, up to 10 medical ID numbers, up to three email addresses, and up to five passport numbers.
Unfortunately, here we ran into some functionality issues with the website again. Entering our information and hitting “submit” under any category would collapse the navigation without actually registering what we input. We tried refreshing the site, logging out and logging back in, and even shutting our computer down and restarting. Eventually, it finally worked and we were able to get our information entered, but this is definitely a ding against Compete Premier.
Did You Know: Millions upon millions of records show up in dark web marketplaces, but that doesn’t mean you have to be too worried. By practicing safe browsing habits, utilizing dark web monitoring, and developing strong security practices, you can remain ahead of the bad guys.
Moving on, we activated our lost wallet feature, which, from what we could tell, didn’t do too much. We turned it “on,” but we’re just given a notification to contact customer support to start the restoration process. We assume this works like many other services’ lost wallet functions where customer service representatives will help you restore the contents of your wallet should it turn up missing using the information you provided in other areas of the service. It’s good functionality to have, for sure.
Finally, we wanted to set up our mobile alerts. We assumed that it would prompt us to download an app, but not so. There actually is no app for Complete Premier. Or Equifax, for that matter. Instead, we were prompted to enter our cell phone number and carrier.
Overall, we were a bit underwhelmed with the identity protection side of things, here. We really would have liked to see some more complete functionality from a credit bureau’s service like we did with our review of Experian IdentityWorks, but at the end of the day, Complete Premier checked most of the boxes for us.
And that’s that for Equifax Complete Premier identity theft coverage. Next we’ll share our takeaway after putting the service through its paces.
Complete Premier does have some positive qualities. First, it’s provided by one of the most trusted names in the credit monitoring business, so you know the financial aspects of the service are going to be solid. The credit report section is thorough, and the credit score section is detailed. We love that they provide a credit lock, and even more that they handle placing recurring fraud warnings on your credit file for you. Honestly, these things alone are well worth the price of admission.
But we just can’t avoid talking about the dated website. It’s not just that it looks like a dashboard from the early days of the internet, it’s that the functionally suffers. When it takes multiple refreshes and logging in and out of the service to get core functionalities to work, there’s a problem. We’re not saying this should completely disqualify Complete Premier, but it’s something to seriously consider before purchasing the service.
If you’re like us, you’ll want to do some comparison shopping before pulling the trigger on anything, so we suggest starting with our best identity theft protection service guide. In this comprehensive guide, we share all about what to look for in identity theft protection and which brand offers the most bang for your buck.
Complete Premier costs $19.95 per month or $199.95 annually.
Yes, Complete Premier monitors for important pieces of financial and personal information, but the setup can be frustrating.
Yes, Complete Premier monitors Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion while also providing access to complete scores from all three bureaus.
No, Complete Premier does not have a mobile app, but it does offer SMS-based alerts.
Yes, dedicated specialists are on call to help settle identity theft issues, and Complete Premier also offers up to $1 million in restoration costs and $1 million in identity theft insurance.
Reese, K. (2006, November 3). Equifax. The New Georgia Encyclopedia.
Morse, J. (2019, October 10). Why you should lie in your password-recovery questions. Mashable.
Elliott, C. (2014, January 2). What to do when you’re billed twice for the same goods or service. The Washington Post.
Lardinois, F. (2017, July 25). Get ready to finally say goodbye to Flash — in 2020. TechCrunch.
Hipp, D. (2020, November 10). What is a fraud alert? Credit Karma.