If you ask us, Equifax’s identity monitoring services are pretty solid. We tested them ourselves, and we think there’s a lot to like about their main identity theft protection products: “Equifax Complete” and “ID Patrol.” We expected first-class monitoring, and Equifax measured up pretty well.
However, we were somewhat less impressed with the recovery options that Equifax Complete and ID Patrol offered. Don’t worry — we’ll cover this, along with everything else we liked and didn’t like about the popular identity monitoring service. So without further ado, let’s jump right in to find out if Equifax is right for you.
You probably know Equifax as one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. Along with Experian and TransUnion, Equifax keeps track of your financial information and determines your credit score. Then lenders and others use your credit score to see if you’re a safe bet for things like mortgages, car loans, and rental agreements. And yes, it seems as though the score is tallied and calculated pretty mysteriously.
FYI: Credit bureaus give you a credit score based on publicly available information and things that lenders and others report directly to the bureaus. If you pay your bills on time, balance a healthy amount of debt, and maintain good habits for a long time, your credit score will go up. Missed payments, unhealthy debts, and a short credit history will make your score go down.1
But we’re not here to talk about how Equifax rules the roost when it comes to credit reporting. We’re here to dig into another Equifax offering. That is, identity theft monitoring and credit fraud detection.
It makes sense to us that Equifax has gotten into the big business of ID theft protection. They’ve pretty much mastered credit reporting, so credit monitoring seems like a natural next step. After all, a crook could steal our social security number and use our private information to take out a loan or a new credit card. This would prompt a credit check, which would likely run through Equifax. And if approved, it would likely change our credit score (a telltale sign of identity theft!). That’s why credit score monitoring is a great way to catch fraud fast.2
Note that Equifax isn’t alone here. We’ve also researched and tested Experian’s identity monitoring service, IdentityWorks. TransUnion is in this business, too. In our opinion, these major credit bureaus have a leg up on the competition. They already have the data in-house, it’s just a matter of putting it to work for the user.
We found that Equifax offered two main options for identity monitoring. Our most comprehensive option was Equifax Complete, which is available as an individual plan or a family plan (we like options!). So we used the individual plan for testing purposes. But we’ll also cover ID Patrol, which has some of the features included in Equifax Complete, but not all of them.
When it comes to identity theft protection services, we’re looking for a handful of non-negotiable features. The things we need to see in a plan are monitoring, alerts, recovery services, and insurance (the fab-4 features). If the plan doesn’t offer these four features, we typically don’t want it. It might sound harsh, but we’ve tested countless services, and the best ones all offer these features in spades. So why settle for less? Let’s tackle them one at a time.
We wouldn’t have much use for an identity monitoring service that didn’t have decent monitoring. So we were happy to see that Equifax’s identity monitoring services included the basics: credit monitoring and social security number monitoring.
Of course, Equifax Complete monitored our Equifax credit score. But it also monitored our credit files (not scores) with the other two big credit agencies, Experian and Transunion. On the other hand, the cheaper ID Patrol product didn’t impress us as much here, as it didn’t come with Equifax credit score monitoring (though it still monitored credit files).
Thankfully, Equifax also scoured the internet and the Dark Web looking for our social security number. We always recommend that you protect your social security number by shredding important documents and taking other basic steps. But trust us, nothing beats professional monitoring. After all, you’re not the only one who can lose track of your social security number. If a bank or government agency loses it, you’d better find out about it fast. That’s why we liked that Equifax monitored the internet and the Dark Web for our sensitive information.
Did You Know: Any institution can fall victim to a security breach. Even Equifax was the victim of a notorious hack in 2017.3 Social security numbers stolen in attacks like this can end up for sale on the Dark Web, but spotting the sale can give you time to freeze credit files and protect your assets.
One thing to keep in mind is we found that some of Equifax’s best monitoring features were not enabled by default. Only after accessing the web app were we able to set up these helpful features. We thought this was a little strange; but we’ll talk more about it in the user experience section below.
If Equifax flagged any suspicious activity or potential fraud in our name, we’d need to know. Thankfully, Equifax let us change our settings for alerts, which we think is a nice touch. We had the choice to receive alerts by SMS (text message) if we wanted.
We wish we’d been able to turn email alerts off and on, though. And we really hoped to see an option to receive push notifications on our mobile device. Unfortunately, since Equifax Complete and ID Patrol don’t have mobile apps (more on this in a bit), this simply wasn’t an option. So that’s definitely a swing-and-a-miss for Equifax.
We also found that Equifax wasn’t as liberal with its alerts as other services we’ve tested. This is good or bad, depending on how you feel about alerts and notifications on your phone. We often get a backlog of alerts when we sign up for a new service, but Equifax started fresh and clean — a blank slate! So we didn’t hear about older breaches (old news) that other services would’ve shouted from the proverbial mountaintops. Equifax makes the grade when it comes to alerts.
We always recommend monitoring, as early detection is the key to limiting identity theft damage. But we also know that catching problems isn’t the same as preventing them. Damage still happens. So if we fell victim to an identity crime, we’d feel much better with recovery services and insurance in our corner.
We were glad to see that Equifax offered recovery services. But we felt that they didn’t emphasize their recovery features as much as some competitors do. We had a toll-free number to call with issues, but that was pretty much it. We think Equifax should design a recovery section right into their app like some brands we’ve tested. You know, for peace of mind.
We weren’t too impressed with the hours here, either. Equifax’s recovery pros are available from 8am to 9pm on weekdays only. The thing is, identity thieves work on weekends, so we typically recommend services with 24/7 recovery support. It might seem like we’re splitting hairs, but if/when your identity is stolen, it can sometimes feel like the world is crashing down on you.
Pro Tip: Recovery from identity theft involves a lot of “chores.” You’ll need to file a police report, notify banks and lenders, freeze credit files, cancel credit cards, change passwords, and more.4 But a recovery team should help you get things squared away fast.
If our identity were ever compromised, we would need to freeze our credit files with the three major bureaus. We could take care of at least one with the click of a button using the Equifax credit report lock feature included in our subscription.
We also enjoyed having identity theft insurance through Equifax. Our policy covered up to $1 million in identity theft-related losses and expenses. This can help to pay accountants, lawyers, and other experts to help put our lives back together in the wake of identity crime. And of course, it can reimburse us for any money drained from our bank accounts.
In our experience, most insurance policies like this are pretty standard across the board. The $1 million coverage that you’ll get from Equifax is almost identical to the coverage we’ve seen from top competitors. We got our coverage through Equifax Complete, but you can also get it through ID Patrol. It’s the same policy either way.
We were happy to learn that Equifax Complete had a few perks up their sleeve. One of the extra features we enjoyed was “lost wallet protection.” We’ve seen this with lots of competitor services. It’s basically just a way for us to record information from our wallet, so that we can quickly cancel and replace bank and ID cards if our wallet is ever lost or stolen. Keeping your wallet or purse safe is a great way to limit identity theft risk, but it’s always good to have a backup plan.
Credit scores like the ones that Equifax monitored for us are obviously important. So we were glad that the Equifax app made our personal finance information especially useful to us. That is, we were able to see our scores at-a-glance.
Equifax even has a real estate home value tool in its app, which is offered through a partnership with Zillow. We’re sure this helps both Zillow and Equifax, but that’s okay as long as it helps us, too. A win-win-win situation is always welcome around here. We think you’ll like these little perks and extra features.
We thought Equifax’s prices were good, but not exceptional. You’ll find the value to be pretty much on-par with what competitors offer. In other words, Equifax isn’t the most expensive option, but it’s certainly not the cheapest either.
ID Patrol costs $16.95 per month and features:
Equifax Complete Premier costs $19.95 per month and features everything you get from ID patrol, plus:
Equifax Complete Family Plan costs $19.95 per month and offers everything you get from Equifax Complete Premier, plus:
We were surprised to see that the Equifax Complete Family Plan is just as cheap as the Equifax Complete Premier plan. That’s a pretty good deal in our book, since the Family Plan includes coverage for a second adult and monitoring for up to four children. Not bad.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to cover your kids! Child identity theft may not be as common as adult identity theft, but it’s very real. Crooks can steal social security numbers from kids and babies and use them to take out loans. The bad guys can take off with the money and leave kids (and their parents) in a financial and legal mess.5
We thought Equifax offered some solid services, but we didn’t always love using it on a day-to-day basis. So read on to see what it’s like using Equifax Complete.
First off, it was pretty easy to sign in, though there appears to be three different sign-in pages for Equifax services and products.
To us, the Equifax website and web app look a little outdated. If you’re used to sleek and modern web designs (and who isn’t?), we think you’ll be surprised to see Equifax’s clunky interface with antiquated text and design. But this wasn’t a deal-breaker for us.
We also didn’t like that Equifax’s web app required us to activate some features manually. Web scanning for our social security number, for example, is something we expect out-of-the-box. To activate it with Equifax Complete, we had to click a button. We saw a receipt-type screen pop up to confirm that we’d completed some kind of transaction to buy the feature at $0. We found this kind of odd. And a few other key features had to be activated this way, too.
Another thing that we didn’t like about the Equifax user experience was the way that they tried to sell us on things. They also wanted to share our information with advertising partners by default. So if you sign up for Equifax Complete or ID Patrol, just be sure to check the little box to opt-out of promotional emails from Equifax partners.
We also found a tab on Equifax’s website that promoted credit card offers. We thought that the “Credit Card” tab might be for credit card monitoring, but it was actually a place to view credit card offers.
Pro Tip: Getting and using a credit card can be good for your credit score, but be careful. It’s all too easy to let credit card debt get out of hand, and having too much debt (or too many credit cards) is very bad for your credit score, not to mention your personal finances.6
We’ve seen this before. When we reviewed Experian IdentityWorks (another ID theft service backed by a credit bureau), they also pushed credit cards at us. We didn’t like it then, and we don’t like it now. For obvious reasons, we think advertising credit cards can undermine the personal financial benefits of these services. But we suppose these are relatively minor inconveniences.
Equifax Complete did not include a mobile app, either, which is fairly unusual. We’ve seen other services lacking a mobile app (like AllClear ID), but it’s definitely not the norm. We think that the mobile options are really useful for getting push alerts on your smartphone, and reading urgent reports right away. In fact, most new services these days are offering a mobile app of some kind. So we were disappointed to learn that Equifax doesn’t deliver in this category.
We could set up Equifax Complete to send us alerts by text message, and we could use mobile browsers to access the browser app. But you’ll find that these solutions aren’t nearly as seamless and sleek as using a well-designed mobile app. We wish that Equifax had given us one.
We think that Equifax’s identity monitoring services do a lot of things right. We found some strong monitoring options, so that was great news. But we weren’t nearly as impressed with their recovery features and support. Remember, although you’ll enjoy industry-standard insurance coverage ($1 million), the Equifax recovery specialists are only available on weekdays. Again, it’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Our issues with Equifax remind us a bit of Zander Insurance. Zander offered great recovery and insurance options, but they were weak on monitoring. Equifax is the other way around. We think monitoring and alerts are good on their own, and insurance and recovery services are good on their own, too. But you can (and should!) get all of the above in one plan. Options like Identity Guard cover both sides of the equation, and at pretty good rates. That’s what it takes to be one of the best identity monitoring services. Equifax Complete isn’t quite there.
In short, signing up with Equifax Complete or ID Patrol isn’t a bad idea, but it’s probably not the best ‘bang for your buck’. As useful as the protection might be, we found it lacking in a few key categories, and we simply didn’t find it as useful as some of the best ID theft services we’ve tried.
Money Under 30. Weliver, D. (2020, February 18). How Credit Works: Understanding the Credit History Reporting System. moneyunder30.com/how-credit-works
Debt.org. Retrieved May 11, 2020. What Is Identity Theft?
Wired. Barett, B. (2020, February 18). How 4 Chinese Hackers Allegedly Took Down Equifax.
U.S. News & World Report. LaPonsie, M. (2019, July 8). 10 Things to Do After Your Identity Is Stolen. money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/things-to-do-after-your-identity-is-stolen
Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information. (Retrieved April 4, 2020) Child Identity Theft. consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0040-child-identity-theft
The Balance. Irby, L. (2020, April 15). How Credit Cards Affect Your Credit Score.