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Experian’s Unethical & Misleading Marketing

UPDATE 1/14/11: Probably since I tweeted to @ProtectMyID for a second time, someone stopped by and left a comment. I responded with my phone number via email and someone called…just to check to see if everything had been resolved.

Hmm…no apology. No explanation as to how this happened. Just a sort of collective shrug of the shoulders from these Experian folks. My post headline and post content stand.


When I had my wallet stolen on a family trip in 2004, I was pleased to have the big three credit companies be there for me to protect my credit. Experian was the one I used to put my account on a “hold” so that any company issuing credit to someone in my name would first have to call me. I’ve always thought Experian was trustworthy and a top notch company…until this week.

On Sunday December 26th I received an email from Experian’s “ProtectMyID” service. It started off with,

Thank you for ordering ProtectMyID.com.

For your security, additional information was required to confirm your personal information and activate your account. At this time, please call us so that we may provide you with immediate access to your membership. You will be asked to answer a few questions to confirm your identity before you are provided with access.

Being pretty savvy when it comes to phishing scams—and always double and triple checking to make certain anyone emailing me is legitimate—I checked them out thoroughly. ProtectMyID was, in fact, an Experian company and I decided I’d check up on them when I returned from our holiday trip.

Then today I received an official looking letter whihc made it clear that there was SOME sort of account activity. I launched a call to customer service and it turns out they were “fishing” (vs. “phishing”) for new customers since they were following up on my 2004 connection with them! The woman on customer service clearly positioned this as, “Well, you were a former customer” and that “you must’ve signed up at some point” both of which are complete bullshit.

This is the worst, most egregious unethical and misleading marketing I’ve EVER SEEN DONE BY A MAJOR COMPANY! Of course, it’s impossible to connect with someone by phone (like “Doug Sash, VP of Customer Care”) since they have no voicemail system that’s obvious. Experian ought to be embarrassed and this is precisely the sort of thing that a State Attorney General should take up and stop…immediately.

About Steve Borsch

I'm CEO of Marketing Directions, Inc., a trend forecasting, consulting and publishing firm in Minnesota. Prior to that I was Vice President, Strategic Alliances at Lawson Software in St. Paul where I was responsible for all partnerships at this major vendor of enterprise resource planning software products and services. Read more about me here unless you're already weary of me telling you how incredible and awesome I am.

Comments

  1. Jo at Experian Consumer Direct says:

    Dear Mr. Borsch,

    We read your blog with interest. As you’d expect, we ran off to ask questions and try to piece together what happened. We’d like to talk to you and work to make you happy.

    The contact information here on your blog site looks like it’s for business use. Would it be okay for us to call you at the office? Is there some other number you’d like us to dial? Please email: jo@consumerinfo.com to let us know how you’d like us to reach you. Thank you.

  2. Steve Borsch says:

    Thanks…I’ll email you. But also understand that you put in yet another domain name which makes me leery. That said, I did discover today that ConsumerInfo is, in fact, an Experian company so will email reply.

  3. Hey Experian

    What’s up with your “freecreditreport”s (that cost $1) that do not issue the report number required to speak to a representative? I’d love to dispute the $50,000 credit card balance from cards that do not belong to me (apparently they belong to someone who shares my name), but I can’t do that online. I have to call. And I can’t get through to a representative without a report number. Which does not exist on my report. Great.

    You are making me pay for a product, withholding information so that if I want to fix the report that you messed up, I have to buy the product again at 10x the cost. Gee, thanks for your help. I really feel like your company is looking out for me.

  4. Jo at Experian Consumer Direct says:

    Dear BP –

    We read your post and would like to put you on the path toward resolving your issues. Can you please let us know how to reach you? You can email your contact information to: jo@consumerinfo.com. Please note that I don’t have access to private consumer information, so I won’t be the person calling you back. I will, however, remain engaged to help make sure your needs are addressed. Thank you for posting, BP.

  5. Andrew Brodie says:

    Experian is the most unethical, immoral and irresponsible company in the world. Their dispute resolution process is online only, they don’t do anything to ensure accuracy of information and they don’t take phone calls to resolve disputes. I ask this “When they are wrong” how do you fix it if their computer spits out a conclusion that is wrong, and you can’t speak to anybody who has the authority to intervene.

  6. Experian are thefts!!!! They tell you that you are getting a $1 free credit report but then send you three and say “oh you looked at all three so now you owe us $30″. Someone should sue this company for stealing!! I guess they don’t really rely on customers to stay for $19.95 month because they’re already stealing $30 from you anyway, and if you don’t just happen to notice it on your bank statement (which is how I even found out I’d been charged) then they get you there AND you 19.95/mo. I’m not letting this go, that’s for sure!! They haven’t heard the last from me

  7. I had the same problem…only I had overdraft fees from my bank after they charged me 29.95 TWICE …so I had 29.95, 29.95, 20.00 (overdraft fee), 20.00 (overfdraft fee), AND $1 debited from my account…totaling $101 when I only authorized the $1….when asked about refunding my money….they only agreed to refund 44.00 (one of the 29.95 charges plus 1/2 of the other 29.95 charge)….this is ridiculous

  8. Experian robbed me today as well. $60. I asked yesterday if I would be charged anything and was told no, woke up this morning to a $60 charge on my account. They said they will refund me $17.95…ok what about the rest of the money you stole from me??? THIS IS THR WORST COMPANY EVER!!!!

  9. Nancy MacFarlane says:

    Obviously I am not the only person who is upset with FreeCreditReport.com. I was billed for $31.95 for a FREE report. Their advertising is all over the TV which, as far as I am concerned, is false advertising. As I kept explaining to both a customer rep and her supervisor, $31.95 is not FREE. I have tried to contact Douglas Sash with no luck. Does he even exist? Does anyone know who in a position of power can be contacted. The FTC? As you can see, my red hair is standing on end!

  10. Steve Borsch says:

    The FTC complaint is always a great option. Most of these services are not necessarily a scam per se, but rather set up to take advantage of the less-than-tech-savvy among us.

  11. @ab do you think there’s anyway to get a refund? I have VISA so they may be different, but do you think it’s even possible for me to get my money back? I just noticed tonight that I had been charged 12.95 by Experian for the past 7 months without using the service since the first time I checked the credit score.

  12. Hi All,

    Let me share my experience and some insight about Protect my ID.

    1) There service might be good after you sign up. But the signup process is the most horrible by any industry standards.

    – If you choose not to auto renew you account next year, the very next day you will get an email that you membership is CANCELLED.

    – Once you sign up, All of a sudden the website goes blank page.

    – If you try to call them to sign up again and tell the issue that you are facing, none of the customer representative really is clear with the Sign up process, and they all will keep charging you money.

    – Their website, where you put in all your information is pathetic, all of a sudden one fine day you will find that all the information is erased

    God know who is managing their IT Systems but I don’t feel secure by all of my above experience.

    Regards,
    Mayank

  13. Michelle says:

    I am in the process of a refinance. I have been paying Experian the seven dollars a month to monitor my credit. I felt I had pretty good credit because the score that Experian posted was high enough. I received a copy of my credit from our mortgage lender and the score was 15 points lower then what Experian was reporting to me. I called to cancel my membershipand spoke to a customer care representative who told me that if I paid more money then I could see the vantage score that was given to the mortgage company. WHAT WAS I PAYING FOR?!!!! A complete rip off is what I got. I want everybody to know what they are.

  14. how do I cancel my “ProtectMyID” account? I have navigated the website and cant find the process of deleting my account.

  15. Steve Borsch says:

    I’d have no worries about providing any data to Experian. We did.

    After canceling our debit cards and having them reissued (ones we no longer use at point-of-sale, by the way) we signed up for Target’s free one year credit alerts. I’d recommend you do so too.

  16. I’ve been going through this with Experian for over six years… had to place a credit freeze due to stolen purse. After scare of Identity theft cleared up, released freeze from all three credit agencies, at least I thought. TransUnion and Equifax – no problem… Experian, different story. I’ve notified them eight times to release the freeze yet sporadically when I apply for credit, housing, etc. am denied because there is a freeze on my Experian report. On occasion, I can access my credit with Experian, very rarely… most other times, I am alerted that they will not allow me to access my own credit and when I call again and again am met with someone who barely speaks English, calling me ma’am over and over “assuring me” that if I pay them $39.95 I can get access to my credit, and the freeze will be lifted. I’m in process of contacting FCRA attorneys as this is complete violation of my consumer rights. Experian is a piece of work! Eight years, EIGHT years of this BS.

  17. I became aware six weeks ago of inaccuracies in my credit history, and I same-day sent by certified mail photocopies of the same dispute to Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The latter two both fixed things within days, raising my scores significantly. Experian dropped its score nearly 40 points, and so far I’ve been on the phone nearly two hours trying to find out why. Three different companies transfer you back and forth. They’ve managed to charge me $19.95 twice online, although I caught the bills before they cleared. It’s amazing they are still in business. Thank goodness they only have access to one credit card number, or I believe they would loot my entire wallet.

  18. Just got off the phone with Experian because their website captured my credit card number and charged me for introductory membership, as well as first month’s membership, to view my fake credit score (the PLUS score is only an estimate). I had exited out of the window while signing up on their website because I realized that the score was fake. This is the only time I have ever been charged for something online when I’ve exited out of the window during the process, before I have reviewed my order and given final permission to charge my card. Of course, if I had known they were going to charge my card the $1 introductory fee, I would have logged in to cancel it ASAP. But I didn’t see my credit card charges until today, nine days later. Upon calling in to report their theft of my funds and request a refund, I was told repeatedly that refunds were “impossible”, and that even though I never checked my fake credit report until today (when I had to log in to find the customer service number), nothing could be done because I had failed to cancel during the promotional period. Well, I failed to cancel because your system failed to recognize me exiting before the final screen! I was informed that even though additional information/screens follow the credit card screen, their ploy is to make you think you are continuing on to a final review of your transaction, but there isn’t one. Once you type your credit card information in, you’re past the point of no return. They’re thieves. I cannot fathom how many people they have stolen this $20.95 (and more!) from. The most ridiculous part is they expect the consumer to e-mail a complaint in as the next step–so I’m supposed to waste my time, as well as be out my money. These guys are CROOKS, plain and simple. I’m disgusted. I’ll be taking to social media, in the hopes that others don’t get robbed like I did.

  19. Steve Borsch says:

    Sites that deliver stuff like Experian does are very, very good at creating a user interface that makes it almost assured that one will click on the button that the person thinks is the “next” or “continue” button but, in reality, is the one that has you agreeing to purchase.

    The part you mentioned about the “next step”—you having to now invest more time in trying to get your money back—will be a sinkhole of time. Once you start on the process, I can almost guarantee you will, at some point, say something like “My time is worth more than $21 an hour and I’ve already spent two hours trying to get it back” and then you’ll give up. That’s what they rely on.

    What an unethical business model.

  20. After reading all of these comments, I feel like I’m going to fall victim to Experian. Earlier today I caved in and bought the $1 credit score deal and I recently called their customer service number to cancel my membership so I wouldn’t get additional charges. The customer service representative asked me for my SSN which I gave along with my name and birthdate for verification. I called again later because I thought my conversation with the representative seemed weird (just my instinct) and I called at 7:04 PM which by this time it is after Experian hours and I found out that they close at 6:00 PM which scares me a little bit considering that I called at 6:32 PM to cancel my membership!

    I’m planning on calling Experian in the morning to verify whether my membership was actually cancelled and which representative helped me. I’m very afraid that my identity could’ve been possibly stolen. I might be overreacting. If anyone thinks that is the case, please tell me. I tend to overreact.

  21. Steve Borsch says:

    Jennifer – I wouldn’t be concerned at all if *you* called *them* since you’re in control of the outreach. It is when someone calls you out-of-the-blue that you should be concerned if you accidentally give up private information.

    As far as the timing of your call to them, they are in California so, if you’re in the midwest or east, they were definitely open for business.

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