TransUnion's Settlement: Free Credit Monitoring & Credit Score...How Good is it?

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The preliminary settlement of a class-action lawsuit against one of the big three credit bureaus, TransUnion, means almost 160 million Americans will be eligible for free monitoring services and a free credit score -but don't get too excited about it. As usual, things aren't always as they seem on the surface...their credit monitoring will only monitor TransUnion credit reports, and the credit score isn't a FICO Score, the score that most lenders see.

The lawsuit was filed eight years ago in Chicago and alleges that TransUnion sold consumer profile information to businesses, which is a violation of federal law. What started in Chicago certainly didn't stay there; eventually there were 14 federal lawsuits.

If you had a credit card, loan, credit account, from January, 1987 through May 28, 2008, you have three choices.

* Sign up for six months of credit monitoring services. If you select this option, you can also register to possibly receive cash benefits in the event of a cash distribution or file an individual lawsuit against the Defendants.'

* Sign up for nine months of enhanced credit monitoring services. If you select this option, you will not receive any further benefits, including a cash payment, and you will not be able to file an individual lawsuit against the Defendants.

* Register to possibly receive a cash payment. If you select this option, you can also sign up for six months of credit monitoring; however if you receive a cash payment, you cannot file an individual lawsuit against the Defendants.

TransUnion only has to give you free credit monitoring for your TransUnion credit report...not Equifax or Experian, the other two major credit bureaus. Remember, not all creditors report to all three credit bureaus. If a thief opens an account in your name and the creditor reports to one of the other two bureaus -you won't know about it.

The settlement additionally requires TransUnion to provide consumers with their credit score. Problem is... the score you get for free from TransUnion won't be the Fico score which is widely used by creditors when making decisions to extend credit. The TransUnion score "is not used by any major bank at this point," said Linda Sherry, spokesperson for Consumer Action, an advocacy group based in San Francisco.

TransUnion's response? "We are really very pleased that the settlement entitles so many consumers to these benefits, because it is a real benefit," said Ryan. "It presents an opportunity for consumers who want to be more involved in monitoring their credit health."

Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, was as unimpressed with this settlement as I am... "Credit bureaus fail to protect information from ID thieves, then set up overpriced protection rackets, then sometimes get caught for deceptive marketing," Mierzwinski said. "I would never pay for monitoring. The security freeze is better. Consumers need to be wary that they aren't tricked into paying for more monitoring at the end of the 9 months."

To learn more about the free TransUnion credit monitoring, go to: or call (866) 416-3470.


Depending on your credit needs, you should determine which of today's available products/services have the most value and best fit your needs. Here's a bit on each;

Credit Monitoring

Credit monitoring services are heavily advertised, and many people have the impression that these services alone will provide a high level of protection against identity theft. This is a serious and potentially harmful misconception.

Credit monitoring is offered by most banks and all three credit bureaus. Sometimes the service only includes monitoring one bureau's report, which is a problem, since many creditors don't report to all three bureaus. The credit report you are monitoring may not be the one a fraudulent account is reported to.

Another problem with credit monitoring services is that they're designed to inform you of any changes to your credit report; this sounds good, but what many consumers don't realize is that the data in credit reports may not be recorded in "real time." If you purchase something on credit today -do you know when the creditor will report your activity to the credit bureaus? Or when the credit bureaus will update you file? Credit monitoring services are reactive in nature -not proactive. The services are designed to let you know about a problem only after it occurs. If you are considering credit monitoring, find out if it they monitor all three bureaus, if the monitoring is done in real time and whether or not they offer identity and financial recovery services, should an ID theft occur.

Fraud alerts

A fraud alert is a flag placed in your credit reports that warns potential creditors that they must verify your identity before they issue credit in your name. Fraud alerts may be effective at stopping someone from opening new credit accounts in your name, but they won't stop thieves from accessing your current accounts if your information lands in their hands.

You need to request a fraud alert by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus. The bureau you call is required to contact the other two credit bureaus. There are two types of fraud alerts; initial and extended. An initial fraud alert is only good for 90 days -after that initial time-frame, you must re-contact a credit bureau and reactivate the alert. If you have been a victim of identity theft, you may ask for an extended alert. Each credit bureau has its own criteria you must meet, which may include filing a police report, among other things.

Credit Freeze

A credit freeze is different from a fraud alert in a number of ways. A freeze generally stops all access to your credit report, while a fraud alert permits creditors to get your report as long as they take steps to verify your identity.

A credit freeze is free to identity theft victims who have a police report proving they have been victims of identity theft. For individuals who are not victims of an identity theft, the cost is $10 per credit bureau, or $30 for all three bureaus to freeze your credit. To place a freeze on your credit file, you must write to each of the three credit bureaus, provide your identifying information and include your payment to each bureau. Freezing will prevent you from opening a new account yourself, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance, if your credit report needs to be accessed by a creditor. Once your file is frozen, if you want to open a new credit account or get a new loan, you must "thaw" your credit file. That costs money too. Remember: Credit freezes can't block thieves from accessing your current credit cards or bank accounts.

Identity Theft Prevention & Restoration Services

Neither a fraud alert nor a credit freeze can stop a criminal from using your name to commit other crimes. Remember, your identity is much more than just your credit report. There's no protection that 100% fool-proofs you against identity theft. If your life is invaded by an identity thief -do you want to take on the task of recovering and restoring your identity alone?

There are many companies that offer to take on the task of protecting your identity and recovering -once stolen. Having been entangled with the credit bureaus for 15 years, I can tell you first hand the value of having someone in your corner once you find your information has been compromised or stolen can be priceless!.

However, before hiring one of the many services on the market today, take the time to compare the services offered and determine which has the most value to you.

Know exactly what it is you are paying for.

Whether you freeze your credit, flag it with fraud alerts or purchase credit monitoring services, you still can't be certain that you will never be a victim of identity theft. The value of knowing your aren't alone in restoring your good name, is all too often overlooked and minimized-until that is, one finds themselves in the middle of a costly and time-consuming mess -alone.

See: How much value do you place on your "free" time?

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Hi, I signed myself and my husband up for free Trans union credit scoring and was never informed of how I can access my score and report, please let me know.


You mean you signed up for credit monitoring -I assume.

If you didn't receive the score promised in Settlement, try calling TU directly at or you can try to call the TransUnion settlement number at (866) 416-3470.

You can write them with your name, address, and TransUnion File Number you probably received at:

TransUnion Consumer Relations
P. O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022

Consumers can use the following numbers:

* Free annual credit report: 1-877-322-8228
* Dispute an item on your credit report: 1-800-916-8800
* Fraud Victim Assistance Department: 1-800-680-7289
* Opt out of pre-approved offers of credit or insurance: 1-888-567-8688

Please let me know how it goes...

Good post. You should know that the credit score you get online can vary significantly from what a lender might see when they pull your credit. I used to work for a credit reporting agency in past that provided reports from the three bureaus to the mortgage industry and scores on those reports were generally lower than those a consumer would get online. This is because there are different scoring models which weigh scoring factors differently from consumer reports.

The single best thing you can do to improve your credit score is to keep your credit card balances within 30% of your overall credit limit.

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