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Class action suit allows for free credit monitoring

September 4, 2008

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In a class action settlement, the credit bureau TransUnion has agreed to provide free credit-monitoring services to millions of consumers to settle claims it illegally passed along private information for marketing purposes.

Although TransUnion denied any wrongdoing, the settlement requires the company to sign up consumers for either six months or nine months of monitoring.

Now unless you've been a conscientious objector to all forms of borrowing in the last 21 years, you're probably eligible for the monitoring service. But the deadline to sign up is fast approaching.

You have until Sept. 24 to register for benefits under the settlement. Any consumer who had an open credit account or an open line of credit from a credit grantor is eligible. The types of credit might include a car loan, bank credit card, retail store credit card, finance company loan, a mortgage or student loan. The credit account had to be opened between Jan. 1, 1987, and May 28, 2008.

The lawsuit against TransUnion alleged it had violated the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. The settlement was preliminarily approved by a federal court in Chicago in May after nearly 10 years. TransUnion said it discontinued the practice in question in 2001.

As class action lawsuits go, this isn't such a bad one. Typically in these cases, consumers end up with laughable and or ludicrous settlements.

In this case, there is no limit on the number of class members who may receive the temporary monitoring service. To register for this settlement go to ListClassAction.com or call (866) 416-3470.

If you are married, both partners should register if you both meet the requirements for eligibility. Spouses have separate credit reports even though they may have joint credit accounts.

Under the settlement, which still needs final approval, you have to choose one of the following options:

¢ Six months of credit monitoring.

¢ A cash payment (if money is available for distribution).

¢ Six months of credit monitoring and a potential cash payment.

¢ Nine months of enhanced monitoring service. If you select this option, you can't get any cash.

Although more than 150 million consumers are potentially eligible, only a fraction have signed up for the monitoring service, according to Chris Micheletti, an attorney with the law firm of Zelle, Hofmann, Voelbel, Mason & Gette LLP, which is representing plaintiffs in the class action case against TransUnion.

Micheletti said that as of Aug. 22, about 380,000 people had registered for a cash payment or monitoring services or both.

If you register to receive credit monitoring, you'll have six months after the court grants final approval of the settlement and all appeals are resolved to activate your monitoring benefit. Any cash payout won't become available until at least two years after the settlement is finalized by the court.

If you were thinking about signing up for a credit monitoring service, here is your chance to try it out. I had a monitoring service for a year but didn't find it very helpful. The downside to this service is that you're contacted about a potential or a real identity theft problem after the fact. Credit monitoring is fraud detection, rather than protection against it.

Although credit monitoring has its limitations, I'm still going to take advantage of this chance to keep an eye on my TransUnion credit report.

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