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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 January 2006, 13:46 GMT
What price fraud protection?
By Chris A'Court
BBC Radio 4's Money Box

Many people are afraid of having their identity stolen or becoming a victim of bank card fraud.

But is it worth paying for fraud protection offered by banks and card firms?

Money Box Listener Karen from Hampshire recently received an offer from a company called Style Financial Services.

Free trial

If you didn't cancel within 30 days they would bill your card directly for 80.
Karen, Money Box listener

It provides store cards to several high street retailers.

The offer looked good at first glance because it offered a free trial but when Karen read on she wasn't quite so sure about the value of service.

"I found that if you didn't cancel within 30 days they would bill your card directly for 80 - but what else is involved?"

Anyone signing up to PrivacyGuard is promised a swift warning message and advice if it appears someone has stolen their ID, or is appearing to be carrying out a fraud on any of their accounts.

The alert comes direct from the credit checking agency Experian. In addition this 'PrivacyGuard' branded offer has some insurance added on for a cost of 79.99 a year.

Free advice

Mike Naylor, principal researcher from the consumer organisation Which? believes such products aren't very good value.

Free advice is readily available from banks and credit agencies to people who do fall victim to fraud.
Mike Naylor, Which?

Mike points out that free advice is readily available from banks and credit agencies to people who do fall victim to fraud.

In addition, the 10,000 of insurance cover to clear your name and get your credit file sorted out is unlikely to be needed. He told Money Box

"I feel this is an example of banks playing on customers fears of fraud and selling insurance that isn't really worth having"

Style Financial Services, which wrote to Karen, is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group.

In a statement to BBC Money Box, RBS and PrivacyGuard told the programme that they believe their offer is the most comprehensive anti-fraud cover that people can buy in the UK.

Money Box has discovered that LloydsTSB is also starting to offer PrivacyGuard to some of its customers but at a higher cost - 6.99 a month, or nearly 84 a year.

The version of anti-fraud protection offered by Lloyds TSB doesn't include the insurance element. So Lloyds is charging more, but offering less than the version RBS provides to its customers.

Cost-conscious consumers who are concerned about fraud can get a very similar credit checking service that is significantly cheaper direct from the credit reference agencies, Experian, Equifax and Callcredit. Mike Naylor of Which? says

'For most people an occasional check of their standard credit report should be sufficient to guard against fraud and that costs just 2 each time.'

Mike suggests getting a copy of your regular report once or twice a year.

BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 28 January, 2006, at 1204 GMT.

The programme will be repeated on Sunday, 29 January, 2006, at 1204 GMT.

Money Box



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