A Northbrook, Ill., man claims he hired credit bureau and identity-protection outfit Equifax to protect him against a thief who had racked up fraudulent charges on his Capital One credit card. Equifax, he claims, then turned around and inadvertently sent all his most private credit and financial data to that same thief.
Brian Bruce says in his complaint that in early April he discovered he had been the victim of identity theft: A criminal in New York, he says, had used his identity to make some $23,000 worth of unauthorized charges on his Capital One credit card.
That same day, says Bruce, he contacted Equifax to inform them he had become a victim of identity theft and to ask them to put a fraud alert on his account. The next day, he asked Equifax to put a security freeze on his account. When Equifax responded, says Bruce, he was dismayed to see that the document confirming the freeze had transposed Bruce's Illinois address with the New York address of the thief.
While Bruce was attempting to straighten out that problem, Equifax suggested he might want to sign up for the additional protection afforded by its Equifax Complete Premier Plan for $19.95 a month. By so doing, he would gain what Equifax described as "comprehensive credit monitoring and identity protection." Bruce signed up.
On April 9, still trying to resolve the mix-up of his own address with the thief's, he contacted Equifax and was told that in order to do this he would need to submit copies of his W-2 tax forms, utility bills, and other documents bearing his Illinois address. This Bruce did.
Shortly afterwards, says the complaint, Equifax "mailed a copy of plaintiff's complete credit report containing his full social security number, full birth date and information about all of his credit accounts to the identity thief's address."
The suit further alleges that when Bruce complained to Equifax about its conduct, "Equifax attempted to blame the mistake on [the] plaintiff."
Bruce is suing for, among other things, "fear and emotional distress," since he now fears the thief will attempt further fraudulent activity, armed with the additional information provided by the protection company.
Equifax told ABC News it doesn't comment on pending litigation.
Equifax is one one of three U.S. credit bureaus, all of which offer indentify theft protection services for a monthly fee. Consumers, however, are entitled by law to a free copy of their credit reports once a year from each of the three bureaus. Click here to visit the free credit report site. You can also request a freeze on your credit report from each of the agencies for free, which means that no new credit can be opened in your name without your prior permission.