Mediocre Fraud Alert DTMF/Voice Apps

By | November 19, 2006

In response to the notification from Avaya that my personally identifiable information may have been compromised, I decided to try the automated phone systems used by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for adding a fraud alert to my credit file. All three automated DTMF/voice applications were pretty bad.


The app used two significantly different male voices. What was really bad, though, is that the app played essentially the same long winded message in both voices informing me that Equifax would automatically request that Experian and TransUnion place a fraud alert on my credit file. You almost get the feeling they don’t want you to set up a fraud alert.

The Equifax app also had the absolutely useless intro message of “Please listen carefully, as our menu options have changed.” Who would ever call this app enough times to have memorized the options? Also, when did the options last change? Yesterday, two years ago? About the only reason an app should have this prompt is if it is frequently used by power users and the options really have changed very recently.

The app provided no confirmation of spoken digits, even when I intentionally spoke them quickly and slurred the numbers. When I slurred the digits so much that it didn’t hear all of them, I got a prompt indicating that the number needed to be ten digits.

The app failed to place a fraud alert on my credit file, very likely due to the fact that it probably collected incorrect numbers that it failed to confirm with me so i could correct them.


The app was DTMF only, so there was much punching of digits on the keypad. This made the data collection process slower and more painful than for Equifax and TransUnion.

The app started with a menu of options. Setting up a fraud alert wasn’t one of them. By stepping through several layers of menus, I finally got to the point where fraud alerts were mentioned.

Along the way, I was offered the option to hear an eight-minute recording of California rights, since I called from a California area code. Neither Equifax and TransUnion offered this. I don’t know if they are supposed to, but I can pretty much guarantee no one will listen to it. Since Experian is paying the toll charges for the phone call, they don’t want you to listen to it, either.

The app was very repetitive. It presented the same info in several ways. Many of the prompts repeated themselves. It was repetitious.

One good thing about the app was that it used a single female voice for the prompts. The VUI design was not very good, though. The confirmation dialogs were particularly painful.

Several prompts in, I was informed that to place a fraud alert, I would need to be transferred to a separate secure system and that I would not be able to return to the main menu. Which made me wonder, why did I start out in the insecure system? What made the secure system secure? It’s not like our conversation was suddenly being encrypted.

The best thing about the Experian app is that I was able to use it to successfully add a fraud alert. It was a painfully slow, mind numbing experience, but it appears to have worked.


The TransUnion app started with a very specific fraud alert intro. It also used a single female voice throughout the app. Like the Equifax app it accepted spoken digits and yes/no, in addition to DTMF digits.

The confirmation dialogs for digits were clunky “We captured one two three four five”, but at least they were there. I’m still wondering who the “we” was. I only heard one voice. Maybe it was the royal “we”.


The VUI for each of the apps appears to have been designed by someone with little experience in IVR application design. As far as usability goes, I would rank them as follows:

  1. TransUnion
  2. Equifax
  3. Experian

However, I have to give Experian some extra points, because it was the only app that alowed me to successfully place a fraud alert on my credit file. Nonetheless, it’s hard to call any of them a winner.

While plodding through these automated systems, I took the opportunity to clean up dead links and out of date info on my privacy and security page.

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