Dammit. This didn’t go as I had hoped. In September of this year (2017) Equifax announced that they had been breached by hackers, albeit months after the hack was discovered on July 29th of this year. Equifax spent almost two months scrambling, litigious butt-covering, and figuring out how to tell the public that they were blind, staggeringly incompetent.
Can you tell I’m piqued yet? I started this article with the notion of leading those of you whom I serve in an educational capacity, to resources provided by Equifax to determine if your personal credit file had been touched. That’s what I thought this article was going to be about. Then I did some due diligence.
Excerpting from an article by the Federal Trade Commission approximately 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed as a result of the breach at Equifax, which is one of three major credit reporting agencies.
Here are the facts, according to Equifax. The breach lasted from mid-May through July. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers from about 209,000 people and dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people. And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada too.
Equifax says they will not be contacting everyone who was affected but will send direct mail notices to those whose credit card numbers or dispute records were accessed. They do, however, offer free credit monitoring through their affiliate “TrustedID”. Equifax wants you to go to that website and sign up for a year on them. I went through the site, as part of my research, and am now redundantly monitored., as I have been with Privacy Guard for eight years. This monitoring included a bare bones credit report for Equifax, but no scores.
I am going to avail myself of their service for a couple of months, then cancel. Especially after I saw Rick Smith, CEO of Equifax, before a Senate Judiciary Committee to give an account of their massive error. I can see now why the number two, three, and four companies who have the highest complaints filed against them are the top three Credit Bureaus. He was grilled mercilessly but didn’t seem very contrite, or remorseful. It was revealed during testimony that initially, the terms and conditions of the service suggested that those who enroll might have to waive their right to sue over the cybersecurity breach, either individually or as a class. However, Equifax has updated its website to clarify that the arbitration clause found in the service’s terms will only apply to the TrustedID protection itself, not prior issues, including the hack, so the waiver went away.
Only after Equifax was caught did the waiver go away, though. It is as I have been saying for years, that the relationship between the consumer and the major bureaus is an adversarial one. Travis Mills, President of identity theft recovery service LibertyID, told Digital Trends that those who’ve suffered stolen data shouldn’t count on the service as the sole means of protection. “Their credit monitoring is not going to make a difference or provide a solution,” he said. “You can’t be protected against data breaches, as yesterday proved.”
Further, he pointed out that “credit card fraud is just a fraction of the effect that ID theft can have on your life. The information that was lost in this Equifax breach is far and beyond just credit fraud.”
If you want to enroll in the protection offer, you can learn more about it on the Equifax page. Once signed up, you’ll be given an enrollment date for when your protection will officially begin. But of course, all of this is after the fact. If you were affected by this hack and, your personal information was possibly accessed, there are a couple of options you have and some general advice that’s worth taking.
For starters, maintaining a keen eye on your personal information, finances, and credit reports in the near future will help stop any identity fraud in its tracks. Although that’s a good idea in general, doing so now is more important than ever.
The website Equifax offers is Equifax Security 2017.
The monitoring and reporting company I use is Privacy Guard.
The decision is yours. Good luck.