Update 2/10/18: This post was written when the scandal first broke out. Recently, it has been disclosed that in addition to social security numbers, tax information and driver license numbers were also choice picking for the hackers. Now, more than ever, you must remain vigilant with your credit information. Big companies will never be forthcoming with information unless backed into a corner.
The Equifax breach scandal is another one in a long list of corporate misconduct. There is a massive ongoing controversy regarding the criminal acts perpetrated by Well Fargo bank. Millions of fraudulent accounts were opened by employees without consent of the clients. The house of cards collapsed when customers were being charged late fees and getting unsolicited lines of credit on their accounts and complained. So far, Wells Fargo has been fined over $185 million dollars, a figure which will only increase with all the forthcoming lawsuits. My guess is that it is just a drop in the bucket money wise for this big conglomerate and it will be back to business as usual shortly. Apparently, being “too big to fail” always means winning, no matter how badly you behave. Equifax, the credit monitoring company recently disclosed a data breach that affects over 143 million people in the United States. This is practically everyone who is old enough to have credit credit cards and bank accounts. Here are 3 things to do to protect yourself from further damage. Equifax knew about the breach as far back as July but did not disclose this until September. This is unconscionable. In the space between discovery and disclosure however, some of the executives of the company sold almost 2 million worth of their company shares for a tidy profit. This goes to show you how little they care for their customers. The greed is simply stunning. We can hope that these people will be brought up on insider trading charges and serve real prison time. History has however shown us that for rich people, “prison” is just a place to have a bit of rest. A resort spa might be a better way to define it as they still have most of the comforts of home. Martha Stewart comes to mind. For the rest of the people, you need to protect yourself from the hackers. It is safe to assume that you are more than likely affected if you own a home, rent an apartment, have a bank account, store credit card..anything that requires a credit check. The breach means that hackers have your social security number, your address and date of birth. These are exactly the information you need to open new accounts. Equifax has set up a website to find out if you have been affected. Go here to access it. You will ironically required the last 6 digits of your social security number..haha! Information that the hackers have :-). You can also call them at this number, 1- (866) 447-7559.
3 things to do about the Equifax scandal:
Freeze Your Account With All Three Credit Monitoring Companies:
Equifax, Experian and TransUinion are the three credit monitoring companies. There is a $10 fee for each one of them to freeze your account. It sucks to have to pay for something that Equifax did, but it might be worth it to avoid headaches later on. If your information is used to opened new accounts for instance, imagine how hard and how long it would take to prove that you had no hand in it. Your credit would be ruined and your life disrupted. No bank would extend further credit, you would have a hard time renting..and the list goes on. 35 states currently offer account freezing, but with this big a breach, I think the other states might join in. It is massive pain in the butt as you will be given a PIN to access the account when you need your credit report accessed. You can freeze your credit report by contacting the credit reporting agencies below. Experian customer service: 1 877 284 7942 Equifax customer service: 1-888-766-0008 TransUnion customer service: 1- 877-322-8228
Order A Free Copy Of Your Credit Report:
Under Federal law, you are entitled to a free credit report once a year from each of the three agencies. While l am usually an advocate of staggering out the reports, It might be a good idea this time to get them all at once. This way you can see if you have been affected. If you have not and you freeze your account as stated above, you’ll be good and protected from further damage. Keep the copy so that in case something happens down the line, you can show this to the credit card as a reminder that the report was fine on that date. Anything beyond that will be on them for letting fraudulent activities slip through. If you find any strange accounts that you did not authorize, make sure to dispute it immediately. Write your dispute letter and send it certified so it can get investigated and removed quickly.
Register For Credit Monitoring:
Equifax is offering 1 year free credit monitoring through their TrustedID Premier subsidiary. This sounds like a gallant effort. Sure, until you read the fine print which says that if you sign up for it, you give up your rights to sue the company. DON’T DO IT!. Do not sign up with them. It’s obvious their company is not trustworthy. You deserve compensation for your troubles, no matter how small. I can’t help but feel that this might be an inside job. Wells Fargo put so much pressure on their employees to meet such impossible quotas on new account openings that the employees ended up opening fraudulent accounts. I fear the same kind of pressure might have been put on Equifax employees to get people to sign up for their TrustedID monitoring to increase company profit. The allegiance of Equifax is to shareholders, not to customers! Companies like Lifelock will monitor your credit report. Make sure to check how much they charge for this as it might be very expensive. You might just want take just the first 2 steps and keep a vigilant eye for any signs of unusual activity. This is what l choose to do.
Takeaways from the Equifax scandal:
Corporate greed is a real threat to our society. We have an ineffective monitoring government. The fear of retribution is non-existent for these companies. At most, the government imposes some little fine which is just for show, and the companies go right back to screwing over the people. It shows once again that the only person you can count on is yourself. Work on minimizing your dependency on credit. If needed, apply for a new social security number. No one knows just how deep this hole is. Hackers can be patient and use your information when things calm down, so you need to be vigilant.
How do you plan on protecting yourself?