Equifax Hack

Sep 10, 2017 by

equifax logoWith nearly half of all Americans affected, everyone should follow up to protect themselves in the wake of the horrendous hack at credit bureau Equifax®.

Equifax Hack: The Vitals

You’ve probably at least seen the headlines about this latest mega-hack. Here’s the vital info:

  • Equifax, one of the Big Three credit reporting bureaus operating in the U.S., says that personal information—Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, addresses, and birth dates—of 143 million Americans may be compromised due to an intrusion into its databases.
  • 209,000 consumers’ credit card numbers were also accessed, along with credit dispute reports—which contain personal information—from 182,000 people.

The takeaway: Given the number of people affected, we all need to assume, for now, that our information is in the hands of cyber crooks. This is a big deal—don’t be complacent!

Equifax Hack: How Best to Protect Yourself

First, there is no sure-fire protection once your personal information is for sale. But you should take prudent steps to minimize your risk:

  1. Go to this Equifax site. Click on the big box “CHECK POTENTIAL IMPACT”.
  2. Next you’ll have the opportunity to provide the last six digits of your Social Security number and your last name. With that, Equifax will tell you whether you’ve been affected by the hack.
  3. Of course you should continue reviewing carefully, every four months, one of the three free credit reports to which you’re entitled annually. See “Credit Report Review”.

After I did step 2 for both myself and Ms. Money Counselor, this box appeared:

equifax hack screenshot

I guess it’s somewhat relieving to read that “[my] personal information was not impacted by this incident,” though the use of the word “believe” doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Further, being a skeptic and given that Equifax has provided enough evidence to satisfy me that it’s incompetent, I chose to enroll in the free year of credit monitoring Equifax is offering to make everything all better.

After I hit the Enroll button, this appeared:

equifax hack 2

Should You Sign Up for Equifax Credit Monitoring?

As instructed, I’ve marked my calendar to visit the URL provided and complete the enrollment process. But I might decide not to enroll, even though the credit monitoring service is free for a year. Here’s what you should think carefully about before enrolling:

    • No doubt enrolling in Equifax’s credit monitoring service will require that I provide even more personal information, including an email address. I’m reluctant to hand over any more information than absolutely necessary to Equifax (or any other company), and I don’t care to be spammed forever by Equifax and the parties to whom it sells my email address.
    • Those who enroll in Equifax’s free year of credit monitoring will undoubtedly be subjected to a very hard sell to continue the service—at a cost today of $240 per year—once the free period expires. I won’t, but so many consumers will succumb to Equifax’s inevitable credit monitoring service scare-marketing that this hack may actually prove to be a financial boon for Equifax. (Kinda ironic isn’t it. Future Equifax sales pitch: “Because we’re so lousy at protecting your personal info, you need to buy our $240 credit monitoring service!”)
    • So-called “credit monitoring” is a nearly worthless product, in my opinion. Use Google Alerts to set up your own monitoring system.
  • If, unlike me, Equifax tells you that you have been impacted, I’d recommend signing up for the free credit monitoring. Just don’t start paying for it, ever.
  • If you have been impacted by the Equifax hack, here’s the most important step you can take: consider a credit freeze. Unlike credit monitoring which only tells you, allegedly, after the fact that someone has borrowed money in your name, a credit freeze prevents anyone from opening a credit account in your name, period.
  • Some consumer attorneys are advising to avoid enrolling in the free credit monitoring because by doing so you may be precluded from participating in the inevitable class action lawsuit against Equifax that the hack will precipitate. I’m not an attorney nor an expert on class action lawsuits, but to this I say “horse feathers.” I’ve participated in a few class action suits. Here’s what happened: I spent a lot of time filling out paperwork, and in the end I got something like $0.12 (the amount I literally received as the result of one class action suit that I joined) while the attorneys banked a gazillion bucks. I can make far more profitable use of my time, like by studying to become the sort of attorney who prosecutes class action lawsuits.

Okay, that’s it. Here’s the main thing: Don’t ignore this hack and hope nothing happens! Clearing up the consequences of identity theft can be a gigantic pain in the posterior!

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