The newest large breach, potentially affecting 143 million people in the US, was announced Thursday by Equifax at https://investor.equifax.com/news-and-events/news/2017/09-07-2017-213000628 . It also affected a small number of consumers in Great Britain and Canada. According to the Equifax PR statement, “Criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain files.”

There’s been at least one potential class-action suit already filed. The New York State Attorney General, Eric T. Schneiderman, has also opened an investigation.

Based on US Senator Al Franken’s Facebook post on Equifax, it might be a good idea to wait to sign up for Equifax credit monitoring until Equifax clarifies that you are not trading your rights to sue them or join a class-action suit in return for accepting their credit monitoring service. However, you should still visit the Equifax site (http://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/) to find out if you are one of the affected parties. If your information was not affected (although I would not trust that completely), the site will continue on to give you the date when you will be allowed to sign up for credit monitoring if you should decide to do so. Make sure you note the date, because you will receive no other notice.

Since I cannot sign up for the TrustedID service yet, I have not personally read the agreements that Equifax has put in place.

Furthermore, credit monitoring usually just alerts you to an event that has already happened. It is not always accurate or even timely. Although good to know that something has happened, taking preventive action is better.

What should you do?

Act as if your information was stolen and move to block access to your credit and financial accounts. Yes, it’s painful, but far less painful, expensive, and time-consuming than dealing with identity theft. We need better oversight of credit bureaus, but in the meantime protect yourself. Your personal information is important for credit and insurance availability and costs, getting a job, and even renting an apartment or buying a home.

Brian Krebs has an article about credit freezes and credit monitoring at How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Security Freeze. The FTC article on credit freezes is good, but Kreb’s article is more thorough and he explains about his personal experience with credit monitoring services. Here are the actions he recommends:

Update: Unfortunately, the pin that Equifax automatically assigns starts with the date you call you to start the credit freeze (i.e, 090917xxxx). The automatic pin is not random. To change it, you have to call 888-298-0045; the line is only available Monday – Friday 9 am to 5 pm (and the message doesn’t even tell you which time zone). You cannot change the pin on their website.

While Fraud Alerts are free, they have to be updated again every 90 days.

NPR.org is reporting that three Equifax executives sold small amounts of stock shortly after the breach was discovered. You can look at the SEC filings here; open the Beneficial filings to see what the stock sales were. Even though all 3 only sold a small portion of their holdings, it is still a lot of money – about $1.8 million. I find it hard to believe that the CFO was not alerted to a breach of the company. The stock price was $145.09 on July  28, 2017, before the breach (discovered on July 29, 2017); yesterday the stock closed at $123.23.

 

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