Last week I wrote about how Equifax managed to lose the most sensitive personal information for 46% of the American population.
When I wrote the piece, I was pretty frustrated with Equifax’s lax treatment over my identity. A few days later, as I tried yet again to clean up Equifax’s mess by freezing my credit, it dawned on me.
I was starting to get pissed off. Really pissed off.
From Frustration to Anger
Truthfully, when I heard the news of the hack, I wasn’t all that bothered. “Another security breach,” I thought, “big deal.”
For the first few days, I was even a little entertained by the news. A bunch of idiots with an already bad reputation managed to lose social security numbers for half the country. I felt somehow removed from it all, and besides, this would make for some great blog fodder.
(It dawned on me that this must be how news anchors feel as they cheerfully report on a disastrous train wreck.)
As I took up my duties as a good money blogger and started digging into the details of the breach, I began writing. The first words that came flying off my keyboard still maintained my usual sarcastic lack of seriousness. As I started learning more and more, my article’s tone started to shift.
I realized this wasn’t really a joke. In fact, the breach was shaping up to be the worst hack in history. I found myself pounding the keys with a little more ferocity.
Even worse, Equifax’s powers that be didn’t seem to care in the slightest. They sat on the news, sold their stock, and issued the type of horribly insincere press release that only an empty suit could dream up.
Their whole attitude could be described with the most annoying of all emojis:
I still wasn’t mad, but I started to feel a sense of violation. I realized my original plan to ignore this breach just like all the others was clearly going down in flames, so I called the agencies to set up a credit freeze.
I maintained my composure all through the ridiculous holds. You’d think an annoying robot slowly repeating everything I typed would have done me in, but I was still left just mildy annoyed.
The Turning Point
As I sat trapped on the phone, my mind started wandering like a prisoner in solitary confinement.
Alone with my thoughts, I started to ask questions.
Why was I left cleaning up this mess? I didn’t do anything wrong.
Why don’t they seem to care that they just screwed half the country? Not even a little bit?
WHY AM I PAYING THEM $10 FOR THEIR SCREW UP?
Anger, reached. I raised Equifax’s ? with a ? and I started doing some math.
Equifax compromised the security of 143 million people. The only way for those people to correct Equifax’s fumble is to freeze their credit, which involves paying $10 to the very people who caused this mess.
143,000,000 X $10 per person = $1.4 billion in new revenue for Equifax.
These people are criminals.
The Criminal Case Against Equifax
1. Equifax’s business model involves obtaining personal information for every American in the country, without their consent.
If I did this, I’d be in jail for identify theft. If Equifax does this, it’s considered their business’s competitive advantage. Somehow.
2. You’d think this privilege would hold Equifax to a higher standard of IT security.
Instead, the company scrimped on security spending. They were so incompetent, they allowed three hacks of their system in less than a year and a half.
3. Equifax’s poor security practices allowed hackers access to our information for 10 months, while Equifax had no clue anything was going on.
4. Rather than immediately alerting the public of the hack, Equifax management sold their stock.
5. Then, Equifax sat on knowledge of the hack for another 6 weeks, while our personal information could be used for potentially life wrecking fraud.
6. Equifax’s solution was a website intended to let us know if we were affected. Instead, it became obvious the website was only generating completely random responses.
Whether they were intentionally trying to deceive us or are just that clueless, we’ll never know.
7. Equifax’s used “helpful services,” like their worthless website, to sneak in legal language that waived the legal rights of customers just trying to clean up Equifax’s mess.
Only after continued public pressure did the company remove the hidden language.
8. For all this, Equifax will probably profit off their negligence. As concerned customers have no choice but to pay Equifax $10 each time they want to freeze and unfreeze their credit, Equifax could receive up to $4.3 billion in sales. Plus any residual income from their automatically renewing “free” credit monitoring service.
Imagine the scenario I’m currently facing. I’m concerned, so I pay $10 to freeze my credit. Although criminals can use my personal information for ID theft forever, I can’t function in society if I keep my credit frozen forever. So I’ll have to pay another $10 to Equifax if I ever want to unfreeze my credit, say to apply for a credit card or buy a house. And I can’t safely leave my credit open after that application, so I’ll have to pay another $10 to refreeze my credit again.
That’s $30 round trip. If each American affected by Equifax’s blunder did this, Equifax would earn $4.3 billion.
I hope I don’t come across as harsh, but send these clowns to jail, where they belong. And not some white collar resort. These people deserve to be in federal pound me in the ass prison!
Hey Credit Agencies, Step Out of the Stone Ages
Let me get this straight. If I want to check my fantasy baseball league after I’ve cleared my internet’s cookies, I can’t log in without two factor authentication?
And in order to download Roller Coaster Tycoon onto my iPhone, I have to get my fingerprint read by a laser cut, sapphire crystal scanner?
But if I want to impersonate another human being and get a million dollar mortgage in their name, I just need to provide a 9 digit number that was invented in 1936?
Hey credit agencies, step out of the stone ages!
We have fingerprint scanners thinner than a human hair capable of reading sub-epidermal skin layers in milliseconds. And your business couldn’t think of a single technological innovation in the past 80 years?
I can only hope your terrible company gets what’s coming to it.
Make Your Voice Heard
If you’re as fired up about this as I am, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The CFBP is a federal regulatory agency founded to protect consumers against the big bad financial institutions, like say… a company tracking all your personal information without your consent, then charging you time and money to correct their mistakes.
The CFPB prides itself on addressing complaints. Smack dab in the header of their website is a link to submit a complaint, and they boast that 97% of consumers receive a timely response within 15 days.
I sent them a short note explaining that I never authorized Equifax to track my information, and Equifax’s negligence directly cost me at least $30. We’ll see how it goes.
Do not ignore this, identify theft could happen to you.
As I was writing this post, I got to the previous paragraph and called it a night. I closed my laptop and headed to bed.
The next morning, I woke to three text messages and a missed call from Chase bank. Apparently, they spotted some suspicious activity on my credit card – a $41 charge at a gas station in Texas.
I jogged my memory. I hadn’t filled up with gas in weeks. I’m pretty sure I was asleep at 1:11 AM, when the card was charged. And I was definitely 1,700 miles away from Lewisville, TX.
Yep, somebody stole my credit card info.
Luckily, Chase had my back, and they gave the thief a big slap of DENIED while I slept.
Whether this small-scale attempt at ID theft was related to the Equifax hack, I’ll never know. But I do know one thing; the hard dose of reality was a stark reminder, and it gave me all the motivation I needed to finish this article.
I encourage everyone to freeze their credit. Here’s how:
- Equifax — 1-800-349-9960
- Experian — 1‑888‑397‑3742
- TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
As of today, I’ve frozen my credit through Experian and TransUnion. I still haven’t been able to reach Equifax; their online form and telephone lines are both still “unavailable.”
With any luck, Equifax will get shut down, and I won’t have to give them my money anyway.
UPDATE 9/29/17 – Heads are starting to roll, as they should. Equifax’s CEO has resigned.
The interim CEO threw a peace offering our way, allowing free credit freezes… sort of. Unfortunately, they still won’t allow me to freeze my account.
Budget on a Stick says
This whole ordeal is mind-boggling. Their failure could have been prevented by a simple software update (just like with Target).
I work for a company that handles sensitive data and we have stricter standards than banks (let that sink in). I don’t understand why companies are so careless.
I raised questions at my first job when they were throwing around social security numbers like they were meaningless IDs and no one in management seemed to care.
This seems like a problem that needs some sort of law or oversight before companies stop playing around with our information and start locking it down.
The Money Wizard says
I’m not normally one for government intervention, but I agree completely with your last comment.
Dadsd Dollars Debts says
Yup and $10 to transunion and experian…so $20-30 a person. In my house it is me and my wife. I can imagine it is the same in other homes. Talk about a great business model. Screw up and make you and your competitors a lot of money…wish I could do that with my blog!
I did not have to pay anything to Transunion and Experian. Does the price vary by state?
The Money Wizard says
Yes, the price ranges anywhere between $0-10 depending on which state you live in. Most are $10 but a few are free.
The Money Wizard says
Haha, no kidding!
I had the same issue with being unable to get my freeze to go through on the Equifax number listed above. I tried mutiple days at various times and it finally worked for me a few days ago when I spoke all the answers out rather than inputting the information using the dial pad. Maybe I just got lucky but it might be worth a shot? Love your blog by the way!
The Money Wizard says
Thanks Claire! I’ll keep giving it a shot.
I have no involvement in this case, but still, as an IT-guy it grinds my gears. If I would make an app at work which is similarly insecure I would be fired at least, shortly.
Keep those heads rollin’.
The Money Wizard says
My company’s HR dept fell prey to a phishing scam 2 years ago (employee info was all that was compromised), have had mine frozen ever since. If you go through the credit bureaus’ websites, you can temporarily thaw your credit for free. You just need to give them a date range, and they open it up.
Should you have to do all that? No.
It will only cost you another $10 if you want to unfreeze permanently, but I haven’t seen a need to. I know when I’ll need my credit (like when I bought a house last year), so I just temporarily thaw it beforehand.
I’m as riled up as you are, but one particular thing really gets me. The news reporters keep referring to Experian’s “customers.” I don’t consider myself a “customer.” I did not choose to have my credit history stored by, or reported on by Experian (or any of the other agencies). The whole industry is an incestuous unregulated scheme — you must have a certain score on your report in order to successfully borrow money, rent an apartment, buy/lease a car, get a mortgage, etc…. the score on each of the reports is slightly different (even though the data is exactly the same)…. you have virtually no control over what is in the report/s….. the process for getting a report updated or changed is mysterious, costs money, takes forever, and doesn’t always work…. I could go on.
True. We are not customers, we are commodities.