Like everyone else with a credit card, my data was among that stolen from the ginormous Equifax credit reporting company. Assuming the hackers knew what they were doing, it won’t be long before they try to steal my identity.
They got our Social Security numbers in the hack.
“That puts you at peril of identity theft for as long as you’ve got a beating heart,” the Chicago Tribune says in an editorial today.
I don’t have much choice in this underreported affair; I have to freeze my credit at not only Equifax, but every other major credit reporting firm.
And I had to pay for each one.
Late yesterday, the company said it would no longer charge $5 for a credit freeze, but only until November. After that, their loss is your loss. And the company isn’t stepping forward to pick up the tab for freezing credit at the other agencies.
“It’s a logical reaction,” the New York Times’ Ron Lieber writes. “You did not ask Equifax to vacuum up data about you, and then resell it to marketers and loan sellers.”
And it is not your fault that the company could not keep that data safe. So why should you pay for a freeze, which keeps new creditors from seeing your credit file and thus can keep thieves from applying for credit in your name?
Somehow, that question did not occur to Equifax on Thursday, when it first announced the breach. It apparently thought a year of free credit monitoring would be enough to placate consumers. When I asked Equifax on Sunday why it was not making freezes free, Wyatt Jefferies, a spokesman, did not respond to that particular question
Among the other questions Lieber can’t get answers for: Why not make the freezes free permanently? Why not pay the other agencies to freeze credit?
At some of the other credit reporting agencies, in order to place a credit freeze, you have to agree to accept unsolicited offers for products.
Liebers asked one of Equifax’s execs in charge of not losing your data if he’d be resigning in the wake of the scandal.
“No, but for the record I am considering dropping my NYT subscription and picking up the Wash Post!” was the reply.
Keep in mind, company officials sold their stock in the days leading up to the public announcement of the theft, after they knew about it. It was more than a month before the rest of us were told our data was hacked.
These people are sneaky and despicable.
In its editorial today, the Boston Globe notes that some states mandate that credit freezes be free. Massachusetts’ politicians — just like Minnesota’s — never got around to such an obvious protection for consumers.
Equifax is a regular campaign contributor to lawmakers in Washington who sit on committees in charge of banking regulation, including Minnesota congressmen Tom Emmer and Keith Ellison, both members of the House Banking Committee. Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen received $4,000 in the last campaign, the most of any House member.
“No consumer asked companies like Equifax to amass vast amounts of private data about them,” the Globe asked. “Why should they be charged for asking the companies not to share it?”
That’s not only a good question for the companies, it’s a good question for legislators who’ve spent their time on far less important things.