ANOTHER Freaking Data Leak!?!

EQUIFAX!!! ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME RIGHT NOW!!! TargetHome DepotYahoo!JP Morgan ChaseA gajillion others. … and now Equifax. When are you people going to learn!?! AAAUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!!! I’M SO FREAKING MAD RIGHT NOW!!!

The Boldfaced Idiots of Hacks Past

In the past, the majority of data breaches have allowed villains access to information such as credit card numbers, names, mailing addresses, email addresses, and maybe phone numbers. All of this is sensitive data, to be sure, but the release of that information isn’t life-threatening. You could always cancel a credit card and get a new one. You could set up spam filters on your email…or change your phone number if you needed to. Yes, these things were inconvenient and a headache, but they were doable. Now, the game has changed.

This One Is For Realsies

If you’re reading this and you’ve been breathing oxygen for the last handful of days, you know that Equifax experienced a security breach that allowed hackers to steal the names, addresses, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, and social security numbers of 143 million U.S. Citizens! ONE HUNDRED FORTY-THREE MILLION PEOPLE! That’s nearly half of the entire population of the United States! This is the exact same information you must provide when opening a credit card, opening a bank account, applying for official state or federal documents, obtaining a loan, and any number of other actions that obligate you to a financial commitment. …and now the villains can do all of that stuff in your name. Awesome.

Equifax *should* be put out of business for this. They *should* be required to give every person in this country free credit monitoring and I.D. theft services for life. …but they won’t and everything will be business as usual in another month. So, you need to protect yourself.

What To Do…

Bottom line, you should freeze your credit with all three credit agencies. You’ll have to pay around $10 per person per agency to freeze it and then another $10 per person per agency to thaw your credit should you need to apply for a loan. Oh…and then another $10 per person per agency to re-freeze it after the loan is approved. That sucks because that will be $60 for me and my wife whenever we want to buy a house or a car or refinance a mortgage or apply for a new credit card…and then another $60 to re-enable the freeze once that purchase is complete. Thankfully those events are rare in our lives. Here’s how to:

*Neither Netvantage SEO nor Jerod Karam have any relationship, business interest, or affiliate interest with any companies or products listed above.

Those steps above will help with the credit end of things. How about tax fraud or impersonation or straight up identity theft or any one of 100 other things that you need to use a social security number for? Yeah…you’re on your own. Fun, right?

Please, please, PLEASE do your own research. There is SO MUCH intricacy and so much that I’ve left out of this article. One place to start is to look at LifeHacker’s post on what to know about a credit freeze. There are many more tutorials and a lot more info out there as well.

UPDATE:  New York Times is reporting that Equifax is now making freezing your credit report with their service free of charge.  As of this writing, fees from TransUnion and Experian are still in place.  However (again, straight from the above-linked NYT article) Dann Adams, the president of Equifax’s global consumer solutions unit, … apologized and said that a service to “lock” Equifax, Experian and TransUnion files simultaneously would be coming soon.”  I don’t know exactly what that “lock” will mean and I don’t know what kind of timeline “coming soon” indicates.

…and Not Do…

Don’t sign up for credit monitoring with any of the paid credit monitoring services. I mean, you can if you want…but I predict it will be a waste of time and money. Sure, you might get one year free of credit monitoring but then you’ll have to start paying between $15 and $30 per month for it after that. The perpetrators of this breach are well aware that everyone can get 12 months of free credit monitoring so I would expect to see credit-based and financial-based problems arising from this data leak starting in about 18 to 24 months.

Also, don’t do nothing! This is serious, people. I can’t stress that enough.

Now I (Almost) Encourage You To Ignore Me

I had this entire article written and ready to post when the US Senate starts to get involved. I figured there would be some kind of uproar at this and I hope the Government Yahoos (who aren’t much better than the Financial Yahoos) can dive in an make sense of this relatively quickly. Since I also believe that the perpetrators won’t make any big moves for 18 to 24 months, maybe we all have a little time to take a deep breath and devise an educated strategy about how to move forward.

CNN is saying not to expect the government to help.

Reuters is reporting that some Senators are looking to throw executives in jail. (I do not disagree with this.)

And, of course, some Senators are demanding the that Equifax go much further in supporting those affected.

What a f***ing mess. The whole business makes me sick. Good luck. Let us all know if you have additional tips & suggestions–we need all the wisdom of the internets on this one.

NOTE:  This article was originally published on 14 September 2017.  We are not a breaking news site and I’ve got a lot of other work that’s got to get done so I will not be updating it as new information comes out.  Check any one of a hundred other sites to find out the latest.

Jerod Karam

Jerod Karam is Vice President of Technical Operations at Netvantage SEO, an online marketing company specializing in SEO, PPC and social media. Jerod consults with internal teams and external clients on all manner of technical projects, manages the flow of information surrounding the company's online objectives, manages relationships with external partners and suppliers, and is a constant bother to everyone in terms of maintaining online security.

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