Catasauqua Press

Sunday, October 22, 2017

editor’s view

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 by The Press in Opinion

Equifax data breach means life will never be the same

Are you worried a complete stranger has your personal information?

It is very possible you are one of 143 million U.S. consumers to have had your birthday, Social Security number, driver’s license number, address and other personal information stolen from Equifax Inc.

I am “potentially” one of those consumers, according to the Equifax website.

Baffling to me is that, according to the announcement made Sept. 7, the breach was discovered July 29 and Equifax “acted immediately to stop the intrusion.”

Actually, the breach happened sometime between mid-May and the end of July.

Why did it take so long to stop the intrusion and contact consumers?

Damage was done to consumers’ credit months before the discovery. Do we really believe the hackers breached the system and did nothing with the data?

Equifax then contacted an independent cyber security firm to conduct forensic review, and then it contacted law enforcement authorities.

Equifax Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Richard F. Smith apologized to consumers.

“This is clearly a disappointing event for our company and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do,” Smith said. “I apologize to consumers and our business customers for the concern and frustration this causes.”

Equifax established a dedicated website, equifaxsecurity2017.com, for consumers to determine if they have been impacted and to sign up for credit monitoring and identity theft protection.

According to the website, “The offering, called TrustedID Premier, includes 3-Bureau credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers — all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year.”

The website also provides additional information on steps consumers can take to protect their personal information.

Equifax recommends consumers with additional questions contact a dedicated call center at 866-447-7559, which the company set up to assist consumers. The call center is open every day (including weekends) 7-1 a.m. Eastern time.

In my humble opinion, that is not good enough.

Credit reporting for one year will not suffice. Does Equifax think the hackers will shred the information after a year? These hackers will have our Social Security numbers and other personal information for the rest of our lives.

Equifax has also suggested freezing your credit reports, which can also be done from its website. Just remember when applying for new credit or a mortgage, the credit freeze must be removed.

According to USA Today, several senators have requested information from Equifax and lawsuits have already begun to be filed.

In one particular lawsuit, the consumer said he never gave Equifax permission to have his personal information and once the firm had it, it couldn’t keep it secure.

On Sept. 15, two executives from Equifax — Chief Information Officer David Webb and Chief Security Officer Susan Mauldin — retired.

This is only the beginning.

On Sept. 16, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said, “Pennsylvania’s population is 12.78 million — nearly half of Pennsylvanians could be affected. I encourage all Pennsylvanians to take steps to protect their personal data and financial information. Victims of identity theft or fraud should contact the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555 or scams@attorneygeneral.gov; or the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT or at identitytheft.gov.”

In a MoneyWatch article by Kathy Kristof, the Federal Trade Commission has warned consumers to expect impostor scams — “con artists posing as representatives of Equifax calling to verify your account information.” Consumers are warned not to provide any personal information over the phone.

Another scam involves a consumer’s potential Internal Revenue Service refund. The con artist now has all of our information to file fraudulent tax refund claims. Consumers are advised to file early and report any discrepancies to their local police department.

Lastly, it is possible the con artists will attempt to contact the consumer by an email claiming to be from your bank or credit card issuer. Do not click on the link; call the bank or credit card company instead. The email could be part of a scam.

When my youngest was in high school, he was taught never to put his Social Security number on a job application. This information must remain secure.

Now, the American citizens have been violated because someone wasn’t doing his/her job, and we will pay for the rest of our lives.

Thanks, Equifax.

Debbie Galbraith

editor

East Penn Press

Salisbury Press