Whoever is planning a class action lawsuit against Equifax, I want to sign up. Please.
I am among the 143 million consumers affected by the Equifax security breach, in which names, birthdates, addresses, Social Security numbers, and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers were stolen.
Half the adults in this country were affected by this breach — including my wife and me.
Personal data like birthdates are bad enough. But Social Security numbers? If the passwords to our bank accounts were on file with Equifax, they probably would have let thieves make off with those, too.
Since learning about the breach, I have spent hours listening to telephone on-hold music and shelled out money trying to prevent a possible disaster to my identity and credit rating.
And make no mistake about it, Equifax is to blame — first for failing to install a security patch that would have prevented the breach, and second for delaying for two months letting consumers know while it worked out its own defense against the coming legal onslaught. And giving identity thieves plenty of time to work with the stolen data.
Equifax is offering a year’s worth of free identity-theft protection and credit monitoring. Well, sign me up for that! All I need is more of the same for the rest of my life and I’ll have it made. Except, no way, Equifax says: Longer than the free year, you gotta pay.
Anyway, I decided to call Equifax. The automated message promised that a call center was available “every day (including weekends) from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. Eastern time.” So I called at about 5 p.m. Eastern. And got a message saying the call center was closed.
Next day, after still more hours of listening to on-hold messages, I got through to a Real Equifax Person who gave me a date when I could enroll in TrustedID Premier. Whoo!
To get this, I had to provide still more personal information, like probably the names of all our dogs and cats for the last 20 years.
But at this point, what difference did it make? I was told to expect an email telling me how to complete the process.
That was four days ago. I called Equifax Sunday to ask what had happened and was told the process could take up to five days, so look for it tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I had to put a freeze on our accounts with the other credit bureaus — Experian and TransUnion. Since Equifax’s screwup affected a big part of all adults in the United States, there were many others trying to do the same thing. Still more on-hold music.
These credit freezes aren’t free. In Arizona, it costs $5. And each time you want to take out a loan or new credit card, it costs to “thaw” your account too.
In the end, I joined a service that monitors for fraudulent use of Social Security numbers, name, address, or date of birth in applications for credit and services. It isn’t cheap — nearly $200 a year for the two of us — but I desperately hope it’s worth it.
Meanwhile, what about Equifax? Where does it stand on all of this? Just sitting pretty, as it turns out. Thanks to our lax coverage of consumer-protection laws, it doesn’t have to pay the cost of this kind of harm to impacted individuals and communities.
That’s why I’m counting on the courts to hold them liable. There’s plenty of damage out there, and this ain’t Hurricane Rita.
Just bring in the lawyers to clean it up.