I’m really trying to be on the side of the media these days, but in light of the recent Equifax hack, I must implore them to stop referring to those affected by this massive security breach as “customers”. No one chooses to be reduced to a number by these credit reporting bureaus. It’s not possible to opt out of this “service”. These companies are there to cull your personal information from companies you actually do business with and use it to rate you as a consumer – and by extension as a human being – so that they can tell other companies how trustworthy you are.
Federal law only requires these bureaus to give you free access to your reports annually. If you want to check more often than that you have to pay, unless you meet specific criteria. Other than that you can enlist the services of a credit monitoring agency.
Um, it’s my personal data and you’re keeping me at arms length from it? Charging me money to see it? Not cool man, not cool.
I’ve been a victim of identity theft. It is serious. A serious pain in the ass, a serious disruption to your life and in the worst case scenario it can seriously affect your credit. It can follow you around for years, hiding in places you didn’t know it could be. Just when you’ve secured one account, you find out your SSN has been compromised. Deal with that and then years later you go to change banks and they tell you you’ve got a judgement against you for passing bad checks. Huh? Oh yeah, that’s the jagoff that lifted my info from some shady office to start their own fake plush toys company and run up a fortune in unpaid debts. True story. And who were the least helpful folks when it came to sorting this out? The credit reporting bureaus.
A person’s credit score has become their most important number. A whole industry has sprung up around it. Of course, if wages weren’t completely stagnated maybe we all wouldn’t need so much credit. But I digress…
My favorite part of this whole debacle (which is putting it nicely – I wanted to say “clusterf**k” but something told me I should keep it clean) is that they are not going to inform the victims of this most serious breach that they are victims. They’re advising people to sign up for fraud watch. Through them! Of course, this service is free – for a year. Then what? I’ll bet there’s a fee starting on day 366. Oh, and to qualify for the free year of monitoring the victim-customer must agree to have any and all disputes with Equifax settled by arbitration. That’s right. You can’t sue them or participate in any class action law suit. These bureaus were created to hijack our information and keep us from it and they can’t even keep it secure. I’ll hold on to my right to sue thank you very much!
In addition, Equifax is not spending the time or resources to contact those affected by this breach, they’re asking their unwilling “customers” to login or call and give them even more information about themselves to find out if the original information the bureau failed to protect has been compromised. Smooth. Potentially 143,000,000 people had their personal data compromised (which is more than voted in last year’s election, but don’t get me started on that travesty), but Equifax doesn’t feel they should be proactive here?
This is the paragraph in which I should probably try to say something to illustrate their side of the story, but their website is down, so I was unable to watch the likely lame formal apology by the president of the company. I wonder if he’s one of the executives that made sure to sell their stock before news of this months-old breach went public. Equifax seems to have given it’s higher-ups time to get their ducks in a row while waiting nearly six weeks to inform the public that their data is out in the wind. Should they even be allowed to be a company anymore?
I got my first credit card when I was 17. I’ve been playing this game a long time. Back in my Manhattan starving artist days there were times when I needed that credit to live (believe it or not). I’ve worked hard to maintain my rating and to build it back up after my identity theft issues of the early 2000s. My score hovers around 800 and I’m proud of it. Of course, the minute I need to use my credit, that number dips. I recently charged $2000 at the animal hospital on my credit card, not two weeks later I got an email from CreditKarma.com (at the time of posting I was unable to access my CreditKarma account, they’re likely overwhelmed with users checking in) stating that my score had gone down.
So the message is, establish credit, but don’t ever need it or use it. Just allow us to define you by it and run all fast and loose with your sensitive information.
Let’s hope the hackers are planning some Fight Club style debt wipe. Like, next week’s news story is that everyone affected by the breach had all their debts wiped out. House? Free. Car? Free. Credit Cards? Paid.
I wonder what my score would be then….
In closing this rant I would just like to say, the above is clearly an editorialized account of these events. For a more balanced and probably less pissed off report on this story try a real news outlet like, ABCNews.com or The New York Times.
I would try to be balanced and link back to FOXNews too, but their lead story on Thursday was about Michelle Obama edging out Melania Trump for the international “best dressed” list. At least they’re way out ahead on something. Hard hitting journalism at it’s finest.