Now that Equifax has disclosed the hack of 143 million American’s personal records, there is no longer any hope of keeping our data private. You are an identity theft victim, you just don’t know it yet.
I’ve long said that every big-name company has been hacked; they just haven’t disclosed it yet. This is just common sense. In even a single computer, there are thousands of cyber attack vectors and known vulnerabilities. Once you grow to 10,000+ employees, multiple sites, and custom business applications, the amount of risk becomes unmanageable. Even with full time cyber-security departments, I’ve never seen any network secure more than 95% of their known vulnerabilities at any given time.
Then you add the undisclosed vulnerabilities, which professional hackers collect like shiny baubles, and basically any enterprise network can be hacked.
Your personal information; my personal information; everyone’s personal information is available for sale on the dark web. If you aren’t a victim yet, credit a limited number of criminals, not best practices.
Credit freeze options
If you don’t plan on opening a new credit account soon, consider placing a credit freeze on yourself for each of the four agencies. Transunion, Equifax, Experian, and Innovis.
The credit freeze makes it impossible for companies (like banks) to look up your credit score. Generally, if a company can’t see your credit score, they won’t open a new credit account. This protects you against the classic credit-theft attack: opening a new credit card or loan in your name, spending the balance, then leaving you with the bills.
If you apply for a credit freeze, then want to open a new legitimate account, you can still do this – but you will need to contact the credit agency and ask for a temporary un-freeze. Both the freeze and un-freeze can cost money, depending on what state you live in. (States have legislated that the credit agencies MUST offer this service, or else they wouldn’t, and as part of the legislation, a fee was specified. In Maryland, it is $5). It can take a day or two to un-freeze your account.
What about the theft of my credit card number?
A credit freeze will not protect you against having your credit card number stolen and used for purchases. Your bank is already trying to protect you against this by issuing new cards when it detects strange activity. You should also check your monthly statement and protest any charge that you don’t recognize.
How do I request credit freezes?
Navigate to each of the credit agencies (helpful links below) and go through their process to request a freeze. When I tried it today, only one agency (TransUnion) required me to pay the $5 fee. Kudos to the rest for being ?responsible? (this is hard for me to say… I feel great anger toward these agencies since they have used our data without permission and only introduced consumer safeguards when forced to by laws).