Equifacts Disaster

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The EquiFACTS: A Man-Made Disaster

By Philip Baillargeon

Amidst various natural disasters like the recent slew of hurricanes and the massive earthquake in Mexico, one man-made mix up has gone unchecked. I’m talking about the Equifax data breach, one of the most catastrophic events in recent history, occurring on July 29th of this year, affecting millions of Americans. An estimated 143 million, or 44% of the population.
Now, what exactly happened that’s so catastrophic and wide reaching? I have a simple comparison. Have you ever had a time when you have an update for your phone, but you keep pushing off that restart? Well, this time, a corporation carrying tons of highly sensitive information did just that. Fun Fact: the CSO (Chief Security Officer) of Equifax’s only qualification was a bachelor’s in music composition from the University of Georgia. No offense Doctor Shewan, but keep your hands off my Social Security number.
Anyway, hackers then took advantage of this and were able to steal personal information ranging from names to Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license information. You can’t change things like Social Security numbers, and with this kind of knowledge at their disposal, your identity could easily be sold on the deep web for raw cash, and you could be a victim of identity theft at any time in the foreseeable future.
This means that complete strangers can take out loans and use your credit in your name, which is terrifying. And if you were thinking Equifax couldn’t have possibly have my information, think again. There are four major credit bureaus agencies in the U.S.: Experian, TransUnion, Innovis, and, that’s right, Equifax. Whether you like it or not, all four have your information.
What’s worse is the announcement of this breach was delayed by at least one month. Days after the hack, executives sold nearly $2 million worth of company stock, effectively dodging a bullet of their own design.
So… now that we know the facts, what do we do? The best solution at this time is to freeze your credit, effectively locking it away so you would know if someone unauthorized was trying to use it. Equifax has set up a website and call center to help, but both have been experiencing issues (unanswered calls, error messages, etc.) due to high traffic.
Worse yet, the website asks for, that’s right, the last six digits of your Social Security number that they might have just lost. They also are offering their credit monitoring service for one year, but that’s barely a solution. If these hackers really have up to 143 million numbers, one year’s worth of protection really isn’t going to help the majority. And after that one year, you would need to pay Equifax for more protection, which is ludicrous.
So, talk to your parents about credit. You may be saving yourself big time if you stay up to date and take precautions to avoid identity theft. And think about this: amidst all of the other crazy news these past few weeks, you missed a major mistake by one of the U.S.’s largest corporations, jeopardizing millions of Americans, in an industry you might not have even known about. That’s our nation.

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