In case you thought the Equifax breach might be easing itself out of the limelight, news has arrived that is just pouring more fuel onto this raging dumpster fire. Reports are surfacing that the credit agency was breached earlier this year in March, possibly by the same hackers, which now puts extra spice on speculation that company executives who sold stock in the intervening months may have taken advantage of the insider knowledge. The beleaguered company also announced the “retirement” of its Chief Information Officer and Chief Security Officer (editorializing quotes are mine), presumably as sacrificial lambs, which also adds weight to the claim that perhaps security wasn’t being handled as well as it should.
While the lawsuits are piling up at the Equifax doorstep, Congress is also turning its admittedly distracted gaze on the circus, with the news that Republicans are floating two bills that would further deregulate companies like Equifax, gut the agencies that protect consumers from exploitation, and reduce damage awards from lawsuits. Democrats, for their part, have proposed legislation that will hopefully force Equifax (and presumably their competitors) to stop charging for freezing and unfreezing your credit history.
None of this is stopping any of the credit agencies from attempting to continue to profit from the breach, including Equifax itself. Popular credit monitoring service Life Lock has grudgingly admitted that it actually protects its customers partly through services purchased from Equifax as part of a 4-year contract it entered into with Equifax in 2016. Life Lock competitor LegalShield purchases its services from Experian. Essentially, these companies are paid to protect you from the results of data breaches of the companies whose services they use to provide that protection. This is hiring the wolf to herd the sheep.
On top of all this nonsense, the credit companies themselves continue to suffer from significantly degraded customer service – long hold times, dropped calls, misleading information – as millions of consumers attempt to freeze their credit. Notably, several clients have reported back to me and I myself experienced attempts to direct us away from freezing our credit towards “free” locking and monitoring services, both on the phone and via vague, misleading web pages. Rather than just taking our money for the freeze, the agencies still seem hell bent on the opposite. I wonder what they know that we don’t.
Don’t be deterred. Don’t give up. My advice to you is still for you to seek a full freeze on all three credit histories. Don’t let them sweet talk you or frustrate you into any other alternative. You can always go back and sign up for their “free” monitoring services after you get the freeze in place.