OBJECT TO THE EQUIFAX SETTLEMENT BY NOVEMBER 19TH

We should all collectively object to the Equifax settlement.

November 19th is the deadline date if you want to object to the Equifax settlement. So please do it TODAY – as soon as you finish reading this. Why?  This settlement is an insult to the millions of consumers who had their data compromised. This settlement is not only completely inadequate, but also barely a slap on the wrist for Equifax.

This Puts it in Perspective:

  1. The consumer cash portion is less than 5% of the total settlement pool.
  2. The proposed credit monitoring supplier (Experian) has had recent and large-scale data breaches of their own.
  3. The payment is likely to be magnitudes less than what was advertised.
  4. The attorneys representing the class are getting double the total cash portion of their consumer client base.
Object to the Equifax Settlement
SHAME ON YOU EQUIFAX!

I was among the millions of unfortunate victims of the Equifax Data Breach.  Equifax recently announced that a settlement to the class action against them had been finalized. Remember that nearly 148 million consumers were violated in this totally preventable breach. Our most private sensitive data was hacked and exposed. Equifax makes a handsome profit selling our data. Yet, they failed miserably when it came to protecting that data.

Here’s What Happened

When the class action settlement was first announced, many of us signed up and chose the option for the $125 cash payment – instead of the offer for free credit monitoring.  Shortly thereafter, the lawyers sent out a follow-up email. The email informed consumers that because so many people chose the cash payment option (instead of the free credit monitoring) that the cash settlement amount would be decreased from $125 to just $5.00.  Wait…WHAT???

INSUFFICIENT FUNDS

There was only a meager $31 million set aside in the settlement for those who chose to opt for the cash payment. Apparently, they greatly underestimated the number of consumers who would opt for the cash payment, instead of the free credit monitoring.

Presently, that $31 million is insufficient to grant the full $125 to everyone who chose the cash option. Therefore, those who still wish to receive a cash payment, should only expect to receive a mere $5.00 or perhaps even less than that!

It was revealed that while nearly 148 million Americans were impacted by the Equifax breach, only 3 million consumers had signed up for the free credit monitoring. Most consumers chose the cash payment option instead.

Adding insult to injury, the lawyers involved in this class action settlement have already been awarded $77 million and are now asking for even more money.

CONSUMERS CAN AND SHOULD OBJECT

Today I visited a website that walked me through the steps needed to object to the Equifax Settlement.  (See my second choice option below)

Remember, you have the right to file an objection to this absurdity. BUT – the objection must be completed by the deadline date of November 19th. Consumers have two choices on how to go about filing an objection.

The first choice – is by sending a letter to the Equifax Data Breach Class Action Settlement Administrator. The instructions are available at the Equifax Breach Settlement website on its FAQ page here:  Then see Question # 25. Warning: they don’t make it easy.

THE SECOND CHOICE IS AN EASIER WAY!

Begin by reading an article written by consumer advocate Bob Sullivan on his website here

In his article, Bob Sullivan explains that Reuben Metcalfe, founder of Class Action Inc., has made filing an objection with the court a lot easier – using a bot he created. His website is named ‘NoThanksEquifax.com’. Here’s the link

The website features a bot that semi-automates the objection letter-writing process. The bot, named Clarence, also has a sense of humor. He cheers you on as you walk through the steps of filing your objection.

The ‘NoThanksEquifax’ bot helps consumers opt-out for FREE. He thinks massive objections or opt-outs would force negotiations and hopefully result in a better deal for consumers. He states “I believe a mass opt-out campaign for the Equifax settlement would result in an additional $2 to $3 billion in… consequences”.

Once the objection date (November 19th) expires, the judge overseeing the settlement must legally consider all objections at a fairness hearing scheduled for Dec. 19.  FYI – Objections do NOT remove consumers from the class. If the settlement is approved, claimants can still receive payment or credit monitoring services offered to other class members.

To find out if you were one of the victims of Equifax’s data breach and an eligible class member, call 1-833-759-2982 or go here:

IMPORTANT NOTE: if you wish to join the class action and file a claim in the Equifax class action settlement, you must do so by January 22, 2020.

REMEMBER: THE DEADLINE TO OBJECT TO THE ABSURD DECREASE IN THE CASH OPTION AMOUNT IS NOVEMEBER 19th.  SO HURRY!  DO IT TODAY. THE MORE OBJECTIONS, THE BETTER!!!

FYI: I wrote an earlier article about the Equifax breach settlement in August. It provides many of the details about the settlement. You can read my article by clicking here. 

EQUIFAX BREACH AFTERMATH

Aftermath of the Equifax Breach    (PART TWO)

It’s barely been a year since the Equifax Breach became one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history. Equifax’s gross negligence resulted in hackers stealing the social security numbers and other sensitive information of 148 million Americans.

Equifax Breach
Guard your identity with everything you’ve got

As a result of the Equifax breach, the company offered one full year of free credit monitoring. Knowing this, criminals are just biding their time, waiting for the year to expire. They know that once the free credit monitoring expires, the public will feel safe again. They expect consumers  will become more lax about protecting and monitoring their personal information. This would be a big mistake for consumers. Since you can’t change your SS#, you must remain ever vigilant.

YOUR DATA WAS ALREADY OUT THERE!

News Flash! Although the Equifax breach was massive, much of the consumer data exposed in that breach was already available to criminals. The majority of American’s most sensitive personal data has already been compromised for several years. It is then sold on the cyber-underground to the highest bidder. If you have any doubt, realize there were 1579 separate data breaches in 2017 alone. Millions of records are exposed in those breaches.

Therefore, even if you were not a party to the Equifax breach, you need to assume that your personal info is already out there for sale. So you need to continue to protect your data for the rest of your life. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to place a freeze on your credit file.

 

EEquifax Breach Credit Freeze
Credit Freezes keep the bad guys out!

Credit Freezes – will soon be FREE

Starting September 21, 2018 you can place, temporarily lift, or remove a Credit Freeze for FREE.  Because each person has their own credit file, each individual should lock down their credit report by placing a freeze on their file.

Once the freeze is in place, only you, (the person who placed the freeze), can view your credit file. Everyone else would be locked out, unless you choose to grant them access to it. Access to your credit file is granted by either placing a temporary lift or by removing the freeze.

According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, all three credit bureaus must set up a web page to assist consumers with placing a credit freeze.

A WORD OF CAUTION!

Once you begin the process of freezing your credit, you may be enticed to place a Credit “Lock” instead of a Credit “Freeze”. Do NOT be fooled into placing a Credit “Lock”. These are being pushed as an alternative to a Credit “Freeze” by all 3 credit bureaus. Credit Locks do not offer the same legal protections to consumers as a Credit Freeze. So, don’t be fooled!

You should also be sure to place a credit freeze for your minor children. Child ID theft is a criminal’s dream. The theft of a child’s identity is usually not discovered until years later. By that time, the damage is done, and the thief is long gone.

Additionally, all 3 credit bureaus are now required to offer FREE electronic credit monitoring services to all active duty personnel.

CONTINUE TO MONITOR REPORTS

As a habit, consumers should obtain a free credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com  This is the only federally authorized website to get your free credit report. Each of the credit bureaus must provide consumers with a free credit report, once a year. The smartest way to accomplish this is to stagger your requests during the year.

Here’s How:

In January, go to the website and request only one free report from Equifax. Then again in May, request one free report from Trans Union. Lastly in September, request your free report from Experian. This method gives you the opportunity to review your credit report for free over the entire year.

THAT’S NOT ALL FOLKS

To further protect yourself, it’s also important to request a report, monitor or lock down four other lesser-known consumer reporting agencies such as:

ChexSystems: provides account verification services for banks & financial institutions.

Innnovis: provides ID verification data to assist with fraud detection and prevention.

(NCTUE) National Consumer Telecommunications & Utilities Exchange.  NCTUE is a credit checking clearinghouse used by mobile phone providers and utility companies.

Lexis-Nexis: Collects info from public records & data sources such as real estate ownership, liens, judgments, bankruptcies.

 

NEVER HEARD OF THEM

There are dozens of other companies you never heard of that provide consumer reports to specific industries. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) produced a list of all the known entities that maintain, sell and share tons of data on U.S. citizens. The link to the pdf document is here

The pdf document provides information and the links to the websites of 46 different entities. It also provides information about your legal rights to obtain the data in your reports and dispute any inaccuracies contained in them.

Remember that your data is only as safe as the companies and organizations that are tasked to protect that data. The vast majority of them are doing an abysmal job. So, it is up to you to protect your data and to remain vigilant at all times.

ONE MORE REASON

If I haven’t yet convinced you to freeze your credit file, here’s one more reason to do so. All 3 credit bureaus make a nice profit from selling copies of your file to others. Thus, freezing your credit file will deny them a steady revenue stream. Why should they be allowed to profit from selling your personal info; especially when they do such a lousy job at protecting it. What a perfect way to hit them where it hurts – their corporate bottom line!

You can learn more about credit freezes by reading a prior article of mine HERE

EQUIFAX DATA BREACH – 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Equifax Data Breach – one year later     (PART ONE)

It’s been about a year since the Equifax Data Breach was announced. It was one of the largest data breaches in U.S. history. Their negligence resulted in hackers stealing the social security numbers and other sensitive information of 148 million Americans. What has happened since?

Equifax Data Breach
GUARD YOUR NUMBER

Equifax is one of three major credit reporting agencies. Their data files contain highly sensitive information on millions of us. Any company responsible for collecting sensitive data should be required to take any and all precautions necessary to protect that information from criminals. The Equifax data breach proved that they failed miserably! As with so many prior breaches, this one was entirely preventable.

The scope of this massive breach should have shocked Washington to enact sweeping reforms. You would think that if the social security numbers of over half the adult population of the U.S. were exposed, that Congress would take appropriate action to fix the problem. So what did Congress do to punish Equifax and protect its citizens from future calamities?

Well – One year later, not much has changed

At first, there were Congressional hearings where discussions focused on setting new Federal standards for how companies like Equifax secure data.

Investigators looking into how the breach occurred discussed imposing a penalty for Equifax’s failure to timely patch the vulnerability hackers exploited to steal their data.

A national breach notification law was discussed that would require a time frame wherein companies must notify the public once personal info is stolen from a data breach.

BOTH BILLS PETERED OUT! 

Why? “Regulation is tough in this political climate,” said Tom Gann, the chief public policy officer at McAfee.  Congress was too busy focusing on another more pressing cyber-security issue – Russian interference in our elections. Congress can’t seem to focus on more than one cyber-security issue at a time.

Equifax Data Breach
Are You Angry Yet?

The government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently reported that the Equifax investigation is ongoing.

Michelle Richardson, director of the Privacy and Data Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) says she is still optimistic about Equifax-type legislation in the new Congress.

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE

States like New York and California have since put their own protection regulations in place and 48 State Attorneys General are investigating the firm. Equifax also faces more than 240 class action lawsuits.

The FTC is also examining the Equifax data breach, which may result in Equifax facing large financial penalties. In a prior 2012 settlement with the FTC, Equifax was slapped with a $393,000 penalty.

Additionally, the Equifax breach did at least cause a spike in the number of financial firms that have since beefed up their investment in better cybersecurity.

You can read my original article about the Equifax Data Breach here

In PART TWO of my article, I will give you tips on things you can do to protect yourself. So stay tuned…

WHY YOU SHOULD PLACE A CREDIT FREEZE

A credit freeze is one of the most effective tools consumers have to prevent future Identity Theft involving credit. In light of the recent Equifax data breach, it is extremely advisable to do so – ASAP!  Think of a Credit Freeze as having an insurance policy that protects you from anyone trying to obtain credit in your good name.

A credit freeze allows you to actually ‘seal’ your credit reports. Therefore, no one, including cyber-thieves, can open up new lines of credit or get a loan – even if they have your social security number. Keep in mind that the Equifax breach exposed the Social Security numbers of 145.5 million U.S. citizens.

A credit freeze denies anyone else (except you) the ability to access your credit report. This prevents the bad guys from trying to establish new credit accounts or take out new loans, using your stolen information. If your credit file cannot be accessed, a lender will not be inclined to issue a new credit card or finance a new loan.

NOTE: Freezing your credit will not protect you from identity theft on your existing lines of credit, such as current loans or current credit cards. A freeze will not provide protection for any financial accounts that you already have open. Placing a credit freeze only protects you from future credit applications. In other words, if your current credit or debit card is lost or stolen, a thief can still steal from you, unless and until you shut down the affected account.

HERE’S HOW TO PLACE A CREDIT FREEZE

Credit Freeze
Freeze Your Credit File ASAP!

You’ll need to call or visit the websites of each of the three credit bureaus and request a Credit Freeze. Each credit bureau charges a small fee that varies by State. The cost in the State of AZ is $5.00 – per person – per credit bureau. Once a credit freeze is in place, it will remain frozen until you remove it or you temporarily ‘thaw’ or ‘lift’ the freeze.

Each credit bureau will assign a PIN (personal identification #) that you must be sure to keep in a safe place for later retrieval. The PIN will be required if you yourself ever want or need to personally apply for a new loan or credit.

If that occasion arises, you will need to temporarily ‘thaw’ or ‘lift’ your freeze, so that your personal application for credit can be processed by the lending institution. Therefore, you’ll need to contact the 3 credit bureau(s) and ‘lift’ the freeze for the number of days you need. Then, once the time expires, your credit file will automatically go back to being frozen again.

The fee to temporarily ‘thaw’ or lift’ a credit freeze will cost you $5.00 – per credit bureau. However, more-than-likely, you will only have to lift the freeze with just one of the credit bureaus. So, be sure to ask your would-be creditor which credit bureau they will use to check your credit.

EVERYONE NEEDS A CREDIT FREEZE

Keep in mind that each individual will need to place a credit freeze. Each person has their own credit file, which is paired with their social security number. So, a husband and wife will each need to place a freeze on their own credit file. Parents are also strongly advised to place a credit freeze on their children’s credit file too. Child ID Theft is a serious issue and very difficult to remedy.

Lastly, you must realize that a credit freeze cannot and will not protect you from other forms of identity theft – such as medical, tax or employment ID theft.  These types of ID theft are much more difficult to protect yourself from, so you must always be ever vigilant.

Remember, your information is only as safe as the companies that store your data and then protect it from data breaches. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center, there were 1093 data breaches reported as of December 2016. We are well on our way to breaking that record in 2017.

CHANCES ARE YOUR DATA IS ALREADY OUT THERE!

You must accept the fact that with all the data breaches and the many millions of records already exposed, your personal information is being sold to the highest bidder on dark underground websites. When it comes to protecting yourself from ID theft, it is always best to take matters into your own hands and be proactive. Always treat your identity as a valuable asset that must be protected at all times!

Read my previous article about a Credit Freeze vs a Credit Lock

Contact Info for Credit Bureaus:

Equifax: 800-349-9960 or www.equifax.com

Experian: 888-397-3742 or www.experian.com

TransUnion: 888-909-8872 or www.transunion.com

EQUIFAX SOFTWARE UPDATES

What does Equifax Software Updates have to do with the Equifax breach?  EVERYTHING! Credit Bureau Equifax actually allowed Hackers into their system, by NOT timely updating one of their software programs.

To begin with – the number of those affected by the Equifax Breach has been revised upward to 145.5 million, up from 143 million. The social security numbers of more than 60% of the U.S. adult population has been exposed.  Mind you, this breach occurred sometime between May and July, 2017, but Equifax didn’t publicly announce it until early September. This gave the bad guys plenty of time to amass all that data and do some serious damage, before most of us were even aware of the breach.

Recently fired Equifax CEO Richard Smith, testified before Congress last week explaining how the company got hacked in the first place. It seems the company failed to update a patch, which would have fixed a security flaw, in a program, called Apache Struts. This security flaw, in the Apache software, is how Hackers were able to steal all that data.

Had Equifax been prompt in updating the program, this epic breach would have been completely avoided!

In March, Apache had issued a patch to fix the problem in their Apache program. The patch was made available for users to update. The patch was available to update two months before the Equifax breach. It is inexcusable for any company that controls huge amounts of sensitive data, to fail to update their software in a timely manner.

CEO Richard Smith told Congress that the “person responsible for updating the software, did not properly do their job”. The fact that only ONE person at Equifax was responsible to handle this job, without any other oversight or backup, is reprehensible!

Equifax Software Updates not done
SHAME ON YOU EQUIFAX!

The important lesson, which should be learned from this story, is to always be sure to update your software. Set these programs to automatically update whenever one becomes available.  Setting them to automatically update eliminates the need for you to have to take any specific action yourself.  It ensures that you’lll always be operating the most safe-and- secure versions of your software at all times.

Finally, it is most important to discontinue the use of outdated software, which is no longer being updated with the latest security patches. The WannaCry Ransomware attack was easily spread around the world, because so many companies were still using the outdated Windows XP operating system.  Microsoft had long ago stopped supporting XP, Vista and other previous software versions with security updates.

Equifax had an obligation to protect the sensitive data of millions of U.S. citizens and failed miserably!  The fact that they made such an avoidable mistake is truly frightening!  Those affected will have to be constantly vigilant about identity theft – for the rest of their lives.

Read a previous article about Equifax Breach

Credit FREEZE vs. a Credit LOCK

Consumers Union is recommending consumers place a Credit FREEZE vs. a Credit LOCK.  Here’s Why…

A credit LOCK is simply a contractual business agreement between you and the Credit Bureau. 

Having a contractual agreement is not nearly as strong as having protections under the law. A contractual agreement with a company is subject to change, or may be unclear. It may include provisions that you may be better off NOT agreeing to – such as binding arbitration. With LOCKS, it’s also not clear who would be liable for financial losses.

A Credit FREEZE is the better option, because a credit freeze offers stiffer legal protections.

Its promise to guard your credit accounts is guaranteed by law! If something goes wrong, and your credit accounts are fraudulently accessed, consumers are protected from financial liability.

Credit Freeze vs. a Credit Lock
A Credit Freeze is better than a Credit Lock

BUT – In response to the stampede of people attempting to place a Credit Freeze, after the massive Equifax breach, the 3 Credit Bureaus are pushing consumers to “LOCK” their credit files instead of placing a Credit “FREEZE”.

Just To Be Clear: The best way to protect yourself from an identity thief opening a credit account in your name, is still by placing a credit freeze at all three credit bureaus.

Consumers should be wary of this push towards Credit “Locks”. Equifax and the other two credit bureaus fought for years against our right to freeze our credit reports – and then demanded fees to do so.

Equifax has said it will be offering a new type of credit “LOCK” FREE – for life. This raises questions and concerns about their motives! Credit Bureaus make huge sums of money by selling your information and allowing access to your credit file.  A credit FREEZE will greatly limit their ability to do so.

So if you are offered a choice between a Credit Freeze vs a Credit Lock, don’t let the Credit Bureaus try to fool you. A Credit Freeze has always been the best way to keep the bad guys from getting credit in your good name. A credit LOCK is designed to work in the best interest of the Credit Bureaus – NOT YOU!

“We are still trying to figure out why they are pushing this newer thing they call a credit “lock” says Mike Litt at U.S. PIRG (Public Interest Research Group). “It may allow credit bureaus to market to consumers more aggressively for products that they may not need and/or shouldn’t pay for”.

It’s time for Congress to provide free Credit Freezes. To learn more go here: http://www.uspirg.org/news/usp/interactive-map-shows-consumers-42-states-have-no-access-free-credit-freezes 

You can also read one of my previous articles about the Equifax Data Breach