Equifax is a company that isn’t in the news very much and that may be the way they prefer it. They are what’s known as a “credit bureau” and their job is to know as much about you as they can. The data they collect on you is sold to other companies who wish to know how “credit worthy” you are. Equifax assigns everyone in their database a “credit score” that is supposedly based on how responsible they have been paying back their debts.
Unfortunately for the millions of consumers in their database, the company may not have been as concerned about the security of that data as they should have been. Hackers recently managed to infiltrate Equifax systems and steal the personal information of millions of consumers. It is likely that this is the worst data breach that has ever occurred and here are the reasons why.
1. 143 Million People Are Affected
A million is a big number, right? How would you like to win a million dollars? Most people would not hesitate to answer yes. Now, think of a million and then multiply that by 143. That’s the number of people who may have had their very sensitive personal information stolen by hackers. Considering that there are approximately 324 million in the United States, that means more than a third of the entire population of the United States is now way more vulnerable to identity crimes than they were just a few weeks ago. Their information is now probably for sale by any number of shady cyber criminals who make their living by imposing misery on others.
2. The Type of Data That Was Stolen
The information that someone would obtain from a credit bureau like Equifax may as well be called an “identity theft kit.” All the sensitive information that hackers and other cyber criminals dream about getting their hands on is exactly the kind of information Equifax collects about consumers. This includes names, addresses (past and present), birth dates, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers. That is exactly the type of information that criminals can use to set up bank accounts in your name, obtain mortgages and loans in your name, obtain credit cards in your name and just about every other identity crime you can think of. The type of information that was taken from Equifax is the last information in the world you would want to be leaked!
3. They Added Insult To Injury
In response to this breach, Equifax did what so many other companies that have experienced data breaches have done. They are offering affected individuals one free year of “credit monitoring” service that will supposedly alert you if some criminal somewhere tries to open an account or obtain a loan in your name. It may offer other supposed protections but if you’re like most people, you wouldn’t even consider signing up for this deal when you learn what else is involved. Like so many other things big companies offer for free, the devil is in the details. In this case, when you agree to take advantage of this free service you are giving up your rights to sue the company or be involved in any legal action against them. A $70 billion dollar lawsuit has already been filed and there are probably more to come. Wouldn’t you want to be involved in a lawsuit against a company that allowed your most personal and sensitive information to be stolen?
4. They May Have Been Negligent
Some news reports are saying that Equifax chose not to take basic steps to protect their data from hackers and cyber criminals. As a company that collects the most sensitive and potentially harmful personal information about millions of consumers, they have the mandate to do everything in their power to make sure that information is as secure as it can possibly be. The lawsuit that has already been filed against Equifax claims that the company “negligently failed to maintain adequate technological safeguards” for the consumer data that they keep.
5. They Kept The Data Breach Secret
Equifax admits that they discovered the breach on July 29th. That means they knew about the data breach, which took place between May and July 2017, and did not disclose it for more than a month. That’s probably because the company immediately recognized how damaging this news would be to them. As is normally the case with companies like this, they always care far more about protecting their own interests while putting the interest of consumers and customers at a distant second, if that.
6. Politicians Tried To Protect Them
As hard as it might be to believe, on the same day the news broke about this data breach, a congressional committee was considering a new law that was introduced by Congressman Barry Loudermilk of Atlanta, Georgia (home of Equifax) that would greatly reduce the options that consumers would have to take action against credit bureaus when they are accused of misconduct or something else that could potentially get them in trouble. The timing of this new bill is probably just a coincidence but it is kind of ironic that it would be under serious consideration on the day when the public learns about what is probably the worst data breach in history, which involves — of all things — a credit bureau!