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WILLIAM LAKO: Protecting your identity after a security breach

29 September 2017

The fact of the data breach isn't the only controversy swirling around Equifax, as NPR's Alina Selyukh has noted. Don't miss a thing.

Herrera says that under California law, Equifax should have informed consumers of the breach as soon as they were aware of it, rather than delaying over a month before making the September 7 disclosure that affected 143 million Americans.

Multiple federal and state agencies are investigating the issue, including the U.S. Department of Justice, which has launched a criminal probe.

The company also faces criticism over the tools they provided to people whose information may have been exposed. The programming was the backing behind Equifax's web portal that took clients to the page that would allow them to report any problems they had with their credit reports, and this is where hackers were able to gain access.

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Amazingly, it took three weeks for its CEO, Richard Smith, to lose his job. Equifax said Smith would forgo his 2017 bonus, but will still receive a payout of US$18 million.

Afterwards, panicked consumers swamped Equifax's call center and website.

Finally, Renee of Annapolis, Md., asked me, given Equifax's security issues, if I was concerned about having to enter the last six digits of my Social Security number during the registration process for TrustedID Premier.

ARNOLD: Well, we don't have all the details, but it'll probably look like some of the credit lock services that the credit reporting firms have already been offering. Can you give us a quick update where the investigation stands? Write down the date and come back to the site and click "Enroll" on that date.

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Consumers can enroll in the program until November 21. If you have any questions about any of these tips, please let me know, I'm here to help! And remember: to get that free Equifax credit freeze, you must sign up on or before November 21. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.

He maintains that putting a freeze on your credit at all three agencies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - is the best way to protect yourself from identity theft. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name.

Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don't recognize. It is also important to note that the incident did not impact Equifax's core consumer credit database, which is where a freeze is applied.

Equifax's efforts come as the Atlanta credit-tracking firm faces a storm surge of investigations, lawsuits and consumer complaints about its handling of the hacking scandal, one of the worst any company in the USA has faced. And so Equifax might be helping you with one hand and then selling your information to telemarketers and subprime lenders with the other.

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What Congress should do is to forbid private companies and government agencies, except for Social Security, from using Social Security numbers as an all-purpose identifier.

WILLIAM LAKO: Protecting your identity after a security breach