What The Equifax Data Breach Means – Part 1

By Jon L. Ten Haagen, CFP ®

Equifax, one of the three main credit reporting agencies, announced a massive data security breach Sept. 7 that exposed vital personal identification data, including names, addresses, and social security numbers of as many as 143 million consumers, roughly 55 percent of Americans ages 18 and older.

The breach was especially egregious because the company reportedly first learned of it on July 29 and waited roughly six weeks before making it public. Three senior Equifax executives reportedly sold shares of the companies worth nearly $2 million before the breach was announced. Moreover, consumers don’t choose to do business or share data with Equifax; rather, Equifax – along with TransUnion and Experian, the other two major credit card reporting agencies – unilaterally monitors the financial health of consumers and supplies data to potential lenders without a consumer’s approval or consent.

Equifax has faced widespread criticism following its disclosure of the hack, both for the breach itself and for its response, particularly the website it established for consumers to check if they were affected. Both the FBI and Congress are investigating the breach.

In the meantime, here are answers to questions you might have.

What’s the deal with the website Equifax has set up for consumers?

Equifax has set up a website, Equifaxsecurity2017.com, where consumers can check if they’ve been affected by the breach.  Once on the site, click on the button “Potential Impact” at the bottom of the main page. Click on “Check Potential Impact” and you’ll be asked to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number – a request widely mocked on social media as being intrusive.

Equifax has stated that regardless of whether you may have been affected, everyone has the option to sign up on the website for one free year of credit monitoring and identity theft protection. You can do so by clicking the “Enroll” button at the bottom of the screen. Just clicking this button does not mean you’re enrolled. You must follow the instructions to go through an actual enrollment process with TrustedID Premier.

More wrath was directed at Equifax when some eagle-eyed observers noted that enrolling in the free year of credit protection with TrustedID Premier meant that consumers gave up the right to join any class action lawsuit against the company and agreed to be bound by arbitration.  But Equifax spokesperson has since stated that the binding arbitration clause related only to the one year of free credit monitoring and not the breach itself; Equifax has since removed that language from the site.

How can I get more info on Equifax?

Consumers with additional questions for Equifax can call 1-866-447-7559. seven days a week, 7 a.m.-1 a.m. EST.  Equifax said it is experiencing high call volumes, but is working diligently to respond to all consumers.

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part “Ask The Expert” series. Part two is slated to be published in the Oct. 12, 2017 issue.

Huntington’s Jon L. Ten Haagen, CFP, runs Ten Haagen Financial Services, Inc., a full-service independent financial planning firm, and he is here to answer your questions. In this bi-monthly column, Ten Haagen will answer your financial questions and help you with his expert financial advice. Don’t be shy, our expert is here for you, so feel free to ask away! Email your questions to asktheexpert@longislandergroup.com today, and let our expert help you.

*Ten Haagen is an Investment Advisor Representative offering securities and advisory services offered through Royal Alliance Associates, Inc., member of FINRA/SIPC, and a registered investment advisor. He is also an active community member, serving on several nonprofit boards and as executive officer of the Greater Huntington Boating Council.

**BACK IN HUNTINGTON: The offices of Ten Haagen Financial Services, Inc. have moved back to 191 New York Ave., Huntington. Friends and clients are welcome to stop by, check out the new office and share a cup of coffee with the expert!­­­