Data breaches happen with big companies all of the time, but the latest one is far bigger than most. In fact, the Equifax data breach may affect up to 143 million consumers in the U.S., which is roughly half of the population. Equifax reported that hackers stole names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, and addresses from the credit bureau’s data base. Strangely, Equifax found out about the breach on July 29, 2017, but didn’t go public with the information until September 7.
Imagine how many cases of identity theft can happen in a month with such massive quantities of consumer information up for grabs on the Dark Web. Also, three executives with the company sold stock shares worth millions of dollars after the breach was discovered. This is, of course, sending up a lot of red flags in the media and among affected consumers, especially since the credit bureau was fined earlier in 2017 for deceptive practices.
What Equifax is Offering the 143 Million Affected U.S. Consumers
Equifax is working with authorities to resolve the giant security breach, but that doesn’t undo the damage already done. Social Security numbers and other sensitive details belonging to half of the consumers in the country is now vulnerable to identity thieves. In a move to ease consumer anxiety, Equifax has offered two services to consumers.
First, U.S. residents can follow this link to a page that shows whether or not their data is at risk. Next, consumers can sign up for a year of free credit monitoring. This service, known as TrustedID Premier, normally costs $27.95 a month. It gives consumers access to credit reports and credit scores, and allows them to implement and cancel credit freezes. If interested, you can enroll here.
Many consumers have already complained online about trouble they experienced with the Equifax links. Apparently, both the “check potential impact” website and free credit monitoring enrollment page are difficult to navigate. Also, a lot of consumers don’t want to sign on for an initially free service that they might eventually have to pay for if they forget to cancel.
The Equifax TrustedID Premier Arbitration Agreement
Finally, when consumers enroll in the TrustedID Premier, they must sign an arbitration agreement. By agreeing to the terms of this arbitration clause, you waive your right to privately sue Equifax over any dispute with the credit bureau. You also forfeit the option to join a class action lawsuit against Equifax. Instead, all dispute must go through arbitration, and this process seldom favors the consumers.
However, because Equifax received so much criticism for forcing consumers to sign an arbitration agreement, they have now added the option to opt out of the arbitration agreement. So, if you sign up for the free one-year credit monitoring offer through Equifax, you have thirty days from the date of sign-up to send a written opt-out request to the credit bureau. By doing this, you’ll leave your options open.
How Consumers Should Handle Identity Theft Resulting from the Equifax Data Breach
If they haven’t done so already, all U.S. consumers should check their credit reports. Not just from Equifax, but from Experian and TransUnion as well. Just go to www.annualcreditreport.com to request copies of your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus.
Once you have access to your credit reports, look for charges or accounts that you don’t recognize. If you see anything that looks suspicious, file a police report, then call Credit Repair Lawyers of America. Our team of experienced credit attorneys will handle the entire dispute and credit repair process from start to finish. If necessary, we’ll even file lawsuits on your behalf, and all of this is absolutely FREE to consumers.
How to Fix Your Credit after Identity Theft
If the Equifax data breach causes you to be a victim of identity theft, there’s a way to get your credit reports cleaned up at no charge to you. How? Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the defendants in successful actions are required to cover our costs and fees. So, our clients pay nothing. At Credit Repair Lawyers of America, we’ve been protecting the rights of consumers since 2008, for free, and we’ll be happy to defend you next.