Well, now my credit is all frozen.
It’s not as much fun as the Disney version, which at least had some catchy tunes.
Like everyone else in America who has used a credit card, gotten a mortgage, taken out a loan of any kind, or participated in the modern economy in the last half century in any way that is more sophisticated than bartering goats for services, I have a credit report with Equifax. I did not ask for one. They collected this information from me without my consent, and they feel they have the right to charge me to see it. And if it weren’t for the fact that any screw up on their part will likely cause me headaches for the rest of my life I probably would have been happy to see that they were hacked by evildoers unknown.
But I don’t need the headaches. I have them now, but I don’t need them. And I am not happy.
Yes, folks, one of the companies charged with safeguarding the most sensitive information of American consumers was sloppy enough to let hackers have access to it for months, and then corrupt and/or clueless enough to allow top executives to sell off stock before they publicized the news to the rest of us. But sure, let’s cut regulations on business, because they’re such good citizens and always do the responsible things, right? The delusions of people who think such things are just stupefying to behold.
Equifax did set up a website to let you see if your information was compromised – a website that asked you for precisely the data that was stolen, in case the hackers needed it again, and then returned random results, and as such there are serious questions right now as to whether this was an actual effort to help consumers or a barely-hidden ploy to sign people up for services which can generate income for Equifax starting precisely 366 days after people sign up for them.
So after reading up on such things, it seems that the consensus among people with Actual Clues was that everyone affected (which, really, means everyone, since it’s pretty clear that Equifax has no idea who was affected) should put credit freezes on their accounts. These will prevent new accounts from being opened in your name, which cuts down on the fraud considerably. Not entirely, since old accounts can still be hacked, but considerably.
Also, invest in goats.
Now, we’re used to this. Kim’s credit has been frozen for more than a decade thanks to the wonderful folks at a mobile phone company whose name I refuse to utter, who as a result of what I strongly suspect was an inside job once sent us a bill for about the cost of a year’s tuition at the campus where I currently work, for an account that we did not open and whose billing address was a vacant lot. It was the only account compromised. We’ve gone through the ID fraud thing several times since then, and most of the time that phone company is involved somehow. That’s a pretty dismal record for a company whose services we used for a grand total of three weeks before canceling the contract because we got no service.
So I spent today getting signed up for credit freezes.
My first visit was to Equifax, and it was exactly as screwed up as you would think it would be. You walk through the website and answer all kinds of questions (“What was your allowance between the ages of 7 and 12? Give a weighted average”) and eventually you get to the end. At that point the website takes you to a new page and says that you have to download the pdf document by clicking on the link below.
Except there is no link below.
And when you try to call to ask about this – because there is no way to contact them online for customer service that I could find (I was lucky to find the phone number, which was hidden in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the Leopard,” along with some fascinating plans for a bypass) – you get shunted between three different voicemail labyrinths before a) running into a busy signal, b) getting a message that this number is not in use, c) being randomly hung up on after more than two dozen rings, or d) all of the above, in sequence. Eventually I got through to someone who was able to confirm that yes, indeed, somewhere in there I had actually managed to procure a freeze and had a working PIN.
Apparently those are subject to hacking too, but let’s just get through the first crisis, shall we?
Experian, Trans-Union, and Innovis were easier, though two of the three charged me money for the privilege of directing them on how I wish my own personal information collected without my consent should be used.
How does one get into this racket?
So now I am frozen. It’s a gold-plated nuisance trying to get anything done this way – we very nearly weren’t able to buy a car a few years ago because the process of temporarily unfreezing things is not as easy or trouble-free as they say it is – but so be it. If it causes the hackers to have half the trouble getting to my information that I will have, then I will be twice as inconvenienced as they.