Equifax, one of the three main credit reporting companies, has faced widespread criticism over its response to a massive data breach that has exposed millions of Americans’ personal information.
The Atlanta-based company announced last week that a cybersecurity incident has potentially impacted 143 million U.S. consumers. Criminals gained access to sensitive data, including Social Security numbers, between May and July. Equifax said it discovered the hack on July 29 but waited more than a month to publicly announce it.
When Equifax came forward with the news last Thursday, it set up a website, equifaxsecurity2017.com, to help consumers find out if their data may have been compromised.
That same website offers users a year of free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection with TrustedID Premier, an Equifax product. At first, the terms and conditions included arbitration language that indicated anyone who enrolled would give up their right to sue the company. Facing pressure from both politicians and consumer groups, Equifax clarified late Friday that the arbitration clause wouldn’t apply to the data breach.
There was yet another update to Equifax’s data breach website early Monday morning:
Clark: Do not sign up for Equifax’s free credit monitoring
Money expert Clark Howard’s advice remains the same: Don’t enroll in TrustedID Premier.
This data breach is so severe that the criminals will be able to use the information they’ve obtained next year, five years from now and beyond, so one year of protection isn’t enough.
“My advice is don’t go to Equifax’s website. Assume you are affected and act accordingly,” Clark said.
Clark says there are two things you should do to protect your identity:
- Sign up for Credit Karma’s free credit monitoring to receive alerts if anything suspicious shows up on your TransUnion credit report
- Freeze your credit with all three main credit bureaus to restrict access to your credit report and keep the criminals out
Clark said a credit freeze is the only answer in this case. I completed the process on Friday in about 15 minutes using Clark’s step-by-step guide.