After the oldest American credit reporting agency, Equifax, revealed that a data breach affected over 143 million adults in the United States, it is clear we all need to be vigilant when protecting our personal information. Based on the press release from Equifax, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017. Even if someone is not active on the internet or email, this incident proves that there is considerable risk for those who have simply opened a credit card account or applied for a mortgage. Data points that were released include names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and driver’s license numbers.
In response to the data breach, Equifax immediately responded by offering complimentary access (for one year) to their credit monitoring service called “TrustedID Premier”. Initially, those who signed up for the free service had seemingly waived their legal rights to participate in future legal action. (such as a class action) The language read as follows:
“AGREEMENT TO RESOLVE ALL DISPUTES BY BINDING INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION. PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE SECTION CAREFULLY BECAUSE IT AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS BY REQUIRING ARBITRATION OF DISPUTES (EXCEPT AS SET FORTH BELOW) AND A WAIVER OF THE ABILITY TO BRING OR PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION, CLASS ARBITRATION, OR OTHER REPRESENTATIVE ACTION. ARBITRATION PROVIDES A QUICK AND COST-EFFECTIVE MECHANISM FOR RESOLVING DISPUTES, BUT YOU SHOULD BE AWARE THAT IT ALSO LIMITS YOUR RIGHTS TO DISCOVERY AND APPEAL.”
Based on this language, it is unfortunate that Equifax chose to embed this language in their terms and conditions without making this clear to consumers. More than likely, those who immediately signed up for the service may not have realized that they potentially gave up any right to participate in a class action or seek legal action against Equifax.
Since then, Equifax has removed the language from the terms and conditions and has issued this statement.
Nationally syndicated radio host Clark Howard offers this the following suggestion. “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.”
Ultimately, there is only one action that will protect us. Freezing your credit file (to restrict access to your credit file) with all three bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. For detailed instructions on how to do so, please see this guide created by Clark Howard’s team. [Clark’s step-by-step guide]
For a personal account as an identity theft victim, please visit this link.
We at Apriem Advisors want you to know that the Equifax incident is not related in any way to your accounts at Charles Schwab and Co.
If you would like to speak about this topic in further detail, we would be happy to talk with you. Or, if you prefer, please contact your Wealth Manager at 949-253-8888.