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The Equifax breach affecting over 140 million Americans appears to be the largest of its kind and is beyond troubling. The types of stolen information, including social security numbers and dates of birth, can be used to commit new account identity theft against all of these people. Additionally, stolen credit cards affecting over 200,000 people in this breach can also be used to commit existing account identity theft.
Equifax should alert all affected people to the benefits of credit freezes and offer them to all Americans for free of charge with all three major national credit bureaus. For people who don’t want credit freezes, Equifax should offer free credit monitoring for an unlimited amount of time.
Due to huge marketing pushes by credit monitoring services that only alert consumers to fraud after the fact, most Americans are not aware that they can actually prevent id thieves from opening new credit accounts in their names in the first place by placing freezes on their credit accounts at all three national credit bureaus. Credit freezes help prevent new account identity theft because they keep potential creditors from seeing consumer credit history, without which new accounts are typically not opened.
When a credit bureau such as Equifax loses data, it is much more troubling than when a merchant is hacked. When a credit bureau tasked with acting as a gatekeeper to financial and employment success loses the keys to identity theft, that's very scary. How does one of the three major national credits bureaus lose this data? When did they discover this? And how are they going to respond?
The firm should be held fully accountable by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
More information about placing credit freezes is available at http://uspirg.org/reports/usf/why-you-should-get-security-freezes-your-information-stolen
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