“This breach affects millions of Americans including thousands of South Dakotans. Consumers, who are at absolutely no fault in this situation, should not have to pay anyone especially Equifax to either monitor or to freeze their credit,” said Jackley.
…The attorneys general also said that, although Equifax has agreed to waive credit freeze fees for those who would otherwise be subject to them, the other two credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion, continue to charge fees for security freezes. The attorneys general said that Equifax should be taking steps to reimburse consumers who incur these fees to completely freeze their credit [South Dakota Attorney General’s Office, press release, 2017.09.18].
A.G. Jackley isn’t explicitly advocating any government action or even hinting that he might bring legal action to protect South Dakotans. His Monday press release speaks of making a “request” by letter and having “communications” with Equifax about terms of service (“Equifax was responsive to these concerns,” says A.G. Jackley without elaborating). But at least the Attorney General is offering moral support to the idea that moral responsibility should come before profits. (Hey, Marty! How about going Red and advocating that we just nationalize the credit reporting industry?)
Related: We’re now hearing that the same hackers who grabbed our data were breaching Equifax’s systems back in March, five months before the date Equifax has previously cited as when it detected the intrusions.
Music majors, I love you, but there’s a time and a place for everyone.
Equifax is letting us freeze our credit for free for a while; the other credit agencies are still charging South Dakotans $10 for the privilege of shutting off our access to new loans, leases, and credit cards… and it will cost us another $10 each time we want to lift the freeze to access new credit and another $10 if we want to permanently remove the freeze.
But freezing our credit won’t address all the new risks Equifax’s sloppiness has imposed on us:
If you don’t take action to protect yourself, hackers could eventually sell your data to other criminals who could then use it to take out loans in your name, get credit cards, perpetuate tax fraud, access your medical benefits and countless other illegal activities [Nathan Bomey et al., “Equifax Data Breach: What You Need to Know About Hacking Crisis,” USA Today, 2017.09.15].
It’s as if we all stored copies of our car keys at the bank downtown, and the bank left its doors open for over two months, letting bad guys riffle through the key drawers and make copies of nearly half the keys in town. And now we’re being told to freeze our locks and pay $10 to the same morons who got us into this mess every time we want to get into our cars.
We need new keys. To that end, I propose the following solutions:
Liquidate Equifax. They had one job—share personal data only for authorized financial purposes—and they blew it.
Transfer whatever money we can get from Equifax’s assets (including clawbacks of executives’ shadily timed stock sales) to a special account in the United States Treasury to fund remedial measures.
Adopt the Apple approach: require Face ID to open any new line of credit, file a tax return, or access medical benefits or records. Somewhere in Joe’s credit application process, there must be some certified third party—banker, county auditor, police officer—who looks the applicant in the eye and says, “Yup, that’s Joe.”
Alternatively or more broadly, use two-factor authentication for everything credit-related, employing at least one data point not involved in the Equifax hack.
Until appropriate remedies have been fully implemented, declare credit scores unreliable and freeze their release and use for any purpose.
There’s also cash-only self-sufficiency: we could all shred our credit cards and barter tomatoes and chickens from our backyards, but no one wants to spark another economic collapse… except maybe those clever hackers who could be working for certain foreign powers who might find an undermining of Western institutions and resulting global instability playing to their advantage.
That 31-state agreement appears not to have included South Dakota. A.G. Marty Jackley’s failure to participate in this pro-consumer push won’t keep us from enjoying the six-month grace period to wrestle payments from our insurers, but we do miss out on a share of the six-million-dollar settlement that the participating states secured.
Watertown mayor-elect Sarah Caron takes her new post Monday and is promising city staff a “clean slate“:
Caron said she doesn’t plan to make any staff changes at City Hall.
“I know there have been some rumors that I am going to come in and clean house,” she said, “but that’s not true. Everybody will start with a clean slate. My expectations will be communicated clearly, and everybody will be expected to meet them. I want everybody to feel comfortable telling me what their concerns are” [Roger Whittle, “Mayor-Elect Sarah Caron to Take over Reins Starting Monday,” Watertown Public Opinion, 2017.06.27].
The man she beat, outgoing mayor Steve Thorson, will get a cleaner slate, of sorts. As reported first and only on this blog last week, Thorson has two federal tax liens against him for almost $83,000 owed to the IRS for the 2006–2008 tax years. In addition, in 2011, the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, of the U.S. District Court granted Ace Hardware a civil judgment of $302,944.01 for Thorson’s failure (or, technically, the failure of his corporate shell SC Thorson Inc.) to pay for merchandise and services received under his contract to run an Ace Hardware store in Watertown between 2006 and 2010 and to satisfy guarantees made personally by Thorson and his wife Christine.
My check of the case documents on PACER indicates that Thorson never formally contested Ace’s complaint, and Judge Ronald A. Guzman granted Ace’s motion for default judgment on January 20, 2011.
More identifying information: New judgments and liens won’t go on credit reports unless they have a Social Security number or birthdate to go with the consumer’s name and address. Frequent updates: The bureaus will check for updates or new records at least once every 90 days.
Scrubbing old data: The bureaus will begin to remove previous entries that don’t meet the new standards.
The changes could affect about half of tax liens and almost all civil judgments now on reports, according to the Consumer Data Industry Association, a trade group representing the three major U.S. credit bureaus [Bev O’Shea, “Will Your Score Soar with Credit Report Changes?” Atlanta Journal Constitution, 2017.06.28].
Consumers can thank the CFPB, though anyone who wishes to do so might want to hurry because the agency is not a favorite of the new president.
…Before going, however, the CFPB did send a message to the three major credit bureaus for mistreating consumers. The CFPB has documented more than 186,000 consumer complaints about credit reporting and credit scores since July 2011, the most of any subject they handled.
Most of the griping was because of the nonchalant attitude credit bureaus had about mistakes on credit reports. Consumers felt like the bureaus didn’t take them seriously, even if they presented overwhelming proof that the information on reports was inaccurate.
The CFPB, which has been hounding the credit reporting industry for nearly six years on the subject, said things are improving.
“Because of our work, important improvements are being made,” CFPB Director Richard Cordray said in a statement. “Much more work needs to be done, but our corrective actions are leading to positive changes that are benefiting consumers all over the country” [Bill Fay, “CFPB’s Deal with Credit Bureaus Could Raise 12 Million Scores,” Debt.org, 2017.04.04].
Steve Thorson, you need to think about your choice of political friends. Not only did you throw in with a PAC whose partisan caterwauling appears to have been counterproductive in your campaign, but your out-of-town pals are also trying to undermine the federal agency that may well be helping you clean up your credit report just as you reënter the private sector and maybe go looking for a loan to start a new business.