When news of the Equifax hack first broke, the credit ratings giant scrambled to minimize fallout from this massive personal information breach. After an initial embarrassing misstep (they tried to have affected consumers sign off on Equifax’s liability), the company moved to ameliorate the hack by offering free ID protection to consumers.
Washington homeowners and potential home buyers had reason to do more than shake their heads at yet another electronic pratfall. In one way or another, most Washington real estate transactions involve creditworthiness appraisals that are managed by the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax is one). That means that among the 143 million consumers it admits could be “potentially impacted” are certainly a lot of current and future Washington home buyers. The stolen information includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses—and for hundreds of thousands, credit card numbers. Even some District Of Columbia driver license data figured in the Equifax hack.
Given the obvious potential for identity theft, the company’s Chairman went online to make an unprecedented offer: his firm will furnish a comprehensive package of credit file monitoring and identity theft protection to everyone. Literally.
To every consumer in the United States. For a year. For free.
With few exceptions, it was left to us to take the initiative to take them up on the offer. That factor might shrink the size of the undertaking, but even so, delivering on this scale was unlikely to be accomplished without a few hitches.
Hitch #1: when this many millions of people try to check in on any site, no system can handle it all at once. So contacting this Equifax Trusted ID Premier link results in varying lengths of delay before enrollment can be confirmed.
Hitch #2: because it is now obvious that sophisticated thieves are active in the credit reporting industry, it will be doubly necessary for Equifax to make certain that you are who you say you are. That makes multiple email confirmation back-and-forths unavoidable.
It’s a cinch that Washington residents who decide to sign up for the free protection should also be extra vigilant in monitoring their financial transactions. An additional step is also possible: you can contact any one of the three credit agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian) to request that they place a 90-day “fraud alert” on your file. It’s free, and whichever agency you contact is required to notify the other two. Fraud alerts obligate any lender to contact you before they issue credit in your name. You can renew the alert as many times as you wish—and cancel at any point.
Your credit score is a vital ingredient when it’s time to look for favorable home loan offers, so even before the Equifax hack, it’s always been well worth protecting. Give me a call when questions about this or other Washington real estate matters come up: I’ll be minding the phone!