The security breach at Equifax that affected as many as 143 million Americans is a blunder that I always expected. As soon as I heard, I went to the Equifax site to see if I was a victim and low and behold I am also one of the 143 million affected. I filled out the information to put a freeze on my account but once I finished and pushed the button I got a message it didn’t go through, I will have to do it again. I suggest you put a freeze on all three credit-reporting companies if you're a victim of this hack.
When I retired from the NYPD, I went to work for a major bank and ran a fraud investigation unit and was enlightened on how easy it was to commit financial fraud. While I was still a detective, I became interested in this issue and arrested scores of fraudsters. One major thing I learned is that nobody cares about your financial information. All of my victims were all eventually paid back for their losses, but their financial information was out there somewhere to be utilized again. Some banks tried to deny some fraud claims of my victims, and I had to call them up and threaten to go to federal regulators if they didn’t pay them back because my investigation revealed that my victims did not commit the fraud. Let us remember that Experian was hacked back in 2015 where 15 million T-Mobile customers information was compromised, did they learn anything?
What many people don’t understand is that once your information is out there, it can be used over and over again for years to come. You can be a victim today, take care of the problem and your information can lay dormant for 5-10 years and be used again. A breach such as Equifax will see its effects for years to come, and the only way to protect yourself against it is to put a hold on all the credit bureaus so fraudsters can’t open new credit lines under your name. Equifax should pay for free credit monitoring for years to come not just one year.
It has been reported that hackers accessed SSN, DOBs, addresses and credit card numbers and driver’s license numbers. There is not much you can do regarding your SSN, DOB, and address and DL number, they're almost impossible to replace unless you move to another state and get a different DL. However, you can call your credit card company and have a new credit card issued to you with a new number. The question is though will they replace it, most likely no unless there was fraud on it. This hack affected 143 million, so that means there is that many credit card numbers out there for hackers to utilize. Do you think if everyone called to have their cards replaced that the banks will be happy to do so? We’re talking probably over 143 million cards, and most people have more than one. The banks will ask who will pick up that tab? Experian should! Will it happen, we will have to see, but it’s highly unlikely.
More and more we see these hacks occurring, and Equifax joins, Yahoo, Target, Myspace, and LinkedIn as victims of major hacks. One of these companies need to be made an example of so that other companies will do what is required to guard your financial information properly.
The question is can these hacks be prevented? I believe they can, however, are these companies willing to put the money into the technology available to prevent it. This is a very, very expensive endeavor but these companies have the revenue to cover it, the question is do they want to!
Harry Houck is a CNN law enforcement analyst, retired NYPD Detective First Grade, and USMC veteran. Follow him on Twitter, @HarryJHouck, or Facebook. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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