When it rains, it pours. I learned today not only that Irma was projected to sweep over me next week as a tropical storm, but also that millions of “customers” of Equifax had their personal information, which might include names, addresses, social security numbers, and drivers license numbers compromised by a hack or flaw of Equifax data bases.
Naturally, I’m not happy.
First, I’m not a customer of Equifax, although their web site says my personal information may be included in the breach.
No, I’m not a customer. Creditors, insurance companies, lenders, credit card issuers, leaseprs, have colluded with Equifax and the other national credit monitoring services to collect, without my permission, information about me and my finances. That information is then offered for sale to anyone who wants to buy it. Usually, that’s limited to insurance companies, banks, and other lenders.
I’ve never needed a credit report or a credit rating. I’ve used the same bank for some 35 years… three home loans, checking account, two credit cards. When I recently asked for an auto loan, my bank had all the information it needed to make that decision—and give me a loan with a 0.01% APR. Yeah, I’m a good guy.
So why do I need Equifax? I don’t. They, and others including Experian and Trans-Union, need me and they need information about me. Information they don’t have any right to have
That’s right. They don’t have any right to that information, and we as consumers should demand that they do not collect or store that information. Not that it would do any good for us to do so.
I don’t believe that the Revelation of St. John the Devine is truth… it’s an apocryphal and a little frightening myth… but the idea of the “Mark of the Beast” offers a lesson. What might be that mark? A tattoo of “666” on our foreheads? A death camp number tattooed on our arm by Nazis, the models for today’s right-wing haters? IMHO, we are already bearing that mark, and it exists on the internet in the form of records of our every moment, records that will outlive us perhaps until the end of civilization.
How many of us have been compromised? Depends on whom to which you listen. More important, what is the source of that compromise?
One report says 143 million records. On the other hand, most of that information has already been made public (although for a fee) by people who offer such. There are many more examples of information about us, collected, and then turned into a profit-making opportunity by modern vultures.
It’s safe to say that we all have been compromised not only by the Experian experience, but also by hacks that have penetrated other credit reporting agencies as well as a hack that exposed something over 200 million records collected by a contractor of the Republican party. Yeah, remember that? Or has it slipped from contemporary memory (yours, to be sure) by time and more “important” things?
The wonderful thing about this is that Professor Pangloss is reveling in his pleasure. You do remember him, don’t you? If not, consider reading “Candide.” If you haven’t, and still have access to Amazon, consider buying a copy.
I understand that Equifax is offering “free credit monitoring.” What does that mean? Not a damn thing. What, then, can you do?
Freeze your credit. Contact Experian and others and demand they freeze your credit.
Very important: Change your passwords for all money accounts (bank credit cards, autopays, and similar). Use different passwords for each account.
Do not link credit cards to your phone. “Auto pay,” and “touch pay” and other fancy things are cool and they are convenient, but they are also traps. If you can’t pay by cash or use a credit card, don’t plan to pay.
Do not use debit cards. If a credit card is compromised, you have legal protection. If a debit card is compromised, you have no protection. That’s right: someone cannot only empty your bank account, they can also overdraw your account, and you have absolutely no legal protection. If you have a debit card, lock it up (better, shred it).
Keep your car’s gas tank at least half full all the time… it’s smart whether there is a storm or not.
Make a “bug-out bag” with clothes, bottled water, certified copies of important papers, and a list of meds and other things including DME (durable medical equipment), diapers and other things you will need.
Believe it! Listen to your government…
The GA Goobernor ‘s pronouncement will certainly benefit hotel and motels, restaurants, and others. There’s always that underlying concern. But for the most part, they’re going to be overly-concerned for your safety. Listen to them.
In the end, it’s better to react (which is happening) than to plan. It is better to react than to over-react.
Our Georgia Goobenor has invited us to pray to the imaginary friend he pretends (or truly) to believe in. What does he expect the result to be? His god is going to save us from a storm his god caused? Is there any better definition of irony?
For a longer exposition, please see “Holy Fire,” my novel that can be ordered from Amason.com from the home page of this web site.
Registered Curmudgeon, scientist, skeptic, humanist, and writer.