Remember that huge Equifax hack? Well, there’s an important deadline this week for victims (that’s virtually everyone). The firm’s offer of free credit monitoring, etc., expires on Jan. 31. The service Equifax is offering is actually called TrustedID Premier, and while it’s not going to solve all your ID theft problems, it’s not a bad thing to have. And it’s free to all US consumers with an SSN. So make sure you’ve enrolled by Wednesday. (Do that here.) And Equifax’s offer to wave fees to freeze your credit report also expires Jan. 31 , so you should get on that, too. (Do that here.)
(UPDATE 1/31/18: Equifax just extended the deadline to June 30. Still, you should freeze your report while you’re thinking about it)
While you have Equifax on the brain, you should think about firing Equifax, too — or rather, getting your employer to do so. How? Personal finance writer and friend Ron Lieber has really detailed instructions over at The New York Times.
Regular readers know I’ve written a lot about The Work Number, which is one of those databases you’ve never heard about that contains the most intimate details of your life…for sale to just about anyone. The Work Number is worse than most, however. In short, it basically contains paystub-level data from your employer dating back years, if not decades. Equifax collects the information from human resources departments around the country and sells it to interested parties, such as debt collectors and portfolio managers.
I know many of you can’t imagine this is true, because collecting and selling paystub level information seems far more egregious than your garden variety privacy invasion. But it’s true. I first wrote about The Work Number four years ago. It’s been in the news a lot lately. I have an updated piece here.
For The Work Number to work, Equifax has to find willing partners in corporate HR offices. They do, because the companies can offload menial (but potentially litigious) tasks like employment verification requests to Equifax. Is that benefit enough to “sell” your employees down the river?
The New York Times no longer thinks so. Seeking to give consumers an authentic “I’ll try it so you don’t have to” experience, Ron walked into his HR department recently, confirmed it was playing along with The Work Number, and then asked them to stop. They did. After just a little persuasion by Ron, the Times gave Equifax a 90-day notice of termination.
You can do this too. And you should. It’ll feel good. He lays out how to make the case in his piece; some of my advice is included:
(Sullivan) suggested making two points in particular. The primary one is the basic security argument about Equifax. “They can’t be trusted with data, and they’ve proven that over and over again,” said Mr. Sullivan, who is also the author of “Gotcha Capitalism.”
There is also the matter of internal communications, given that most employees (including me, until recently) have no idea whom their employers are working with. “If all employees understood that every single pay stub was going to Equifax every week, there would be a mini-revolt,” he said.
Of course, all of you know that you can’t rid your life of Equifax — doing so would actually be a case of biting off your nose to spite your face. It’s a credit-driven world, and we all have to coexist with these companies, at least for now. So I do think it’s wise, as you are firing Equifax on the one hand, to take the firm up on its TrustedID Premier offer on the other hand. Critically, you can use it to “lock’ your credit reports for free. What’s a lock? We’re still not quite sure, but as described by Equifax, it’s very similar to a credit freeze.
The good news is you don’t need a credit card to sign up, so hopefully there will be no big upsell at the end of your free one year of service.
“It doesn’t hurt to sign up for these services. However, you should know they are limited and, at best, only alert you to identity theft after it has occurred,” said the Public Interest Research Group in a press release reminding consumers about the Jan. 31 deadline. “Therefore, we also recommend you freeze your credit reports with all three national credit bureaus.”
How do you get a credit freeze at the other two bureaus? Use this link provided by PIRG to review state laws.