I almost decided to give out my Social Security number here. You might as well have it. Everyone else does.
The security breach that Equifax was kind enough to acknowledge — many months after it was discovered — put my junk out there, along with that of 143 million other trusting saps. Even if you have never used Equifax — and I have — security experts say it probably has your 411 anyway. And Equifax was not the worst breach ever.
Too many companies we trust with our personal data seem like butter-fingered Keebler elves on a sugar high. Why do we have confidence in them?
It didn’t bother me much when Target coughed up 110 million customers, because I wasn’t one of them. Same with Yahoo, 500 million. FriendFinder lost 412 million, and I’m not saying whether I was one of them. You probably know anyway.
Hey, your personal information probably is sitting in a file on the dark web, which is like the regular web except with more liars and less porn.
Anyway, with the Equifax news spreading like flying ants, I got stampeded into taking protective action as suggested by security experts.
One recommendation: Check your reports from the three credit-reporting services — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. That combo sounds like a ’60s rock group, and I’ll return to them in a minute.
First, I took the advice of Bob Sullivan, who runs a consumer protection website, and went to set up fraud alerts for my credit cards, one Visa and one Mastercard. You probably know that.
Visa said the safest thing was to get a new credit card. Cool. A few minutes after I hung up, I was notified that they canceled my current card. Not cool, because it is linked to a couple of automatic monthly payments.
I wish I could remember which ones. My mortgage? My cellphone bill? My mindfulness therapist? I’ll find out soon enough.
Mastercard was much better. They said I already had a fraud alert. So, yeah, I am not a trusting soul. Are you?
Equifax set up an online registry for customers that promises free credit monitoring for a year, but Sullivan said to avoid that for a while.
Sullivan also suggested I go to AnnualCreditReport.com, which allows you to check the three credit-reporting services, which are required to provide one free credit report each year.
I went to the website, which requires you to fill out a lot of information for each of the three sites. I did it, but Equifax wouldn’t produce the report. It said I could do it by mail by providing my Social Security card, a pay stub with the SS number showing, a W-2 form, a rental lease agreement, or a home deed — I am not making this stuff up — plus a pay stub with address, a utility form with address, and a copy of my dental bite. (OK, I made up that last one.)
TransUnion also glitched, but I succeeded with Experian.
I look forward to receiving my new Visa card in the mail. I hope it is not intercepted by the dark-web Stu Bykofsky, who has stolen my identity and I hear is having more fun with it than I.