Don’t Sign Up For The Equifax Offer For Credit Monitoring If Your Information Was Taken

Equifax is trying to get victims to agree to an arbitration clause.

Equifax is trying to get victims to agree to an arbitration clause.

Equifax Tricks Victims To Avoid Lawsuits

One of the nation’s top three major consumer credit reporting agencies announced on Thursday, September 7, that a massive breach of customers’ personal information had occurred.

Now the company is offering free credit monitoring services to people affected, but their offer appears to be a sneaky way to get people to surrender their rights.

Equifax said that hackers had gained access to 143 million Americans’  accounts, including their Social Security and driver’s license numbers, according to The New York Times.  The attack on the Atlanta-based company is one of the largest attacks in years, and “is the third major cybersecurity threat to the company since 2015.”

Pamela Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit research group, said “This is about as bad as it gets. If you have a credit report, chances are you may be in this breach.  The chances are much better than 50 percent.”

The hackers gained access ‘to certain files in the company’s system’ by exploiting a weak point in website software. The compromised information was accessed from mid-May to July.  An investigation by Equifax and security consultants discovered the attack on July 29.  No illegal activity has been found on the site since that date.

The attackers were also able to obtain consumers’ names, birth dates, and addresses.  The company said credit card numbers for 209,000 customers were stolen, and documents that contained personal information used in disputes were stolen from 182,000 customers.

The FBI said that it was aware of the cyberattack and was “tracking the situation.”

Cybersecurity officials immediately criticized Equifax for not improving its security practices after major attacks in in 2016 and early 2017.

What’s even more damaging is the fact that three Equifax senior executives sold almost $1.8 million in shares within days after the breach was discovered.  The sales were not reported in advance.

Equifax is responsible for data for more than 820 million consumers, and more than 91 million businesses nationwide. They also offer a service for account recovery, and manages a database with employee information from more than 7,100 employees.

The company said that they have reported the breach to law enforcement, and have also hired cybersecurity experts to determine the extent of the breach.

Equifax chairman and chief executive Richard F. Smith said “This is clearly a disappointing event for our company, and one that strikes at the heart of who we are and what we do.”  He said “Confronting cybersecurity risks is a daily fight.”

The company has established a website, Equifax Security 2017, to help consumers determine if their information was compromised, and offer them credit monitoring if it was.

However, in order to sign up for credit monitoring you need to agree to an arbitration clause which states that you are giving up your right to sue the company for the incident, and blocks you from joining a class-action lawsuit.

The language is laid out in the terms of service:

AGREEMENT TO RESOLVE ALL DISPUTES BY BINDING INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION. PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE SECTION CAREFULLY BECAUSE IT AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS BY REQUIRING ARBITRATION OF DISPUTES (EXCEPT AS SET FORTH BELOW) AND A WAIVER OF THE ABILITY TO BRING OR PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION, CLASS ARBITRATION, OR OTHER REPRESENTATIVE ACTION. ARBITRATION PROVIDES A QUICK AND COST EFFECTIVE MECHANISM FOR RESOLVING DISPUTES, BUT YOU SHOULD BE AWARE THAT IT ALSO LIMITS YOUR RIGHTS TO DISCOVERY AND APPEAL.

Rather than an actual offer of assistance, the company’s offer appears to be more like a trick to prevent people from suing them.

If you sign up for the Equifax offer of credit monitoring, just be aware that you will be giving up your rights.