A Nightmare to Remember
On April 14, 1912, Edward J. Smith and Thomas Andrews died on the same evening in the frigid waters off of Newfoundland when the RMS Titanic collided with an iceberg which ripped an opening over a square meter along the side of her unsinkable, metallic rind.
Captain Smith had last been seen on the bridge just minutes before the ship swung impossibly vertical and plunged into the abyss. The vessel’s architect, Thomas Andrews, also perished at likely the same moments, pulled by the suck of the sinking liner into frozen waters.
But that’s old school leadership. You save as many as you can. You go down with the ship you’ve commanded.
In today’s post-modern Wall Street, the currents are not so clear.
Had the leadership of Equifax, in this case another Smith named Richard, been handling the Titanic, I imagine the passengers might have seen the managers skimming away on their own lifeboat after the first grinding bump. In truth, they’d also have made sure to cut a nice opening in all the remaining life-craft before leaving.
Before reporting the breach in cyber-security, the management of Equifax sold off nearly $2 million in stock, avoiding a precipitous drop in value after announcing the loss of sensitive information – social security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers, account numbers – for nearly 150 million Americans. In Today’s Tribune, States Attorney Lisa Madigan estimates that 5.3 million Illinoisans may have been compromised.
According to the latest census counts, just over 9 million people are over 18 years of age with access to credit cards and bank accounts. That makes it a coin toss if you or I have been compromised or not. And the little guy, Junior, the child who has a social security number? There might be two or three or four of those identities by the time he reaches 18.
“Equifax, a major consumer credit reporting agency, disclosed Thursday that hackers had obtained sensitive information, including Social Security numbers and dates of birth, for 143 million people. The breach began in May and was discovered by the company on July 29. Shortly afterward, three company executives — Chief Financial Officer John W. Gamble; Joseph M. Loughran III, the president of U.S. information solutions; and Rodolfo O. Ploder, the president of workforce solutions — sold large amounts of their shares of Equifax stock.
“Gamble sold nearly $1 million worth of stock on Aug. 1; Loughran disposed of about $700,000. The next day, Ploder sold stock worth $250,000, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The sales were not part of a pre-scheduled transaction, according to the filings.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2017/09/08/outrage-builds-after-equifax-executives-banked-2-million-in-stock-sales-following-data-breach/?utm_term=.83adf46ef0bb)
I tried to get through to Equifax and Transunion yesterday and today. I was going to place a fraud alert on my accounts and ask that the credit reporting company – whichever one I got through to – would inform the other two companies to follow. As one might imagine, wait times are extreme given the crisis created by Equifax. I say that because Equifax was cyber undermined in May of 2017, recognized what was happening in July of 2017, and publicly announced their perilous inside infection by criminals in September of 2017. Iceberg? What iceberg?
When I finally get through to Equifax, I listened to an aspartame-sweetened voice proposing that I answer a series of personal questions for them, so that they may be able to tailor my fraud alert or credit freeze to my and their personal satisfaction. What? After you have already lost all of my personal financial information to some outfit in Queens or Vladivostok? Forget you. I hang up.
My financial advisor warns me not to get too concerned. “Just monitor your credit card and accounts each day and you should be all right.”
But what if a year from now, there’s another me working in Muncie, Indiana, using my social security and not paying any taxes? Or even a kidney patient in Madison, Wisconsin, who is co-mingling his bodily fluid(s) information with mine, so that when I need that hip transplant, the surgeons start by using the wrong blood type?
“You’re over-reacting,” reminds my advisor, “you always do.”
Sometimes I curse my friend Glen for getting me started down this path. He put out a blog post with advice about what to do, but he didn’t warn me about the corporate cabal that was behind the attempt to destroy me personally. He gave me a false sense of hope that by returning to the very creatures that perpetrated this crime, I’d find some solace. Wrong!
So, I decide to jump the lower protection fences of fraud alerts and go directly to “CREDIT FREEZE!” I think to myself that we have no need to take out credit. The cars still function and will for four or more years. The house payments are not an issue and we do not plan on buying property. We need a new credit card like we need a popsugar island adventure for twenty-something’s.
Credit freezes cost between $10 and $30 to initiate. You’ll have to do one for each of the three major credit-monitoring companies – Equifax, Experian, Trans-Union. Once done, you (and the bad guys) cannot open new lines of credit given all your information (social security, date of birth, account numbers, even a note from your deceased mom) because you have generated a new block, a pin number that allows you to hold each of the three major companies from releasing any information to someone (car dealer, credit card company, insurance broker, etc.) .
When you need to release the freeze, you inform the credit reporting companies, use you pin and answers to verify who you are, and pay another small fee to do so. Currently, in Illinois, Lisa Madigan is trying to force Equifax to pay for all of these additional costs to consumers for freezes sought in protection for what has happened. In addition, more than one class action suit has begun in Illinois and many more across the nation to bring Equifax to monetary justice for what it has done.
Me? I am 2 hours and 52 minutes into the film Titanic – only one minute to go and things are not looking good for Leonardo – and I expect that I’ll soon get off of hold with EquiFax so I can get my own Freeze in place. Brrrrrrr.