Results Are In: How Americans Faced the Equifax Hack where Personal Data of 45% of US Adults Were Stolen

Wolf Richter wolfstreet.com, www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

Now, 10 months later, do they even know about it? Don’t laugh….

Consumer credit bureau Equifax disclosed very belatedly last September that it had been hacked, and that the crown jewels of personal data – including social security numbers – of 145.5 million Americans had been stolen. This is about 45% of the adult US population. Armed with this data, hackers could then embark on a binge of identity theft and loan fraud for years to come.

I covered this in a series of articles, emphasizing what consumers can do to protect themselves – put a “security freeze” on their accounts at the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Numerous commenters shared their experiences and frustrations with the site that Equifax had set up to find out if they were affected and with the procedures and snafus encountered when they tried to put a “security freeze” on their accounts.

Congress held two hearings on the hack. Equifax got entangled in a flood of individual and class-action lawsuits. The CEO was axed. Some insider trading become public. Its shares plunged 34% over the first few days after the initial disclosure and remain down 11%. This was accompanied by uproar in the media.

So now, 10 months later, how did Americans deal with this fiasco? Do they even know about it? Don’t laugh….

A survey of American consumers by LendEDU, released today, found that 27% of the respondents were not even “aware” of the Equifax hack.

OK, moving on…

Of those 73% who were aware of the hack, only 57% checked the Equifax site to see if their personal data had been stolen too.

Drilling down deeper: Of those who actually checked the Equifax site to see if they were affected, 35% found that their data had been stolen.

Those who said their data had been stolen were asked if they had “sought to join any class-action lawsuit filed against Equifax as a result of the cyber-security incident,” 30% said “yes”; 53% said “not yet, but I would like to”; and the remainder said they would take no action or would “rather not say.”

All those who were “aware” of the hack were ask this question: “Following the Equifax cyber-security incident, the company offered free credit monitoring for a year and agreed to waive the requirement that anyone using the service must settle disputes through arbitration. Knowing this and any other moves made by Equifax to remedy the incident, has your perception of Equifax changed for the better?”

  • A stunning 37% said yes; divided into two categories: 31%, “Yes, they are trying their best to help consumers”; and 6%, “Yes, other.”
  • 35% said no: with 28%, “No, I have not yet forgiven them,” and 6%, “No, other”
  • 29% had “no opinion” or were “not sure.”

And they were asked how concerned they were in general about “data breaches of a company that you have used?”

  • 34% said, “Extremely concerned”
  • 47% said, “Concerned, but not pressing”
  • The remaining 19% were either “Indifferent,” “Not very concerned,” “Not concerned at all,” or “Not sure.”

LendEDU also checked the public data base of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a government agency that allows consumers to file grievances against firms in the financial services sector. LendEDU checked the number of complaints during two time-spans: the year right before the hack, which occurred on July 12, 2017; and the year after the hack.

Turns out, Equifax complaints more than doubled, from 18,007 complaints (between July 11, 2016 through July 11, 2017) to 36,045 complaints (between July 12, 2017 through July 12 2018). This shows how frustrating this experience was for those consumers who actually tried to deal with it and protect themselves.

You can still check the page Equifax has set up to find out if your personal information was “impacted.” This is now very quick (unlike in the early days).

Since the chaos of the early weeks after the hack, the three major bureaus have improved their sites where you put a “security freeze” on your account. On a personal note, after the business school where I’d obtained my MBA informed me over a decade ago that it had been hacked and that my data was stolen, I put a security freeze on all my accounts and have maintained it since. This was the most potent thing I could do to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft. I provide the links along with some important caveats to consider in this article about halfway down.

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