I Guess We Should Discuss the Equifax Thing

Photo credit: Tina Franklin, CC BY 2.0.

I feel a little badly for jumping to conclusions on the whole “landlords asking displaced Houstonians to pay September’s rent” issue. It’s hard not to have an emotional response to the image of a landlord calling up a tenant who cannot currently live in their apartment due to flood damage to say “if you don’t pay now, I’m going to have to start charging late fees,” but, as you all noted, not being able to collect rent causes additional problems down the line and it appears that some landlords are working with tenants in a less threatening way than that Guardian article implied.

I asked myself whether other bill collectors would stop asking for their payments—like, of course, people are still going to owe health insurance premiums, and Netflix is still going to autopull $11 from their accounts, and the electric bill will still come due even though it might be significantly reduced this month since people aren’t in their homes using electricity.

The real comparison isn’t between rents and Netflix, though, or rents and electric bills—it’s between rent and mortgages. The bank is still going to ask for a mortgage payment, and therefore the landlord still needs to ask for a rent payment, and even though tenants have a few more rights than homeowners do to say “hey, this property is not habitable right now,” it’s… well, as we discussed yesterday, it’s complicated, and a lot of us are speculating from the sidelines.

Which is why I’m really hesitant to jump to similar conclusions or speculations about the Equifax thing.

A quick recap, courtesy of the Washington Post:

The credit reporting agency Equifax said Thursday that hackers gained access to sensitive personal data — Social Security numbers, birth dates and home addresses — for up to 143 million Americans, a major cybersecurity breach at a firm that serves as one of the three major clearinghouses for Americans’ credit histories.

Equifax said the breach began in May and continued until it was discovered in late July. It said hackers exploited a “website application vulnerability” and obtained personal data about British and Canadian consumers as well as Americans. Social Security numbers and birth dates are particularly sensitive data, giving those who possess them the ingredients for identity fraud and other crimes.

There is so much speculation going on right now: did three Equifax executives sell just under $1.8 million in stock because they knew about the breach, or was it just a coincidence? Do we all need to freeze our credit reports? Should we follow Equifax’s instructions to go to a special site, give Equifax some of the same sensitive information they just lost in the hack, and let Equifax tell us whether we’ve been affected and whether we should sign up for a free year of TrustedID—or is that the worst move we could make?

(I really shouldn’t be looking at Twitter right now.)

Here’s what I did: I’m enrolled with Capital One’s CreditWise, which is a free credit monitoring service. Like many credit monitoring services, CreditWise sends me email alerts every time something happens, credit-wise—when I opened my Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Credit Card last month, I got a new CreditWise email for every step of the process.

So I logged in to CreditWise and read through all my credit-related stuff: no accounts I wasn’t expecting, no charges I wasn’t expecting, no public records I wasn’t expecting. As of right now, it appears like my identity is still my own.

Was that the best response to the Equifax hack? I don’t know. What are you all doing? Apparently we’re all going to get letters, eventually, letting us know whether our data was included in the hack—and I’ll be interested to see what they say.

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