Jalene Hahn |

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote a note about the Equifax security breach using a favorite Andy Rooney quote as my title. In his slightly skewed view of the world: Anytime you have a 50-50 chance of getting something right, there's a 90% probability you'll get it wrong.

I thought I’d offer a follow up to share WWA’s results to see how they compare with yours. To date, every person we’ve helped register for the additional protective services has been among the 50% that were likely to have been affected. As news reports have come out describing how things are going, it’s become clear that Equifax isn’t terribly concerned about how we – consumers – are faring. They originally suggested that enhanced security services could be had for a fee and felt that their usual call center would be a suitable way for questions to be answered. Why? Well, according to the New York Times, we are not their customers. No, we’re a product being sold to their actual customers – the banks and insurance companies who rely on credit scores to make underwriting decisions.

The credit reporting industry is largely unregulated so, even though the scores they provide can have a huge impact on what you pay for a loan or insurance policy (or if you can even obtain one), there’s little in the way of government interest in how they do what they do. I’m reminded of the credit rating industry, companies like Moody’s Investors Services. That small group of businesses was, in my opinion, at the heart of the problems leading to the 2008 housing bust. Those companies are paid by bond issuers to provide quality ratings. They classified what proved to be very risky bonds as AAA – the highest quality. That fueled huge demand for additional bonds, encouraging mortgage salespeople to submit inaccurate, or in some cases fraudulent, applications to keep them coming.

In response to questions from reporters and congressional investigators, the ratings companies made it clear that their ratings were in no way guarantees – simply opinions. And, of course, an opinion could certainly change, or even be wrong. As investigations get underway, I won’t be surprised to hear something very similar from Equifax, et al.

I hate to sound cynical but note that Equifax waited about six weeks to make the announcement. During that time, several senior executives sold millions of dollars’ worth of company stock. Average investors weren’t allowed access to the same information and they saw their own shares drop about twenty percent when the news finally went public.

Equifax had previously offered those additional layers of protection for a fee, then bowed to public pressure. Is it possible that they might be expecting some percentage of those signing up now to forget that there may be a cost beginning in the thirteenth month? Only time will tell how careful Equifax is about warning us before fees are levied.

Apparently, only about fifteen percent of those potentially affected have contacted Equifax to put the additional protections in place. Since these services are now being provided at no charge, I’d encourage you to go to the Equifax website if you haven’t done so already. Our first replies are just coming back – over a week after we submitted the requests. This is not going to be a quick process but some protection will probably be better than none.

If you need help getting things going, please allow us to assist. While your financial liability is limited by law, I can assure you that you do not want to be the victim of identity theft. As I said earlier: Identity theft is one of those gifts that keeps on giving.