Is Equifax' free credit monitoring good enough?

Cincinnati man files lawsuit

Equifax is now facing several lawsuits -- including a class action case -- over the massive data breach it announced last week.    

One Cincinnati man led a suit of his own, saying their remedy for the breach is not good enough.

Not a lawyer, but angry about breach

Jessie Griffis headed to the Warren County Court clerk's office to file a Small Claims lawsuit against Equifax.

He's no lawyer, just an engineer who says Equifax's data breach is inexcusable. "I'm here to sue Equifax for their wrongdoing to millions of Americans" he said.

Griffis, who doesn't even have a lawyer, is asking Equifax to do more than just offer free credit monitoring for a year.

"Free credit monitoring is from a company they own. So in essence, Equifax stands to profit from their own mistake," he said, saying that when the free 1 year of monitoring ends, customers will be switched to a paid program.

Some consumer groups share his feelings, saying that allowing the company that exposed your data to now monitor your data is sort of like letting the wolf guard the hen house.

Consumer Reports magazine says there are also questions about how secure Equifax's "TrustedID" website is (it raises security flags with some anti-virus programs).

Other options for consumers

But cyber security expert Apolonio Garcia says while credit monitoring  better than nothing, a better way to protect yourself is with a paid service like Lifelock, or several others offered by competing companies.

"Lifelock and similar companies have plans from $10 all the way up to $50 a month."

But Garcia, of Healthguard IT Security, says there's a less expensive option that can work just as well: freeze your credit, which locks it like a bank vault.

"You can apply for credit freeze on your credit account, through Trans Union, Experian and others," Garcia said.

To initiate a freeze:

  • Go the 3 credit bureau websites: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
  • Look for the "freeze" tab (it may be tricky to find at first)
  • You need a separate freeze at each bureau
  • You'll pay a one time fee of $5 to $10 at each, though its free in some states, and free for confirmed victims of identity theft.

The downside is you will have to unlock your freeze with a password anytime you want to buy a car, a home equity loan, or new cell phone account.

Read more at the FTC's website.

If you don't want to go that far, Garcia says, you can apply for a "fraud alert," which alerts you to any requests for credit checks or new accounts.
            
Equifax is not commenting on any of the lawsuits over the data breach, but does say it is not profiteering on the episode.

As always, don't waste your money.

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