Right now the focus should be on helping people protect themselves from possible identity theft in the aftermath of a major data breach at Equifax.
But I do want to know if any of the credit bureau executives profited off knowing before we did that the breach had occurred.
Three Equifax executives sold nearly $2 million worth of company stock within days of the data breach. The public didn’t know about the hack until a month later.
Let’s see. Equifax said it discovered the breach July 29.
Bloomberg’s Anders Melin reported, “Regulatory filings show that on Aug. 1, Chief Financial Officer John Gamble sold shares worth $946,374 and Joseph Loughran, president of U.S. information solutions, exercised options to dispose of stock worth $584,099. Rodolfo Ploder, president of workforce solutions, sold $250,458 of stock on Aug. 2. None of the filings lists the transactions as being part of 10b5-1 scheduled trading plans.”
Put another way, “Gamble sold more than 13 percent of his stake in Equifax. Loughran sold 9 percent of his holdings and Ploder disposed of 4 percent.”
The executives “had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares,” according to a statement from Equifax.
What do you think?
The timing of the stock sales look questionable to me — and to others.
Don’t expect consumer friendly help from Equifax
When you’ve been harmed by a business, you expect to be a priority in the effort to make things right.
But what happens when that business isn’t really in the business of serving consumers?
This is the case with the credit bureaus. They are depository for our financial information. The lenders and companies we do business with upload our credit information to the credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and the lesser known bureau Innovis. But it’s these businesses who are the bureaus big-time customers. The bureaus make most of their money selling our information. So we aren’t their main customers.
Then comes this major hack at Equifax. An astounding 143 million consumers’ personal data was stolen. Hackers got key information — Social Security numbers, driver’s licenses, credit card numbers and addresses.
Naturally consumers want answers. They want help to protect themselves. But since the credit bureaus aren’t really set up to perfect the interface with consumers, people are frustrated.
Equifax directed folks to visit a new site it set up — www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
“But when consumers went to the page, some suspicion and confusion ensued,” reported The Post’s Hamza Shaban, who covers tech news. “Consumers who signed up at the website encountered a multistep process that never led to a definitive answer as to whether their personal data had been accessed by hackers.”
I visited the site and punched in my information.
This is the note I received: “Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident. Click the button below to continue your enrollment in TrustedID Premier.”
I clicked and signed up for the free credit monitoring service.
Here’s the note I received after proving my identity by answering several questions: “You will receive an email with a link to finalize your enrollment and activate your product. Please be patient. Due to the high volume of requests, emails may be delayed. If you have not received your email within a few days, please check your spam and junk folders. Thank you again; we appreciate your patience!”
Guess I just have to wait. And while I wait how much more am I exposed?
If you’re waiting like me to get confirmation of enrollment in the credit monitoring service Equifax is offering, read all you can about what’s happening and how to further protect yourself.
I recommend the following:
Not to scare you but here’s something that could very well happen now or years from now because of the Equifax hack, according to The Washington Post real estate columnist Kenneth R. Harney.
“Take this scenario,” he writes. “Say your Equifax file was looted, but you’ve done little or nothing to detect fraudulent activity on one or more of your credit accounts. You sign a contract to buy a house, and you apply for a mortgage. The lender pulls your credit and confronts you with shocking news: Your FICO credit score is too low for you to qualify for the loan because you’ve been running up too much debt on one or more accounts.”
So what happened?
Here’s a real possibility Harney says, “Your ‘utilization ratio’ on your available credit is too high, and that has depressed your score. Or there’s a newly established account in your files that has put you deep in debt, even though you had nothing to do with it. It turns out that financial thieves have been racking up thousands of dollars in debts at your expense, and now — smack in the middle of a major lifetime investment — you’re stuck with having to get the file corrected, which takes time and can be a pain. In the meantime, what happens to your purchase contract? Will the sellers bear with you, essentially putting off the transaction indefinitely and possibly blowing up their own plans to move into another house on a specific date? It could all get really messy.”
If you’ve been calling Equifax and been frustrated because you can’t get through or can’t get any answers, The Post’s Brian Fung is right there with you.
Color of Money question of the week
What’s been your experience with Equifax and the data breach or for that matter getting any help with credit report issues? Send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Equifax” in the subject line.
Live chat today
I’m live every Thursday from noon (ET) to 1 p.m. to take your personal finance questions.
Got a kid who will be going to college? Then you don’t want to miss this chat. This week my guests will be Steve Klinsky and David Vise. They’ll be discussing their “Freshman Year for Free” program.
Klinsky is the founder and chief executive of Modern States Education Alliance. He’s been an active philanthropist and education reformer and is also founder and CEO of New Mountain Capital, a private-equity firm. Vise is executive director of Modern States. He joined New Mountain Capital as a senior adviser in 2008. Previously, Mr. Vise was a reporter for The Washington Post, where he worked for more than two decades.
Through the Freshman Year for Free program anyone — high school students, military personnel or adult learners — have access to free online courses that prepare them to pass Advanced Placement (AP) exams and the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests, which are both offered through the College Board. Students who score well on the subject-area exams can earn enough college credit to knock out their freshman year, potentially saving as much as 25 percent on tuition.
Here’s the link to join the discussion live or read the transcript later.
Capitalizing on hurricanes Irma and Harvey: $6,785 for an economy seat
There is definitely something unseemly when businesses capitalize on catastrophic events such Hurricane Harvey and Irma. So last week I asked: Do you think businesses have a right to raise prices to capitalize on shortages during a disaster?
Lots of you used large caps to expressed your anger.
“Morally, businesses should DISCOUNT their water or hand it out FREE,” wrote C.A. Dazell of Anthem, Ariz. “Write it off as a charitable expense and not only sleep well at night, know that EVERY person who gets that water will become a lifelong customer! It takes YEARS to build a good reputation, but seconds to destroy it!”
Gerald Ribeiro of New York City wrote, “Businesses should not be allowed to gouge their customers because of a natural disaster or a state of emergency. That only adds to the stress people already have to deal in the middle of an emergency. And there’s more to it. What if someone could not evacuate because airlines were gouging tickets? And that person dies in the natural disaster?”
Lola Terrell of Los Angeles wrote, “It’s horrific what some businesses are doing. This is ILLEGAL and a CRIME as far as I am concerned. I am a senior in California, living on a limited income. If an airline raised my ticket price by 600 percent to 1,000 percent, I would not be able to fly. This is what I feel is wrong with the American (capitalism) business model. It’s like stealing when you think you can get away with it. It’s robbing folks, and worse, when they are down,
desperate, even in life and death situations. I hope we can have federal regulations against this type of thing, so that it can never happen again.”
Color of Money Columns This Week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.
Stay informed about your money. Read and share some recent column.
Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to email@example.com. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.