One of the silver linings of the Equifax breach is their free identity theft protection. Perhaps that is the only silver lining. I was skeptical when I received an email from TrustedID that said “We've noticed a change on your credit report.” I know that identity theft is rampant and credit reports change frequently, but consider the source. Equifax owns TrustedID; need I say more? I figured the email would be something like a LinkedIn style “three people have looked at your credit report. Upgrade to premium to find out who they are.” Or “views of your credit report are up 80% over last week’s views.” Still, I was curious. I logged into my TrustedID account and was informed that Experian had changed my address on file.
My investigation revealed that Experian now showed my current address is in a city I have never lived in. Perhaps accusing Experian of falsifying my personal information is a bit dramatic, but it is technically true. I won’t say it was deliberate because I know Hanlon’s razor. Hanlon’s razor essentially says “"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity." In this case apathy is probably closer to accurate than stupidity. To paraphrase Lily Tomlin’s classic “we’re the phone company” sketch… “We don’t care. We don’t have to. We’re the credit bureau.” Experian is not stupid, they excel in math. They know exactly how much each congress person that can be bought costs. Based upon the laws of supply and demand I expect it isn’t very much.
Here is how I believe Experian got it wrong. For several years my Brother and sister-in-law had been living in a house I owned in Seattle. When they moved they filed a change of address form with the post office. My brother’s name is Steve. Steve is a name with five letters. The name Randy has five letters in it too. The rest is history. Data validation is not on Experian’s strong suit. Fortunately when I request my free credit report my brother will pass it along to me after Experian sends it to him.
Let’s compare Experian’s attitude toward consumers with T-Mobile’s attitude. In 2015 it was revealed that Experian had suffered a 2 yearlong data breach that affected T-Mobile’s customers. T-Mobile CEO John Legere response included the following comments.
“Obviously I am incredibly angry about this data breach and we will institute a thorough review of our relationship with Experian, but right now my top concern and first focus is assisting any and all consumers affected.”
Did you notice it was not Experian but rather T-Mobile whose first focus was on assisting customers?
Legere went on to say “Experian has assured us that they have taken aggressive steps to improve the protection of their system and of our data.”
Improving the protection of T-Mobile’s data is important to Experian’s bottom line, but maintaining the integrity of consumer data is irrelevant to Experian. It doesn’t help or hurt their bottom line. Let’s hope the Equifax breach results in industry wide changes that, among other things, makes negligent changes of consumer data expensive.
In conclusion, thank you Equifax for bringing to my attention the falsification of my personal data by Experian. On a more cheerful note, when Experian is breached again the attackers won’t get my real address.
Randy Abrams - https://www.linkedin.com/in/randy-abrams-ba24391/
Independent Security AnalystI am my brother’s keeper, but I am not my brother