One Thing to Know After the Equifax Cybersecurity Breach

This week, the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax revealed a data breach affecting 143 million Americans — up to half the adults in the United States. Hackers accessed highly sensitive and personally identifying information like Social Security numbers, home addresses, driver's license numbers, and credit card data, which was discovered in late July. While other breaches have been larger in scope, this is by far the worst in how much linkable data was compromised.

While many are angry that Equifax waited so long to reveal the hack, the company is doing its best to control the damage done, which is not insignificant. Given that the information stolen could be used for identity theft, Equifax has, along with its apology, offered to let you know if your personal data was caught up in the hack. Customers can sign up for a year of free credit monitoring, called TrustedID Premier. The internet, of course, has already been doing its due diligence on the product.

The TrustedID Premier website not only gives unclear indications of whether you've been hacked, but it asks that users wait a week or more before they're able to sign up. The most damning element, however, is legal. Per the Equifax terms of service, agreeing to use TrustedID Premier means forfeiting any claim to the inevitable class action lawsuit for mishandling data security.

It doesn't help matters that three Equifax executives sold millions in stock just before the announcement of the breach. No matter what, the company is in for heaps for trouble. Rather than sign your rights away with Equifax, consider the numerous free and low-cost credit monitoring services available from other providers (although check to see how those services are affiliated with the three major credit monitors, one of which is Equifax, first). You're also entitled to one free annual credit report, so no need to pay for a service that's guaranteed anyway.

If you think you've been a victim of identity theft, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the issue and set up a recovery plan.