I hope everyone had a great Christmas! Today I just have a quick referral for you. Recently, I had someone named Chris email me about a post he wrote on credit. He scoured the internet for information as he put this together and found my blog among many others in the process. His goal was to create the most comprehensive source of information about credit anywhere on the internet. After reading the post, I have a couple of takeaways. First, it is extremely thorough. Clearly he put a ton of time and effort in. Second, it talks about credit both in the US and the UK. So if you live in either country (or both) and want to see how the systems stack up to one another, this is a great post for you to check out.
You can find Chris’ post here. Thanks for reaching out, Chris, and good luck to you!
You would have to be living under a rock to have completely missed the media frenzy over the recent Equifax settlement. It is still going strong, even though it is nothing but a basically meaningless parody of justice to show the rabble that “the bad guys are paying the consequences.” And as a result, I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the situation and credit reports in general. Here are my answers to some of the more common ones.
How do I claim my $125?
Unless you signed up for credit monitoring services,
nothing. Because that’s exactly what you’re eligible to get. If you did, you
can claim your pittance here:
If you had actual, quantifiable expenses resulting from it,
you can theoretically recover up to $20k. You probably won’t get nearly that much,
even if your expenses exceeded that amount. After all, there are hungry law
firms at the front of the line, tons of people who will make claims, and a
finite amount of money to cover it all. But again, if you want to make a claim,
go to the link above.
I never even gave Equifax permission to collect my data.
How did they get it?
Yes, you did. Any time you signed up for a credit card, auto
loan, mortgage, personal loan, or basically anything else that would show up on
a credit report, you most certainly agreed to let all three major credit bureaus
(Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) collect your data – and to allow many other
things to happen as well. However, like any normal human being, you didn’t read
it and like any human being who isn’t an attorney with an ass ton of time on
your hands, you wouldn’t have understood most of the terms and conditions even
if you had. Don’t like it? You can try “living off the grid.” As for me, I’ll keep
my electricity, internet, car, home with an address that can have mail
delivered to it, having living, breathing women willing to have sex with me
(and that’s really the only reason for any of that other stuff to exist in the
first place if you think about it), and so forth.
Should I sign up for credit monitoring?
Nope. Credit monitoring is just one more way the credit
bureaus, including the one that potentially lost your data in this case, profit
by selling the information you unwittingly gave them right back to you. It won’t
give you an ounce of data you can’t get for free but you will pay for it
anyway. Unless you’re determined to be part of the settlement. Then you can get
the information that is already available to you for free…for free. Long story
short, credit monitoring is bullshit.
Ok, then what SHOULD I be doing to stay on top of things?
1. The credit bureaus are each required to give you your
credit report for free once a year. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to get
them. Get one every four months and keep track of which ones you’ve gotten and
when. This way, you can space it out over the course of the year and be as on
top of things as possible. They won’t have scores, but I have at least half a dozen
credit cards that give various versions of my credit score for free and you probably
have at least one. Besides, that isn’t the point. The point is to go through
everything on the report and make sure it’s correct (or more likely, that the
mistakes that are there aren’t materially adverse). Like any faithful churner,
my credit reports have dozens and dozens of accounts, active, historical, etc.
But even so, it takes me no more than ten or fifteen minutes to scan through
them (again, this is three times a year) and make sure there are no issues. The
point is, it’s not difficult, especially for someone with a more normal amount
of financial activity.
2. Know what to do if identity theft happens. You should
already be monitoring all your existing accounts weekly. So even if your
finances are absurdly complex like mine, you will quickly realize if something
happens that you were not a party to. Call your credit card company, bank, or
whatever entity issued the financing ASAP and ask to speak to someone in the
fraud department. It is a simple process from there. If you find an account you
didn’t know about on your credit report, you have a bigger problem. But you
just have to work through the process. First, make absolutely sure that you’ve
really been a victim of identity theft and this isn’t just something you did
when you were drunk and since forgot about or that is reporting differently
than you would have expected it to. Then, call the police. Not 911 obviously.
File a report with them. Go to www.identitytheft.gov
and file a complaint with the FTC. Report the issue to the credit bureau in
question. Freeze your credit with all three bureaus. This step will create
additional hassles any time you want to do anything financial, but it is almost
certainly necessary at this stage. You may even have to get an attorney involved.
But if you pay attention, you will almost certainly learn something from the
situation too. So at least it’s not a total loss.
I have the first form happen about once a year on average as
I would imagine most people with a ridiculous number of credit cards do in an era
where identity theft is so rampant that I once read that credit card skimmers
with a thousand numbers on them were going for about thirty bucks on the black
market. But thankfully, I have never dealt with the second. I’m sure I will
eventually and when I do, I will attack the situation with great vengeance and
furious anger (anyone else remember Pulp Fiction?) and maybe I will write a
post about it and turn it into a net positive. But until then, I will just keep
watching. And waiting. Keep that in mind, identity thieving assholes.
How worried should I be?
Not. This shit happens almost every single day. There are twelve
year old computer geniuses, in horrible countries where their gifts are being
tragically wasted, coming up with new ways to hack into the most secure
databases on the planet as we speak and many of them will succeed. It’s an
inevitability. But luckily, you live in a country where the consumer is
basically the only thing keeping our vastly overinflated economy afloat. No
one, and that includes most politicians, has any interest in seeing what would
happen if consumers lost that precious confidence that keeps them borrowing
money to buy shit they don’t need to impress people they don’t like (I believe
that one is a bastardized version of a George Carlin quote – that guy was a
genius and he was right about 89% of the time, which is way more often than
almost anyone, ever). The economy is basically the only thing keeping people
just happy enough to prevent them from realizing (or caring) how corrupt those
politician pieces of shit are and thus, consumer confidence is to be kept sky
high. And it follows that the laws are extremely in favor of consumers when it
comes to matters such as identity theft. Do your basic diligence and you will
Should I get identity theft insurance?
Probably not. Insurance is an industry run by a combination
of typically beautiful crooks and people who are extremely good at math. It
wouldn’t be so bad if insurance companies didn’t do all they could to screw the
marks customers out of the money they should be entitled to at literally
the only time they’re expected to do anything whatsoever in exchange for the
money they collect year after year in the form of premiums that consistently go
up for literally no fucking reason at all. But they do. Ever make a claim on
your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Remember the experience? Now
imagine trying to get those bastards to pay for something intangible. If I
recall correctly from the last time someone tried to upsell me on my insurance (talk
about barking up the wrong tree), it’s about a seven dollar a year premium
addition and there’s probably an excellent reason for that. It’s bullshit and
they will never pay you a dime, no matter what happens.
Why was this post so sarcastic and profane? My delicate
sensibilities are offended.
I don’t care. This is my blog. Get out. And to answer your
question, I’m not sure. I’m in a funny mood tonight. I hope I succeeded in providing
some worthwhile information and entertaining at the same time. Maybe more
people would read this blog if I could master that skill. I guess this post
will serve as a test.