Here Are 6 Tips To Protect Your Data

When it comes to dealing with the aftermath of Equifax’s massive data breach, it’ll be up to consumers to be on guard against data thieves, experts say.

Last week, the credit-rating company disclosed that it was hacked earlier this year, leaving 143 million U.S. consumers’ personal information exposed. Equifax now faces numerous lawsuits, a huge stock price hit and several state and federal investigations.

Its slow and incomplete response continues to anger people all over the country, leaving many consumers wondering what — if anything — they can do to protect themselves if the company tasked with safeguarding their credit can’t even make its phone lines operate.

Lisa Gerstner has been tracking Equifax’s bungled response, both as a possible victim and as a writer for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

“The call lines have been flooded to them; I think their call centers are overwhelmed,” Gerstner says. “When I tried to call it last Friday about it, I got a busy signal then it hung up on me, so I went online.”

But there, too, as of Thursday, problems continued with Equifax’s website, with some users encountering system error messages. The company says that as of Tuesday, 11.5 million people had signed up to monitor their reports.

Equifax declined an interview. It has tried to respond to public outcry, removing legal language on its site, for example, that appeared to waive consumers’ rights to sue.

It has also had to explain why executives sold off company stock days after the breach and why it took Equifax over a month after discovering the problem to disclose it to the public.

Gerstner was also offended by Equifax and other credit agencies’ attempts to capitalize on the traffic by selling data-protection services, “which I think is also something that makes this Equifax breach galling to people … it’s the same company selling us services to protect ourselves that’s now given up our data,” she says.

It’s not just consumers and investors coming down hard on Equifax. Legal and political powers are also demanding answers and justice.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who plans to sue the company, called Equifax’s breach “the most brazen failure to protect consumer data we have ever seen.” Several other states and the Federal Trade Commission have said they have opened their own investigations. Members of Congress have demanded criminal investigations and a full accounting of what happened.

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