Equifax Breach: Short, sharp advice for consumers whose information was stolen

Some of the worst disputes filed through PeopleClaim.com‘s resolution system involve credit and financial problems.

Are you one of the 143 million consumers whose personal and financial data was stolen from Equifax?  If so, your name, birth date, Social Security number, address, driver’s license and – if you’re particularly unlucky – even your credit card number or dispute documentation, were likely stolen.

Equifax is offering affected consumers a year of free credit monitoring and free credit insurance.

Is that good enough?

No, says Robert Siciliano, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com. Credit thieves are more than happy to wait out a year’s worth of credit monitoring.

“The best way to protect one’s identity in this case is a credit freeze. A credit freeze can be obtained at the three major credit bureaus and it locks down your Social Security number on your credit report, preventing new line of credit from being opened.”

A credit freeze is slightly inconvenient – you’ll have to use a code or answer questions if you want to legitimately open a new account. But ask any identity theft victim if they wish they’d had it.

The big question is: Why can’t ALL consumers freeze their credit, ALL the time, with one central database?

Even though most of us are familiar with Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, be aware of other consumer reporting agencies like Innovis.

  • If you’re an identity theft victim, you are usually entitled to a free credit freeze.
  • Anyone can freeze their credit individually with each of the three main bureaus – the cost ranges from free to $10, depending on your state. You may also be charged a fee to release your information.
  • A credit freeze automatically expires after seven years in four states: Kentucky, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
  • 29 states allow parents, legal guardians etc. to freeze a minor child’s information. In addition, you can freeze any minor child’s credit at Equifax.

But even if you freeze your credit right away, you’re not out of the woods.

“Also pay close attention to the activity on your credit card statements,” says Siciliano. “209,000 credit card numbers were stolen.”

Sep 2017

How do you get someone to pay you back the money they borrowed?

Some of the most gut-wrenching complaints filed with PeopleClaim.com are about money lent to family, friends, or neighbors. Others are written by people who kindly co-signed car loans, student loans, mortgages, even cell-phone plans – and were then left holding the bag.

First, try not to get into that situation. If you’re going to act like a bank…act like a bank. If you wouldn’t be willing to write off  the debt as a dead loss if necessary, then draw up a contract. Make sure the borrower fills in social security info, terms of repayment, means of payment, full legal name, etc. – and signs it in front of a witness. Your bank will often provide notary services free of charge.

If they default, however, there are not many realistic options beyond trying to drag the deadbeat into court. (That’s assuming you can even find them.) So it’s not surprising that people file claims about unpaid loans on PeopleClaim.

Sometimes claims are resolved very quickly, once notice is delivered. Some take longer. One complaint about a personal loan was recently resolved after nearly two years, when the posted claim finally caught up with the respondent.

More often, the debtor is willing to pay but can’t, or at least – not right away.

Then comes the inevitable question to our customer support: “They say they’re going to pay it back but they want me to close the claim first. What should I do?”

That’s the easy part.

1)   Memorialize the agreement. Write it all out in the “add information” section on your response page. e.g. “XYZ has agreed to pay me back $5,000 at $500 per month for 10 months. Each payment will be sent by (PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, check, wire, Western Union…whatever!) by the first of the month. If any payment is not received and XYZ hasn’t made arrangements for a later payment, the claim will be re-posted.”

2)   Then either close the claim – knowing you can reopen it if you have to – or extend the posting date. We’ve had posting dates extended for as long as a year while a large invoice was paid off, but there’s really no limit.  If you choose to extend the posting date, make sure that the debtor has responded on the claim so that their “rating” doesn’t continue to degrade, even though the claim isn’t public.

And you’re done. Easier than you thought, right?

Jul 2017

Don’t send back that phone or return merchandise by mail, UPS or Fedex until you’ve read this.

Personally, I blame the companies.

They send you an “easy” return label and tell you to just “drop it in the mailbox” or “drop it off at the mailing center.”

You wait expectantly for your credit. And wait, and wait, and wait. Eventually you call. You’re told that they never got it, have no record of it, and by the way, you’re on the hook for the full cost.

PeopleClaim.com has handled quite a lot of complaints about returns that apparently weren’t received or properly logged. The worst and highest dollar complaints are filed by people who’ve obediently followed instructions to return malfunctioning phones to cell phone companies or cell phone warranty companies. Returns of satellite and cable boxes, and of course clothing and other mail order purchases, run a close second.

PeopleClaim.com’s advice: never, EVER just drop it off—in a mailbox or elsewhere. Always copy the return label and tracking number. No copier? Take a picture with your cell phone and email it to yourself as a back-up.

Then walk the item into the post office or mailing center and ask to get the item scanned in, preferably with a receipt for you. Post offices often have someone available just to scan in prepaid packages at busy times, so you may not even have to wait in line. Again, take a quick picture of the receipt and email it to yourself for your records.

Don’t want to spend the time? Well, would you rather owe an extra $800 to the phone company?

And remember, if you have a dispute about anything, anywhere on your lengthy “To Do” list — take a look at what PeopleClaim.com can offer.

Dec 2016