Third largest US bank reaches out to its customers. A mass credit freeze would have a huge impact.
No one knows yet how the Equifax hack – during which Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, “in some instances,” driver’s license numbers of 143 million consumers had been stolen – will wash out for Equifax, or for the other credit bureaus.
But it increasingly looks like a far bigger and broader mess not only for the credit bureaus but for the overall consumer-based US economy whose grease is easy and often instant consumer credit.
People are trying to put a credit freeze on their data at the three major credit bureaus to protect themselves from identity theft. Victims of identity theft get caught in years of a Kafkaesque nightmare where debt collectors hound them for debts incurred in their name by someone else.
A credit freeze is the best protection against identity theft. It has now been recommended by State Attorneys General, the US Government, the biggest mainstream media outlets, and numerous other outfits including from the first moment on – the evening of September 7 when the hack was disclosed – my humble site. In over 400 comments on my three articles (here, here, and here), readers have shared tips and frustrating experiences trying to deal with overloaded websites that crashed, sent people in wrong directions, or failed in other ways to produce results.
The credit bureaus claim that they have staffed up their call centers, beefed up their websites, etc. etc. But it’s still a mess. And it has been going on for ten days!
So we know there is a surge of consumers trying to protect themselves by putting a credit freeze on their data at the three major credit bureaus. But only the credit bureaus know the actual number. And they keep it close to their vest.
Now even Well Fargo, the third largest bank in the US by assets, posted an “Equifax Alert” on its customer login-page. This is the page millions of customers see when they log into their accounts.
“Here’s what you should know about the recent data compromise,” it says. The link take you to a Wells Fargo page that makes four standard and very sound recommendations on how to deal with the Equifax data hack – including the single most important: “Consider placing a freeze on your credit.”
It encourages its customers to “visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) dedicated Credit Freeze FAQs.” And it links to it.
When a bank encourages its customers to get a credit freeze and refers them to a federal government website that shows how to go about doing it, people take notice. Other banks may already have posted similar information to encourage their customers to protect themselves, or may soon do so.
This is huge because banks are reaching people who are not paying attention to the news – people who would normally miss the entire debacle. It makes many more millions of people aware of what to do.
And if enough people follow through, it will alter the way an easy-credit dependent consumer economy operates. Here are some of the potential impacts:
Revenues of credit bureaus take a licking. A credit freeze prevents them from selling your data to other companies with which you don’t already have an established credit relationship.
Companies use enhanced “risk modeling” to bypass credit bureaus. A mass credit freeze makes it tough for companies – such as banks, utilities, auto lenders, and credit card companies – to set up new accounts. So they will try to find other ways to confirm the credit worthiness of applicants, bypassing the credit bureaus. Ford Credit already announced enhanced “risk modeling” prior to the Equifax disclosure. These efforts will strengthen.
Consumers with a credit freeze may borrow less. They may apply less often for credit and only for things that matter, and only when needed, and not at the spur of the moment because lifting a credit freeze takes a few days before it’s effective. This may impact major debt-funded impulse purchases, including vehicles – the auto industry depends on people buying a new vehicle on impulse. With a credit freeze in place, any such purchase will take planning.
With broader implications. Being able to borrow to buy a couch or car or apply for a new credit card or take out a HELOC whenever the mood strikes is over for consumers with a credit freeze. There are numerous other businesses that depend on consumer data from the credit bureaus, including insurance companies, marketing companies, etc. A credit freeze throws a monkey wrench into their business.
This is a lifelong thing, not a blip. Once Social Security numbers have been compromised, consumers need to protect themselves for the rest of their lives.
The US economy depends on consumers, and consumers depend on credit (“debt” is the other word for it) to make major or even minor purchases. The mechanism for easy and fast credit approvals has made the system work. But a mass credit freeze throws cold water on it.
It’s a good thing for consumers to have to reflect and plan before being able to take on the risks of additional debt or buy new insurance or whatever. But it’s not a good thing for the companies that rely on the easy-credit system to grease their sales, for lenders supplying the grease, and for the credit bureaus that make this mechanism possible.
Credit bureaus are terrified a mass credit freeze will crush revenues. Read… Equifax Sacks 2 Executives, Turns Devious to Stop You from Demanding a Credit Freeze
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Cash is king – except when governments try to limit its use.
Indeed! I’m still pissed off that I got a check for $1000 yesterday instead of the cash I expected the guy to bring. I’m sure the check’s good, but still….
Cash Nobody has any cash Will you accept Bitcoin?
Kafkaesque describes this entire episode perfectly. I have been trying for many days to freeze my credit, online and by phone. I am on hold for 20 minutes or more, then the call is disconnected. The website for Equifax says it is “Unable to process my request at this time.”
I may try at 3 a.m tomorrow.
I just placed a freeze online at Equifax (3 tries before successful) and Transunion ($10.00). Maybe everyone is watching football? You can initiate freeze at Experian online but can only complete a freeze (from my just completed experience) at Experian by mailing to address:
Experian Security Freeze
PO Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
This may sound quaint what about sending the request by registered letter?
This is rich… Wells Fargo warning its customers about fraud.
Yes Dave, I noticed that little bit of irony firstoff ! $omeone’$ trying to get ahead of ‘tumble wave’, me thinks …. !!
Uh, sorry …. ‘tumbrels’ is the corrected spelling.
Well… they /are/ good at it you know..
If someone uses my credit card I can file fraud and get full refund.
If someone uses my identity, can I file fraud and get it off my record.
Unless like 20 years ago to a co-worker they are the Jamacan Mafia and they ruin your credit history for 5 years. And no one helps you clear it off the 3 credit agencies or any other thing that may happen. Try applying for a new mortgage, or get a corporate job with a bad credit history (not your fault) but setup by some gang of bad people. Freeze on all three agencies is the only way to protect yourself, for ever. It only costs around $10 each agency to freeze, and then temporary lift freeze can be immediate and for specified time. Every year can lift the freeze to get student loans, if needed.
Have you ever removed adverse info from your (or a client’s) credit file?
I’d answer “yes” to both and it is not that difficult. It is so not difficult that I know several people who have made a profitable business out of this.
“Identity theft” is a creation of the “Identity theft protection industry” which obviously seeks to sell you its services.
Not saying anyone wants this to happen or that it’s a good thing. But FFS just monitor your files for weird activity. Challenge adverse items per your legal rights. They will go away. Dirty little secret: most LEGITIMATE bad items on your credit go away if you challenge them too.
I’m not handing all sorts of new info on myself to Equifax and its 2 partners in crap. Now if the government were to allow a one-step easy way to freeze my file where I am not handing over all sorts of new verified and valuable info to EFX, et al? Yes, I’d be all over this.
NOT with out Major issues and still all will not believe you.
Peopel dont understand everybody in that data base is compromised. FOR EVER.
Welcome to what I have had to live with, for 37 years.
The thieves have all the data YOU CANT STOP THEM.
So Wells Fargo is upset that someone other than Wells Fargo employees might be opening up rouge accounts in their customers names?
Well, that would be sweet justice now … wouldn’t it !
Lol. Good one! :)
Sort of like some malware that, once it infects your computer, actually closes some vulnerabilities to keep other malware from competing for your computer’s resources. (this actually exists, BTW)
Life will find a way.
Assume a massive number of people put on credit freezes. Small credit wannabees will fade away. Large consumers of credit info will create a system that accepts freezes as fact and makes it easy for legitimate credit inquiries to be processed quickly using approvals from persons needing credit. Credit bureaus will shrink in number as inquiries become a library function as opposed to a … ‘why do you need four agencies for this anyway?’.
Unfortunately, the Fed will see this as deflation and put off rate increases for years.
Maybe the Fed were the hackers in the first place to come up with a valid reason to delay rate increases.
To quote an old Doors title. “Weird scenes inside the Goldmine”.
Never put your trust in man.
The economic downside could be mitigated by factors that enhance economic growth. Any company dealing with sensitive information must now invest even more money in security. Mistakes can take down the entire business, so they must be avoided at all costs. Also, there could be more regulatory requirements as a result of this, and that creates more jobs.
The Broken Window Fallacy.
“The credit bureaus claim that they have staffed up their call centers, beefed up their websites, etc. etc. But it’s still a mess. And it has been going on for ten days!” – Wolf
But the bureaus’ applicant verification routines remain exhaustive out of all proportion to the need.
Miscreants want to GET INTO our accounts, DUMMIES! They aren’t trying to freeze them, so the STUPID hoops you make legitimate freezers go through is irrational.
I doubt Wells Fargo is acting out of the goodness of its heart. I imagine Wells Fargo might be worried about its own liabilities, assuming it transferred payment data to Equifax without adequately checking out the internal controls over that data.
Audit firms, that examine such internal controls, could be liable as well.
Time will tell if this breach actually leads to damages.
Identity theft is very expensive for lenders too. There are two victims when someone steals your identity and borrows money in your name: you (because you have to deal with it) and the lender (because they they will never see that money again).
Now trans union is involved in a class action suit for not removing old past due balances when people filed bankruptcy. We should put the whole country in a deep freeze for a while. Again i repeat all that stuff is fine and good freeze accounts,shred,get covers for credit cards but when the con artist pays someone for info on you nothing can stop that. Remember when the man with money meets the man with experience the man with the money will get some experience.
There will be one beneficial outcome from this: tens of millions of sheeple will belatedly recognize they are on their own against feckless corporations like this that have captured the Republicrat duopoly and our worthless, co-opted regulators, enforcers, judiciary, and so-called consumer advocates. Millions of former sheeple might just be pissed off enough to become awake and aware and start fighting back against our corporate statism.
Received a letter from Esperion that said the “credit freeze” will only be valid for 5 years, they included a form to make the freeze permanent. I’m wondering if this is something new? I assumed that a freeze was permanent and for life!!
Also, I wonder if I can still obtain my free annual credit report? Or is that also frozen?
It seems it depends on the state you’re in. Five years is still a good amount of time.
The 3 agencies still do all their credit collection information, and continually update your record. The banks, lenders, and credit card companies just can’t see the reports. All the same reports are generated. you can still get annual report for free from one of the three agencies, they just can’t give the report to anyone else, ever, until the freeze is lifted by you.
I’m not sure what letter Jas received from Experian, but I received one saying that they have removed my name from their “preapproved credit offer mailing lists for five years.”
If I want my name removed “permanently from the preapproved credit offer mailing lists that we provide to businesses”, I need to submit a written request.
This is different from a credit freeze. I put a credit freeze on my accounts so no one can access my accounts. However, Experian can look at my credit information, tell a credit card company that I am a good credit risk, and voila, I get another credit card offer.
I plan to remove myself permanently from their approved list but it seems like Experian is trying to head off people going the credit freeze route by telling them they have been removed from some mailing list.
Every time a Facebook user posts a horror story about having their identity stolen, it will produce a ripple of frozen credit accounts among their friends. Kind of like a nuclear chain reaction!
Ironically, the fact that the credit agencies charge the consumer for freezing an account will make the consumer think twice about unfreezing and refreezing their accounts. I think the agencies may decide to revoke their fees altogether. It’s the politically correct thing to do.
So the fox is now telling the public that the henhouse needs guarded??
That is almost funny.
David G LA
Sep 17, 2017 at 1:42 pm
“This is rich… Wells Fargo warning its customers about fraud.”
Indeed. A more sublime irony could scarcely be imagined.
Schadenfreude aside, the incident is sufficiently serious that it could result in a severe recession, given the pervasive dependence of the U.S. economy on consumer credit. After all, if WF is calling for mass credit freezes, the entire country should probably be under a credit freeze.
For all we know, all the credit reporting agencies have been hacked, and we’re just waiting for their executives to unload their equity positions before they issue notifications. Generally speaking, there’s no way to know how widespread data hacks could be, and the institutions involved could be highly motivated to control that information. There’s no limit.
This is what happens when the Financial Industrial Complex is allowed to operate without any effective constraint or oversight, which is to say, government regulation. Their blind avarice causes them to make mistakes which blow up the economy. No, really, it’s happened before, and if we survive this occasion, it’s going to happen again.
True libertarians will naturally insist there is still no need for regulation due to their religious belief in fairy-tale self-correcting markets, but they have already been fully discredited on numerous issues and any further discommedation would only be for the exercise. The unfortunate thing is, they’re running the show. And they are a grave danger to us all.
Some people will risk their lives to protect their families, some to serve a cause. And some people risk their lives to get richer, and regard the rest of us as mere collateral damage. They believe whoever dies with the most money wins, and have no real problem with ending the game entirely for everybody so long as they have achieved their financial goals.
I’m just going to sit back and watch it happen, and maybe occasionally offer commentary.
Me too Walter I may just buy that property across the stream and plant some fruit and nut trees and watch them grow as well
RE: …given the pervasive dependence of the U.S. economy on consumer credit.
Or more exactly long-term consumer debt. It is one thing to use your credit card(s) as some type of checking account where you pay in full every month, and quite another when you pay only the minimum every month and in many cases continue to expand the high interest credit card debt.
We, in the “Brave New World Order,” are in fact enmeshed in a perpetually increasing long term debt based economy [all sectors, not just consumers], and not one based on the convenience of short term [credit card] debt, which after all can be replaced with cash and/or personal check, as was the case before the widespread use of credit cards.
It is well to remember that even apparently good commercial paper and repo agreements, which are the commercial equivalents of short-term credit card debt, can, and did, go bad, for example Lehman and Bear, Sterns.
A mass credit freeze? So what will happen with this? Currently the company requesting a consumer’s credit info needs to pay a fee to see it. Now the consumer is going to pay a fee (probably along with another fee for the requesting entity) to have the freeze temporarily lifted when they need to apply for new credit, mortgage, lease, etc.
The fees for a freeze and to lift a freeze need to be outlawed indefinitely because of this negligent screw up.
Either the CRAs remove fees for freezing accounts voluntarily or state legislatures will do it for them. PERMANENTLY
The government forced the 3 agencies to start the freezes around 10 years ago, because the 3 agencies could never guarantee their safety record for the public. At some point the $10/lift will probably be reduced and paid for by tax dollars. A freeze on all 3 agencies is the only way to stop credit fraud…permanently and with 100% efficacy.
It costs 3x$10=$30 for a permanent freeze for life. Then only one freeze needs be lifted temporarily (around $10/lift) to get a credit check done, when necessary. Don’t pay any monthly fees or other racket to see if your records have been hacked. A one time permanent credit freeze is the only permanent lifetime approach to protect your information.
Right. But my point is not so much about the fee for the freeze. (In my state there is no fee for a credit freeze.), but about the fee for the temporary lift. If you now have millions of people putting a freeze on their reports, at some point in the future you will also have millions of people requesting to have the freeze temporarily lifted, and needing to pay a fee to do so. This will be revenue to these agencies (and a penalty to you, the consumer) as a result of Equifax’ negligence. Fees for the lift should be outlawed along with fees for a freeze.
“So what would happen ?? ..
At it’s worst .. possibly a dis-organized state of ‘nation-wide financial arythmia’
Who knows ?
Wells’ recommendation to freeze access to credit bureaus is largely, if not entirely, self-serving. Wells, as a lender, is already granted access to periodically check credit reports of their customers. A freeze will essentially “freeze out” other lenders and potentially slow the attrition of customers already plaguing Wells.
Identity theft is expensive for lenders. There are two victims when someone steals your identity and borrows money in your name: you (because you have to deal with it) and the lender (because they they will never see that money again). The last thing the banking industry wants is a wave of identity theft.
“The last thing the banking industry wants is a wave of identity theft.”
It can’t be easy for them, trying to keep those floppy-dead lending standards from turning into floppy-dead operational standards.
So far I’ve been unable to muster any sympathy for WF. Somehow I suspect the problem isn’t with me. As for Equifax, well, I have my doubts they’ll last the year.
I froze mine and my wife’s accounts at Experion, Equifax and Trans Union with no problem in less than 30 minutes today. Not sure why everyone else is having such problems. I got email confirmations from all three for both of us.
BTW a temporary lift over the phone or online can be immediate (within seconds) and be for a specified time. Temporary lift of freeze to get credit when needed. Find out which of 3 agencies need to be temporarily lifted for your credit check (for student loan, car loan, mortgage, etc.). A temporary freeze lift is extra effort but is easy to do and can occur immediately. I’ve been frozen for over 5 years now and just have to take extra steps occasionally.
Thanks Wolf for all your guidance on this issue. I placed a credit freeze with all 3 credit rating agencies the other day. Took all of 1 hour. Not too hard for careful, intelligent people.
I’m going to do my wife’s soon. We will leave frozen until we need to open; that may be a number of years though.
I’m sick of all this financial hacking.
Is this an engineered black swan event to get the American people to ‘freeze’ their credit profiles thus making new loans to millions of Americans (especially to sub-prime impulse retail borrowers) impossible? This way bankers won’t get blamed for freezing credit (which will happen one way or another) and thus the economy. If we do it ourselves, they can’t be blamed. It is a genius move!
If the credit reporting agencies know what’s good for their future and want to maintain easy credit inquiries they will change their procedures so that people can freeze and unfreeze their credit at the drop of a hat and pretty much instantaneously with some super easy steps and zero fees. Maybe even set up a common web site to freeze and unfreeze across all agencies at once and it happening instantly or close to it.
I believe that will be the future we’ll see from them, since it’s the next best thing for their business model besides having credit reporting open all the time (which now looks to be a thing of the past for many people).
The big internet companies such as Google already have easy access down for even more complicated transactions such as creating a Google login for your web site. It can all be set up online, with the minimum of fuss, no human intervention and the fewest steps and most straightforward way they can streamline it in order to get people to use their services. If the credit agencies don’t want to go extinct like the dinosaurs they are, they need to use that kind of playbook.
Personally, I don’t mind having my credit frozen for long stretches since it’s rare for me to make large purchases that require a credit check. Even when I was renting and moving more often or when I was first applying for credit cards and such, I was only making the kind of applications that required credit checks every few years.
It’s completely insane to me that many people will apply for new credit or open new accounts simply to get a $15 discount at Gap, get a free toaster at a bank or get a $40 discount on a purchase at Amazon. It’s just not worth the small perk to me to open new credit when I already have sufficient. I know there are people who change their credit accounts constantly for the little perks of one card vs another or to rotate their credit across cards. I guess the perks are worthwhile to some, especially if their income is limited and it’s a bigger deal to them to play games with the perks.
You would think, right? But guess what… in this day and age of financial capitalism gone wild… your credit score improves with more credit cards. Yes, you read that correctly.
It used to be that the more credit cards you have open, your score could be lowered as it was all properly seen as liability. However now, your credit score is based on the ratio of revolving credit due against your total card limits added together.
So, let’s say two people have the same income:
Person A has $15K in credit card debt but with a combined limit of $35K.
Person B has $1K in credit card debt on one card with a limit of $2K.
Person A will have the higher FICO score.
You’re rewarded for having more potential debt liability / credit. F’d up if you ask me.
Is it really known that data was stolen or is it just known that there was a compromise??
Even with the freezes all the credit agencies will still do what they do, they just won’t be able to report to anyone else what they do. You can still get annual report for your own account. The agencies will still collect all the information. You will control who sees your credit records if you freeze your 3 agency accounts, and no one will fraudulently be able to get a new card on your name.
could someone please post the websites for creating the credit freezes at equifax, experian, transunion et alia.
would be greatly appreaciated.
in other words, so as to get to the FREEZE instructions immediately. and not deal with all the other nonsense.
also, what happens if an individual has never had a direct account with these credit entities?
then how does one implement a credit freeze? thanks your info.
You may need to setup a free account with Experian, Equifax, Transunion to setup the freeze. Once you setup the free accounts then they have online or by phone credit freeze. FREEZE is the only safe way.
Again, in the past, all three of these credit agencies required you to setup a free online account before setting up the account freeze. But there may be ways to freeze now that do not require accounts.
Generally everyone has information at these three credit reporting agencies since you were 18 years old, or before, when you started working.
does one have an account automatically established if a credit check is instigated?
or, if one applies for a credit card, or, if one has a credit card, is an account established?
even if the individual with the cards is not aware of that account?
Thanks very much for this info! It took me all of 5 minutes to freeze my husband and my Equifax accounts through the link you provided; I couldn’t get through a few days ago.
Let us hope that “unfreezing” will be as efficient, but Equifax provides no links or info other than a 10 digit pin.
Clark Howards website clark.com has link info on home page…
I’ve had a freeze in place for 5 or so years…
I live in Virginia, 10 bucks to freeze each company,,,
And best of all… unlock, relock is free and I’ve found easy…
Done it 3 times on line…
Wells is in that much poo, in that many places, it just want’s to be ahead of the Shitstorm for once.
Look for the same at any other lender with half a brain.
It’s just basic CYA.
Wells Fargo is finally getting some old time religion. In the past, when there was a major case of identity theft, they would use the fiasco to push a high fee credit monitoring service instead. Better late than never.
“Since the announcement, Equifax has taken additional actions including: Tripling the call center team and continuing to add agents, despite facing some difficulty due to Hurricane Irma.”
I read somewhere they hired 3000 people for this fiasco (I think—not positive). Where’d they find 3000 people? How’d 3000 people get trained that fast? Were the 3000 people properly vetted?!
“Equifax said Friday that it tripled its call center team to more than 2,000 agents and that it continued to add agents.”
This is going to be a “Sweet Christmas” indeed. December the “month of expending” with millions of people having a credit freeze?
Add to that the end of cheap credit, Uber crashing and burning in the not so distant future, and bubbles popping.
Hey Wolf how about giving a list of unicorns that have gone down this year so far?
You could even give it a fancy title like “Are unicorns going extinct?”
I think there are still more unicorns being created at the moment than go down in flames :-]
One wonders were they will get the cash since cheap credit is ending and people is getting scared on startups thanks to stuff like Juicero and online scams. Not to mention millions are getting their credit freezed.
It will be way more noticeable next year I think.
I guess you could do some end of year articles during December pointing out the most noteworthy cases.
I mean Juicero got way more press than fake crypto currencies…
Thanks Wolf for covering this story. I want to tell your readers that based on my personal experience Experian may not allow them to freeze their accounts.
I was never able to freeze my account because they
claimed that my new e-mail address did not match my 5 year older e-mail address (who keeps e-mail addresses forever?).
Because of that anomoly.
1. They refused to speak to me on the phone after I could not produce the old email. My phones were locked out of any contact from their phone numbers.
2. refused to answer my written correspondence.
3. Sent a letter to my home claiming the FBI had been contacted over someone trying to impersonate me.
Your readers must understand that if you have a problem with any credit agency there is absolutely no one to complain to. The FTC (federal trade commission) does (or did not cover) consumer complaints concerning these agencies.
Currently (today) if you go to the Experian freeze site my browser told me that the secure connection was broken (check it out). This would deter anyone from putting on a freeze. Take a look, but maybe it’s just my connection.
Just letting you know my experience, but maybe things have changed. I doubt it.
Wow! I think it’s time to contact your State Attorney General’s office.
I do think the page has an issue with the security certificate. I tried it just now. It worked fine in Chrome. But I got a security warning in Firefox and IE. But you can click past the security warning and use the site.
LOL – I was imagining how someone at Equifax had sold all those 143 million accounts data to some crime syndicate for $10 per account, or $1.4 Billion with a $100 million down payment, but then the ‘hackers’ didn’t fork over any more Buck$$$, and so the ‘data seller’ at Equifax in retaliation ‘blew the whistle’ on the ‘data breach’, thus ‘screwing’ the non-paying ‘hackers’ !!! , and attempting to cover his/her ass in the process.
Having been watching the 4 season series “Continuum” on dvd’s lately, the time travel issue is intriguing as well.
Does anyone know how to confirm a security freeze has actually been done? After receiving letters referencing “credit offer mailing list…” but no mention of a security freeze or PIN after initiating a security freeze(one by mail, one by website) but having been charged the $10.00 security freeze fee I’m not confident there is actually a security freeze in place.
I would really appreciate any suggestions on confirming the status of these security freezes.
I don’t know how to answer your question on how to do this via the credit bureaus. But…
The ultimate check is for you to go to your bank that you do business with and ask to open a new credit card account or get a personal loan. They’d love that. You sit down with the friendly loan officer, and first thing they do is check your credit right in front of you on their screen, which should hit a wall… a couple of minutes into this, if you have a credit freeze in place, they should look at you with an embarrassed and confused smile….
But if they start printing up contracts and say “sign here,” you do not have a credit freeze in place.
Try to get substantial credit id a strage/new place it should get bounced and if you question them why, they should be telling you your data is frozen. place.
olf will tell you some official way but a live test is always the simplest for peace of mind..
I’m late to the party and there are a lot of comments. I apologize if someone already posted something like this:
Wells Fargo is posting this because they stand to lose money on identity thefts. They’re not good samaritans.