Their doom-and-gloom scenario: Consumers suddenly becoming prudent.
“Let’s face it, 143 million frauds won’t be perpetrated right away; it will take some time to filter through,” Steve Bowman, chief credit and risk officer at GM Financial, the auto-lending subsidiary of General Motors, told Reuters.
He was talking about the consequences of the Equifax hack during which the most crucial personal data, including Social Security numbers, of 143 million American consumers along with equivalent data of Canadian and British consumers, had been stolen. These consumers have all at once become very vulnerable to all kinds of fraud, including identity theft – where a fraudster borrows money in their name.
The day Equifax disclosed the hack, I urged affected consumers to put a credit freeze on their credit data at the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — to protect themselves against these frauds. Soon, the largest media outlets and state attorneys general urged consumers to do the same thing. Financial advisors are recommending it. Even Wells Fargo jumped on the credit freeze bandwagon.
As a result, consumers have flooded the websites of the three credit bureaus to request credit freezes in such numbers that the sites slowed down, timed out, or went down entirely for periods of time. This credit freeze frenzy is scaring the credit industry – not just the credit bureaus, but also lenders and companies that rely on easy credit to sell their wares, such as automakers and department stores with instant credit cards.
With a credit freeze in place, those consumers cannot be approved for new credit until they lift the credit freeze, which can take up to three business days. The time and extra hoops to jump through before applying for a new loan might deter consumers from buying that car at the spur of the moment.
No one knows how this is going to turn out – and how it will impact the debt-based consumer economy. But fears are mounting. If just 10% of 324 million folks in the US put a credit freeze on their data, the credit industry will feel the impact painfully. Hence the efforts to contain the fallout.
On Wednesday, an apology by the interim CEO of Equifax, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. – he succeeded CEO Richard Smith, who’d been sacked – concluded with tidbits of a service Equifax is hoping to roll out by January 31. It would allow “all consumers the option of controlling access to their personal credit data.” It would allow them to “easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files.” This is going to be “simple,” and “free for life.”
This “credit lock” or whatever Equifax wants to call it is not a “credit freeze.” TransUnion is offering a similar service. Credit freezes are covered by state law, and credit bureaus have to conform to state law. With these “credit locks” credit bureaus can do whatever they want to, and consumers will have to read the fine print to figure out what that is and how well a “credit lock” will protect them.
But those credit locks offer the credit industry a huge advantage over a credit freeze: They can be designed to be lifted instantly. And this is a sign of how frazzled the credit industry, including the lenders, are becoming, about the credit freezes.
They’re worried that a credit freeze – because it takes a few days to lift – would prevent consumers from impulse-borrowing, such as getting a car loan when the mood strikes to buy new car. Some consumers, including myself, have had a credit freeze in place for years, but the numbers have been small. Now the numbers are soaring. The credit industry probably has data showing that consumers with credit freezes in place borrow less, or don’t borrow at all. That’s a scary thought for them.
Bankers expect the credit locks to be easier to remove, resulting in less “friction” to lending than credit freezes, Avivah Litan, a security analyst at research firm Gartner, told Reuters.
The credit industry and companies producing and selling consumer goods profit from turning consumers into debt slaves. And they’re worried that consumers, by the mechanics of having to lift the credit freeze first, would suddenly become more prudent and less impulsive borrowers. Impulse-borrowing to buy things people don’t need and often can’t afford is a key element of the US economy. Allowing credit freezes to get in the way could do all kinds of damage.
A banker, “who was not authorized to speak on the record,” told Reuters that the industry doesn’t know how much credit report restrictions will ultimately slow business. But “that’s on the worry list,” he said.
“Banks hate credit freezes,” explained Chris Hoofnagle, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author on consumer protection law. “The banks want people to buy things on credit without a second thought,” he told Reuters.
And this “second thought” could lead people to borrow less and spend less. The auto industry, including auto lenders, are already reeling from falling sales accompanied by rising delinquencies in the subprime segment. The last thing they need is consumers becoming prudent. That would be their ultimate doom-and-gloom scenario.
Here are some of the Equifax scams that are starting to crop up – and how to protect yourself. Read… Beware – the Equifax Scams Are Coming
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Remember when we had vigilant and conscientious regulators, enforcers, a judiciary, legislators, and hard-boiled investigative reporters all looking out for the public interest?
Neither do I.
I got screwed by an unscrupulous mortgage broker when I needed money fast My lawyer screwed me as well as he was getting a kickback from the crooks I knew they were screwing me and that I had made a mistake I went to a legitimate mortgage broker( if that’s even possible) and refininanced the loan within 3 months and lost 10K in the process and learned a hard lesson
Gershon very good that will no doubt be one of the best answers to the credit freeze problem.
Once upon a time, most states had usury laws, which I remember. Now I don’t think any of them do. As limited as consumer protections are in the US, they are almost non existant in Canada, where there are no credit freezes and no free credit reports and where mutual fund fees are among the highest in the world.
They still have usury laws. They apply to you and me, but not to banks. So credit card companies can charge 24% interest, but (depending on the state) you cannot charge me more than 8% for a loan. If you charged me 9%, I could refuse to pay it back, and if you sued me the courts would find you to be guilty of usury, but they are OK with banks charging any rate they want.
Average person as described by the media: “Credit Freeze. Yes. I will be prudent and place one at each agency. Posthaste. I am not a fool!”
Average person, reality: “Great idea I will …. Squirrel, over there!” or “Whut?” or nods of affirmation while texting.
Indeed. But if just 10% of 324 million folks in the US put a credit freeze on their data, the credit industry will feel the impact painfully. If 20% do it, it would be a fiasco for the industry.
No disagreement with your math. However, I read an article that said .7% had made some kind of effort. I was one and they make zip off of me.
I read that 2-3% had credit freezes in place before the Equifax hack (including me and a few other people I know) and that in the days after the hack it doubled. No hard figures out there. Just estimates. The credit bureaus keep this data close to their vest.
Wolf, worst case … Equifax is sold or otherwise goes away. The others take up the slack and see a business increase. Somebody will figure out how to make lemonade from this. Maybe Elon Musk will go into this industry and glom some federal benefits for his new solar powered credit reports.
cdr: Elon has already setup “new solar powered credit reports” for citizens of the cities he plans to build on Mars.
Somewhat related numbers (based on a survey of 1,000 Americans, grain of salt applies):
– 84% of Americans have heard of the Equifax cyber breach
– 54% of Americans believe that Equifax should lose its ability to act as a credit bureau
– 55% of Americans have not checked to see if their information was hacked
– 26% of Americans plan on joining a class action lawsuit against Equifax, 46% are unsure
Business Insider September 26th article titled “After the Equifax breach, consumers were advised to freeze their credit — but almost no one did it”
“Fewer than 1% of consumers have put a credit freeze in place, according to a new report from credit monitoring site CreditSesame.”
Interesting – for this reason: The article said, “Of the nearly four million TransUnion credit reports Credit Sesame analyzed, 0.32% had a credit freeze in place, and 7% had a fraud alert.”
==> How did Credit Sesame obtain a “credit report” about people that have a credit freeze in place? No one is supposed to be able to get your credit report once you have a credit freeze in place. Bizarre.
Wolf, re your researched comments:
“Somewhat related numbers (based on a survey of 1,000 Americans, grain of salt applies):”
Those who say they will do something decisive: Distracted by the next squirrel that passes by
Those who will get into the next class action suit: “Where do I sign … when do i get my money .. how much … I don’t have to do anything do I? – Squirrel over there!”
If a credit freeze will largely cut the future fraud, why aren’t ALL affected persons’ credit frozen automatically by default?
Because it would hurt the lenders, and because consumers cannot get new loans. So it should be the consumer’s initiative. But it should be easy and quick, and not the artificially arduous process that it is right now.
Credit freezes exist only because state laws forced them on the industry after numerous hacks occurred in the early part of this century that made consumers very vulnerable.
The credit bureaus may be the buggy whips of the 19th century. They are no longer needed. Banks will just self-validate your credit worthiness. Thank Google and Facebook. They know your credit better than you.
Good point, and to extend that thought, crypto-currencies may replace credit agencies, when you have the ability to purchase x dollars of credit with x/y amount of collateral.
Banks will just self-validate your credit worthiness.
No, they won’t. That would kill Growf!
Credit bureaus must exist because they relieve the lender of responsibility.
When the borrower turns out to be dead-beats and defaults, they can use the credit report to prove they did proper “due diligence” (at the same time they do not care a whole lot since they immediately securitised the loan so now it is not on their books anymore. In the end someone like the ECB will buy the 1000x leveraged OTC-derivatives crafted from a 1500000 EUR loan made on a 1995 Toyota Camry, … but. I digress). Lenders can originate and sell more loans that way, the derivatives people get more fodder for their alchemists. Everyone are happy.
Same thing with credit ratings bureaus.
Some part of me, while mad at the inconvenience of dealing with all this data theft, is actually glad that the corporate world is getting rattled over this. The complacency everywhere is astounding.
The corporate world would get rattled if the Equifax CEO and top officers were making handcuffed perp walks and facing serious criminal charges. But as long as “our” elected officials are beholden only to their corporate pimps, and regulators and enforcers are either complicit or asleep at the switch, that is never going to happen.
I wish this site had a “like” function so I’m just chiming in to approximate same.
In a world with political leadership that cared one figurative iota about people there would emerge some sort of federal-level one-stop easy version of the credit freeze. This is something I would certainly get behind philosophically.
However on planet Earth I will not interact with these bureaus and provide them with even more of my data in hopes that they will protect all the data (much of which being incorrect) they have already.
I’m “out” as far as needing credit or employment ever again so that’s my own bias talking. For those who just absolutely live in terror that some nefarious actor will somewhere take out an uncollectible loan in their name – thus depriving them of the ability to borrow money at a whim and further retard their economic progress in life? Freeze away, then.
I froze my credit some time ago, and I still receive offers in the mail for new credit lines. I assume that should I reply, the agent would note the freeze on my credit and then offer to remove it for me. That much seems likely, promoting this service as a sort of soft freeze makes it sound worse than it is. The agent verifies your identity and the freeze remains. At the margin personal access to consumer credit suffers, like buying a house full of furniture no interest until 2020. Can you even call that kind of promotion credit? Here take the car home, if you like it we’ll talk.
I predict … In the future Credit Freezes will work as well as the Do Not Call list.
Suppose someone opens an account in my name despite the credit freeze that I have established? What’s my recourse, I don’t have a business agreement with any of them. A proper credit freeze would be to mail them a contract and make them sign it, if you don’t have that all you have are empty promises.
Agree. Without a “Not Me” law (not expected ever), the recourse you and I have against the debt collectors due to identity theft is hire a lawyer or a subsidiary of a credit bureau (new business line for them) that fights identity theft for a fee.
Credit purveyors will find a way to survive the credit freeze, just like some pawn shops don’t look too closely at who is selling the jewelry. If the SSN matches the name, no problem. Then, sell the debt.
Lemons from lemonade aka never waste a crisis.
Contact your state’s attorney general and the CFPB to file a complaint against the credit agency where your credit was checked to open the account with it still frozen since they are breaking the law.
I have had my credit freezes in place for about 12 years. They work.
Lol,i think you nailed it,this digital house of mirrors is beyond control or laws. once your data is out there it’s fair game to all. i do agree with Wolf though: these breaches will eventually have a serious effect on consumer trust and will drag down the economy. only then will we see some action and people in handcuffs…
These “pre-approved” credit offers – they’re actually not approved … you still have to apply for credit, and the application has to be approved – are still possible after a credit freeze. But there should be fewer of them.
My bank sends them to me all the time, for three things: their credit card, a personal line of credit, and a line of credit for my company. They’re all “pre-approved.” So I decided to take them up on an offer for a credit card. I went to the branch with the “pre-approved” form. Note that I have had a credit freeze in place for years. So the banker smiles, and tries to check my credit, and gets blocked. So even at my own bank, I couldn’t open a “pre-approved” credit card account with a credit freeze in place.
This is pretty good protection.
Yes, i remember getting real credit cards in the mail,all you had to do is make a purchase to validate.that was the 80s and 90s. ahh the good old days! lol
There are few websites which have been helping consumers be more vigilant about their credit and use it more responsibly.
IMO, One of the best is: LenPenzo.com
Its subtitle is: “The Offbeat Personal Finance Blog for Responsible People”.
The credit fear:
The economy is dependent on new credit creation. Without larger accumulated credit debts, (when compared to GDP) the more likely it is that a reduction in credit will cause an economic crisis. Since 70% of the economy is consumerist dependent.
There are dozens of political, economic, social, military, and monetary factors influencing financial markets at any given time. Some bubble to the surface and into the public spotlight, others remain hidden.
One of these hidden credit dangers is about to surface. The (revolving credit) home equity line of credit, or HELOC. The majority of HELOC’s issued prior to the 2008 financial crisis, have ten year draw periods, many with interest only payment requirements.
At which time the HELOC principle amount is due, either as a lump sum balloon payment, or according to the loan amortization schedule. Many are recourse debts which the borrower is personally liable even after a property is foreclosed or sold.
The clocks are ticking on credit. tic-tock-tic-tock….
Since we are talking about the security of our online financial information, what about the brokerage houses (Fidelity, Schwab, et al)? How safe are your investments really?
Remember even the NY Federal Reserve was hacked for $100M out of the Bangladesh account last year. I don’t think the NY Fed ever reimbursed them.
Most people have small enough brokerage accounts to be fully covered by the government program (up to $500,000 SIPC insurance). Larger brokers have extra private insurance for their customers (up to $150 million for all customer accounts of one large firm).
My suggestion is that you set up a verbal password for your account in addition to your online password, in case someone tried to request a large check from your account.
i have some accounts with Fidelity. I called to request that rare activity I have with the accounts be made by phone only. When I called they wanted to record my voice for an electronic match recognition system they now had. I was quite pleased with that.
I have a shared account (joint) at Fidelity. Every withdrawal by either of us, requires that the other holder is called by phone and the withdrawal is approved. They have done this consistently – going on 10+ years now.
“Remember even the NY Federal Reserve was hacked for $100M out of the Bangladesh account last year. I don’t think the NY Fed ever reimbursed them.”
The FED was not hacked.
The Bangladeshi end of the SWIFT transaction was.
Which is completely different thing
DPRK was involved, and there was inside (Bangladesh banking) help.
Where is Congress in all this? If someone with guns, bombs and drones had attacked Equifax and stolen the data, Congress would be in an uproar. Because there is no blood, there is no interest. Depressing.
I think you are over-reacting. Congress would get uppity only if the attack on the credit bureau could be monetized into campaign benefits or other forms of personal enrichment. Blood is not necessarily a requirement. An eventual special prosecutor would be golden. Hacking a credit bureau does not have the same monetary appeal as a permanent investigation of hacking an election, real or imagined. Equifax is not valuable enough for Congress to take a real interest.
“Equifax is not valuable enough for Congress to take a real interest.”
They hold the keys to US credit. The US economy dosent move without Credit.
If the credit system in the US starts to shut down. Congress will be taking notice. Lots of it.
No consumer spending on credit, lots LESS CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION funds available.
Where is Congress in all this?
Our Congress Critters will do what they always do: bloviate for the cameras, while pocketing donations – don’t call them bribes, oh heaven’s no! – from Equifax lobbyists to ensure the usual slap-on-the-wrist fines and no criminal charges for the guilty parties.
Where’s CONgress in all this? Imagine an immensely fat, filthy sow labeled ‘CONporate Interests’ lying in the mud. There’s a huge crowd of little piglets that are all labeled ‘Politicians’ competing furiously to get to her teats. That where CONgress is in all of this. Any questions?
“Where’s CONgress in all this?”
Where it always is, in the pockets of big dollar lobbies…
The most scary thing is that the top 10% will put a freeze on their accounts. The 90% of the debt slaves can only spend so much. You can’t squeeze blood out of stone. Will this effect the online click industry?
I was going to ask, “Who on earth buys a car on impulse”? Then I thought, “Wait a minute, you know some people who have done that”!
Still, unless one is independently wealthy, the idea of buying a car on a whim is exactly what is wrong with our Society.
I have never bought a car on time, and that is precisely why I usually drove beaters and/or my bike. However, we did buy a new Yaris in 2009…..cash. We don’t do ‘debt’ in our house. No debt = Freedom; pure and simple. It might hurt merchants, but if people returned to a lifestyle of buying what they can afford, credit bureaus would not exist.
That new car isn’t new to the buyer in a few months. The thrill is gone about the time the new car smell goes away. Then, it is just a ‘ride’ for the same guy making the payments. That ‘new car evolves into an awareness of the flaws, rattles, maintenance costs, and that same-old life dissatisfaction that prompted the purchase in the first place.
“Gold is the money of kings; silver is the money of gentlemen; barter is the money of peasants; debt is the money of slaves.”
The skim (from asset inflation) taken from money freshly printed by central banks is the money of the people who the kings, dukes, earls, elected officials, and priesthoods report to. This skim also gives gold its value. The people who control the people who run central banks run the world. (Currently called Globalists in the US)
“The people who control the people who run central banks of the world.”
Founded in 1929, from 3 October to 13 November, The Bank for International Settlements met in Baden-Baden Germany to ‘elaborate the structure and statutes’. On 26 and 27 February 1930, governors of the founding central banks met in Rome to officially create the BIS. I would assume this staged in Rome to be done with the blessing of the Vatican. On 17 May 1930, the BIS set up shop at the former Savoy Hotel Univers in Basel, Switzerland.
I was going to ask, “Who on earth buys a car on impulse”?
My idiot BiL, for one.
I know a guy who probably buys a new car once a year. Most of his friends like it because they buy his used one for a good deal.
I bought my last car off a very impulsive woman – you have to be like the hunter or spearfisher, and that involves a lot of waiting and observing and being prepared for taking the shot when the opportunity presents itself.
Hi Paulo – who buys cars on impulse? I did! As a goofy 20 something, I went to a dealership for a test drive and walked out with an SUV and a huge loan. I still have the SUV (not the loan) 20 years later, so I would say it was money well spent, even if it was an extravagance at the time. I replace my ‘new car’ air fresheners from time to time to keep the new car smell.
Being in debt is not a good situation to be in, but it’s a great tool if used carefully. Myself, I was more lucky than careful… and certainly, people could use more education on personal finances and debt than what people probably get today.
BTW, that “new car smell” is a toxic mix of gases, evaporation, and particulate matter emanating from glues, adhesives, plastics, chemicals, etc. from the interior of the new car. You should always open the window for a minute of two when you get into a new car after it has been parked for a while. A year or so down the road, once the smell disappears, you’re safer. So enjoy the healthier air of your 20-year old SUV. And don’t overdo it with the fake new car smell :-]
Repo Man quote from Miller to Otto as he hands him a pine tree air freshener, “Find one in every car. You’ll see.”
Quote from Lite to Otto, “New ID don’t cost no more than a pink slip.”
BMW France is presently advertising one of their SUV models starting at €500/month, no-money-down. JLR France is the same, only the monthly payment starts at €650/month for yet another SUV.
These offers are obviously aimed at impulse buyers: anybody wanting one of those cars and thinking over the matter for a few minutes would simply lease and return them after two or three years, before the costs of owning one of these cars start spiral even more out of control. Yes, both BMW and JLR offer the same cars on lease, so it would be a no-brain… look there’s a puffy-tail!
My concern is, to my knowledge, I have never given my SSN or any other data to Experian, Equifax, Transunion or any other credit bureau. Just how and why do they have that info as I’m sure they do. Is it in the fine print of a credit card agreement one makes with your bank? That, and a long ago loan from Toyota Motor Credit when I bought a car from a Toyota dealer are the only times I have EVER applied for credit. I inherited a house and never have had a mortgage.
So you don’t do debt in your house. Then you are the exception.
If your Toyota loan was paid off over 10 years ago and the account was closed, it should not longer be on your record. If you have a credit card, the credit reporting agencies all have your financial information and your SSN. I suggest you keep your credit card and pay off your charges in full every month.
It seems Navy FCU is getting in on the act and recommending getting a credit freeze, too.
There is a reason I got a phone answering machine ages ago, too bad I haven’t found an equivalent for cell phones I am comfortable with. And that 90% of my e-mails get delated after I just read the headlines.
So back on this, remember when I warned the US was going to have quite an interesting holidays seasons in December?
To that, add credit freezes and all the other data hacks we had lately.
If this doesn’t make online sales drop at least a little I don’t know what will do it.
I like to keep telemarketers on the phone as long as I can. It screws with their efficiency and seems to prevent the rest of ’em from calling. I do all sorts of things, like hatch off-the-cuff scams we can pull together. Or ask how the weather is where they are, but in detail like it really matters.
I’m kind of surprised I haven’t talked to one yet in pidgin woops I mean Pacific Creole English.
So I placed the suggested credit freeze with all three agencies. Then I tried to create a MySocialSecurity account to avoid scammer from doing the same. It would not allow me to create the account. I called SS office and the pleasant worker asked me if I had recently placed a credit freeze. She said that they use credit agency to verify SS setup information. Then smirked that it was Equifax they use. She also told me there is a work around to create account but I had to go to SS office to get code. I told her that the credit freeze accomplished my short term goal of avoiding scammer takeover of my SS account. Thanks.
I predict many debt slaves, at least the smarter ones, will use this opportunity and claim be victims of identity deft, even if they were not, and refuse to pay the money they did borrow.
This fiasco might be the straw that broke the camel’s back, the one that puts an end to the QE ponzi.
More bad news for Amazon.
2017 Xmas season and 2018 will be tough for Amazon.
Not just for amazon.
Will this the first time a data leak screws the US economy without the leak revealing a scam?
A great opportunity for identity theft will lead to many unpaid loans. Who’s on the hook for this money? What person who was defrauded will pay? Follow the money. Catastrophy in the making? Slow train wreck? If it gets ugly enough, underwriting will intervene.
Concerning credit. my thoughts are those with better credit are more likely to freeze their credit after this Equifax data breach. Those with poor credit could probably care less. So the percentages of credit freezes, though small, should carry far more weight with these credit agencies? Or maybe the credit game doesn’t care what one’s score is, as long as the borrower is breathing……………..
Consumers becoming prudent?
LOL. They’ll only do so IFF their credit lines have been frozen by all external providers.
This is Murica. USA, USA, USA. And don’t forget guys, please stand when the national anthem is played.
This will push wages down in Mexico even further.
“It would allow them to easily lock and unlock access to their Equifax credit files.”
Nope. I want to be able to go to ONE place and freeze ALL of these unauthorized parasites of MY personal info. Oh and by the way, how long until THAT system is compromised, too?
I still think we need some form of corporate death penalty. It doesn’t work to simply wait around and just hope the malicious and irresponsible will do the right thing and commit suicide.
re: Pre-Approved credit offers… A credit freeze does not have any effect on these, but you CAN opt out of the majority of them here: https://www.optoutprescreen.com Very easy and definitely worth doing.
i was able to process a credit freeze at Trans Union and Experian without too much hassle. However, Equifax made it impossible to complete the process.
They gave me a random number to enter . Then , when I tried to submit my application, an error message pops up. This happened yesterday and also today.
Have not read all the comments. Has anyone else had this problem ? Is there any way to get around this roadblock ?
Opt out via mail and send the letter certified. I didn’t trust the websites and you can’t do it over the phone, so I did it via good old US certified mail.