Credit reference agencies respond to data breaches with new software and tech.
Last year, one of the three major US credit reporting agencies experienced a data breach that compromised the complete identities of more than 145 million people worldwide. Interestingly, not only were the victims not informed in a timely manner, the very nature of credit reporting agencies means you have no choice but to let them gather and store your data. If you exist as a shopper, you have (or do not have, as the case may be) a credit file; the information contained in it was not necessarily handed over to them voluntarily, but rather came through some form of application process.
When Equifax was hacked, it took a significant amount of time for the public to be made aware. As a result of their lax security, the agency is responsible for providing free credit monitoring for the affected victims. Some advocacy groups are also calling on the government to enact legislation that allows consumers to freeze and unfreeze their credit without a fee; as it stands, the three CRAs make a profit on the fees associated with requesting your credit report, locking up your credit to prevent new accounts from being opened in your name, and more.
Experian, another CRA, has incorporated a suite of consumer-centric tools into its website and mobile app in order to help you identify whether or not your data has been compromised, as well as view your credit report, freeze or “thaw” your credit, and more. Some of these tools are available free of charge, such as viewing your report or finding out if your Social Security number is for sale on any of the 600,000 monitored Dark Web websites. Other tools, such as credit monitoring and freezing, come with a cost that can be paid directly through the website (as opposed to submitting payment by check or money order, as in the past).
Together, the three major CRAs–Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion–make about $9 billion in revenue each year from the fees associated with gathering, storing, and selling consumer data.