Equifax offering free Freezes until Nov 21st – Because they have to

Equifax (photo by Mike Stewart/AP c/o <a href=http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/09/equifax-hack-143-million-us-customers-credit-data-leaked.html>Nymag.com</a>)
Equifax (photo by Mike Stewart/AP c/o Nymag.com)

According to the New York Times: Equifax reluctantly decided to make freezes free for a little while in light of their colossal blunder. It remains to be seen if they will also be issuing new PINs to those of us who already had a freeze in place. I reached out to a staff lawyer for consumers-union to ask if they had any plans to do so, but she didn't know (and didn't have any way to find out since the credit report companies avoid contact as much as possible).

I'll be looking for more details and try to get an answer, but until then I'll assume Equifax has no plans to take responsibility for their error.

Update: According to the New York times, Equifax is claiming that no PINs for current freezes were lost Tags: ,

Equifax Loses Data on 143 Million customers, unlikely to offer help to victims

Equifax (photo by Mike Stewart/AP c/o <a href=http://nymag.com/selectall/2017/09/equifax-hack-143-million-us-customers-credit-data-leaked.html>Nymag.com</a>)
Equifax (photo by Mike Stewart/AP c/o Nymag.com)

Oh look! Yet another data breach. This time affecting Credit Reporting Company Equifax; one of the three businesses most directly responsible for ID theft woes. Most companies don't offer any information or help to get your credit reports frozen (the only actual solution for ID theft) and I don't expect Equifax to be any different.

Equifax has a sorted past with multiple class action lawsuits and various other kinds of misconduct that had to be addressed by the Federal Trade Commission. Chances are they'll use this opportunity to offer free credit monitoring to appear to help while really just trying to avoid lawsuits and I guarantee, they won't talk about credit-freezes at all. Don't let them snow you and freeze your credit reports now!

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WellPoint Data Breach Due to Carelessness

Surprise, surprise. A company has giant data breach due to negligent security, but not to worry! They'll protect you by offering you credit monitoring for one year free!

It would be nice if people could spot this B.S. easily by now, but I'm guessing there are a lot that won't so let me spell it out. Credit monitoring is a waste of your time and is likely only offered to make it seem like they're doing something for you when they probably don't. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that the credit monitoring companies have a "data breach plan" where companies can get a bulk discount by offering monitoring to all their victims.

It's a classic win-win-lose. The breach company wins PR points, the monitoring companies continue to make money for not providing any real service, and we all lose.

If you're worried about id theft, just freeze your credit reports!

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Owning Apple Products May Be More Dangerous Than You Think

As illustrated by The Oatmeal, you may suffer more than you imagined for loving your apple products. Take a look and decide for yourself though it does get a little raunchy in parts (fair warning). Tags: ,

Kellogg’s Cereals Ordered to Stop Lying… Again

Liar, liar...
Liar, liar...

Would it surprise you to know that sugary cereals really aren't healthy? Sure! They have a vitamin or two and probably some kind of grain buried under all the fat and sugar and chemicals, but why pay attention to that?

Instead, Kellogg's corporation has been busy touting the healthy benefits of their kid's breakfast "foods":

Kellogg has agreed to expand a settlement order that was reached last year after the FTC alleged that the company made false claims that its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.”

At about the same time that Kellogg agreed to stop making these kinds of false claims in its cereal ads, the company began a new advertising campaign promoting the purported health benefits of Rice Krispies, according to the FTC. On product packaging, Kellogg claimed that Rice Krispies cereal “now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E.” The back of the cereal box stated that “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”

What did they get for such a misleading and blatantly manipulative campaign? An order from the FTC to stop making claims without proper scientific backing. Ooooh! Burn!

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ACLU and EFF to Cripple RIAA Lawsuits

While I don't support downloading music and movies instead of buying them, I also don't support abusing the legal system to bully people and make money. The RIAA has been doing just that for a long time according to several consumer groups.

In this case, the The American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU and the The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are arguing that when the The RIAA - Who They Are In a Nutshell sues thousands of "infringers", they have to file thousands of separate lawsuits and not just one.

Filing one is cheaper and easier, but makes it harder and is unfair for the victims… er, I mean defendants.

If the court adopts the approach suggested here, the costs of the current anti-P2P litigation strategy could become untenable. If each anonymous defendant requires several hundred dollars in filing fees, individual paperwork, individual subpoenas, and detailed information on their alleged distribution, settling for a mere $1,500 doesn't sound so hot.

Let's hope for the best. Leave people alone and worry about pirating organizations and criminal groups instead.

Source: Ars Technica

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Despite Promises, Lifelock Knows Public Data is A Risk

Todd Davis didn't post his social security number publicly because he thought his company could protect it. He did it as an advertising gimmick that netted him almost 2 million paying customers. At least, I have to assume that's what Todd's motivations were because I'm guessing he's not an idiot and knew his service wouldn't actually prevent ID theft. Even if he were, there have been so particularly telling clues recently such as:

  1. Having his own identity robbed 13 times since the stunt began.
  2. The 12 million dollar settlement with the FTC over false advertising relating to their gross misrepresentation of being able to prevent ID theft.

That's why when an employee's sensitive data showed up online, they worked to have it removed. No one should have their social security number posted publicly because the risk is too great. Unless of course you're the CEO of a company that charges $10/month to almost 2 million people and can afford any amount of ID theft you're hit with.

For those that are bad at math, that's 20 million a month income. Makes that $12 million settlement seem kind of inconsequential doesn't it?

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10 Reasons to Quit Facebook

This is awesome:

10. Facebook terms of service are completely one-sided
9. Facebook's CEO has a history of unethical behavoir
8. Facebook has flat-out declared a war on privacy
7. Facebook is pulling a classic bait and switch
6. Facebook is a bully
5. Even your private data is shared with applications
4. Facebook is not technically competent enough to be trusted
3. Facebook makes it incredibly difficult to delete your account
2. Facebook doesn't really support the open web
1. The Facebook application itself sucks

I agree so much with this. Facebook is trying to become the only provider and replace the open Internet much like AOL back in the day. I have long objected to their practices and privacy issues as well as their technical and security flaws. It would be nice if they could make moves in the right direction and become a more ethical business since the idea has a lot of potential if used properly.

The problem is I just don't see that happening. Until then, you may want to reconsider being a part of the system…just be careful when you do quit that you don't end up like this guy:

Stan tries to quit Facebook, Facebook resists

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Senators Send Angry E-mail to Facebook Over Privacy Changes

Some US senators are not happy about the new privacy changes and have sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg about it.

Facebook now obligates users to make publicly available certain parts of their profile that were previously private. If the user does not want to connect to a page with other users from their current town or university, the user will have that information deleted altogether from their profile.

If you read the entire letter, you can clearly see that they actually know what they're talking about. Surprising really.

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Answer a Phone Survey – Get Cheated

I've always debated things like helping jaywalkers, buying magazines at the door, and listening to telemarketers, but I think that I've finally come up with a common solution. Don't pick up anyone on the side of the road. Don't buy anything at your doorstep that doesn't involve cash and girl-scout cookies. And definitely, never, ever, talk to someone selling something or doing a "survey" on the phone.

The Consumerist is running a story about a warehouse worker who took a phone survey and was fired for it. It turns out that the shady company on the other end remixed the phone call recording to make it sound as if he answered "YES" to questions like "are you authorized to make phone plan decisions for your company" and "do you want to switch to Thieving Scumbag Phone Service Inc?"

It may not be fair to the people who are honest, but there's just no way for you to know who is and who isn't safe to deal with so the only logical choice to to stay out of it entirely. Check out this advice from a prior phone survey industry member on how to permanently get out of the call listings. Tags:

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Credit Monitoring

What is credit monitoring, why it doesn't live up to its promises, and what you can do instead.

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How to Stop Credit-Based ID Theft with a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze locks your credit report preventing any thieves from being able to open new accounts in your name. Your credit cards and current accounts work like they always have.

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The American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU

The American Civil Liberties Union - ACLU

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation - EFF

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The RIAA - Who They Are In a Nutshell

This is probably the best summary of who the RIAA is and what they stand for that I've ever heard:
The RIAA is like the Prohibitionists of old. In their view, the law cannot allow for something completely reasonable such as legal circumvention because it could be abused. Millions of people are thereby punished. Yet this is not how a civil society typically functions. Life is full of potentially dangerous products, services, and ideas. It's up to individuals to take responsibility for their actions, because we all know that catering to the lowest common denominator does not give birth to a free society, let alone an intelligent one. Yet the RIAA will stop at nothing to make sure that you and I never have the chance to make such decisions for ourselves.

By "legal circumvention", he refers to the the practice of circumventing Data Rights Management (DRM) for legal purposes such as making personal backup copies, educational uses, and other Fair Use practices. The RIAA is against it because they know that all it takes is one user with a DRM-free copy to post a song online for it to be shared everywhere in the world.

Here are some examples of the legal tricks they pull: RIAA Withdraws Case and Refiles It to Get Different Judge