Under Siege

It’s free to request a credit [un]freeze for Washington residents now and I did exactly that. Before June 7th, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion robbed us coming and going, each charging us a $10 fee to freeze our credit report and then another $10 to unfreeze it. These credit bureaus are for-profit businesses that we didn’t choose to give our information to, they just have it and they charge us money to solve problems they create in the first place as though they’re doing us any kind of service.

Last year after Equifax lost to hackers this sensitive personal info of mine, I was done. Less than a year before that my health insurer was hacked, I was issued free credit monitoring protection and had to go through each of the aforementioned credit bureaus and place a fraud alert — which tells us when we’re fucked but does nothing to keep us from getting fucked or help to unfuck us if we are and expires after only 90 days. Pain in the ass!

I’ve also eaten the cost a RFID shielded wallet so I don’t eat the cost of being ripped off by meandering thieves with easily hidden scanners (presumably anyway, I’ll never know if the wallet works as advertised), pulling my credit card data broadcast from the so-called security chips. You know the ones that make cashiers tell us to “stick it in” and hold up lines like old ladies with open checkbooks. Yeah, those. Because progress!

I got a robocall from my bank asking me if I was making purchases at a travel agency in Montana. Um, no! The thieves quickly clone and use the cards. The information doesn’t even touch the internet, at least not long enough for the credit monitoring service to detect. Disputed the charge easily enough that time. But before that, someone charged “industrial supplies” to one of my cards, the number ringing a call center in Florida. Seemed legit! And before that Russians had used my debit card in Texas to purchase iTunes gift cards, shit from Bed, Bath & Beyond and for-sale ads in a small paper advertising puppies. I know this because I had to track down each of these purchases and sort it out myself. Pain in the ass!

These experiences have taught me to activate every alert available on my cards. Because I wanna know! $1.09 gets charged for a candy bar, I’m gonna get a text and email saying so. Done!

And if credit monitoring protection is any indication, our stolen logins and passwords are being traded constantly online. It’s insane! So I’ve been using a password manager and storing long, ugly, randomly generated passwords in it for everything. ‘Cause chances are they’re gonna be leaked in some data breach or another (we don’t hear about most of them) and the best we can do is make them useless to log into anything else with.

I know too many people who’ve been taken. One friend had his social security deposit drained from the card the government put it on while sitting in a Denny’s. Another discovered someone had purchased a house in her name! Theft is rampant and no one can be trusted to protect us. We’re lambs to the slaughter. Under siege from all sides. And a credit freeze is just one way to shore up the walls.

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Escaped Hippie Gamete, Art Geek, Sci-Fantasy Nerd, Political Junkie and Code Monkey.

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