(NBC) — Remember how Equifax responded to its massive data breach in 2017, the one that exposed the personal information — including Social Security numbers and birth dates — of more than 146 million Americans? It offered victims free enrollment in its “TrustedID Premier” program to monitor their credit and lock their Equifax credit file.
Those who took advantage of this offer may not realize that their free TrustedID Premier subscription ended on January 31. On that date, those Equifax credit reports were unlocked.
Subscribers were offered a complimentary one-year extension of the lock and monitoring through Experian’s “IDnotify” program. The email alerts Equifax sent to subscribers provided two other options:
Sign up for the company’s free “Lock & Alert” service
Place a free security freeze on their account
Some consumer advocates have criticized Equifax for offering a remedial program with such a short lifespan.
“The breach of your Social Security number puts you at risk of identity theft for the rest of your life. So why did Equifax ever think a one-year service was good enough?” said Mike Litt with the consumer advocacy group U.S. PIRG.
In a statement to NBC News BETTER, Equifax said it automatically unlocked those TrustedID Premier credit files to ensure consumers were able to “manage access to their Equifax credit report” once the TrustedID Premier product expired.
“Had we not, consumers would have been required to contact our call center and go through the authentication process in order to unlock their Equifax credit report in the future — something they may not have anticipated or remembered when applying for credit,” the statement said.
Equifax insists it is “committed to providing consumers with the resources they need to remain vigilant about monitoring their credit.”
Everyone who signed up for the Equifax TrustedID Premiere following the 2017 breach needs to remember that their risk of identity theft did not decrease just because a little more than a year has gone by.
“The potential impacts of Equifax’s breach could still be felt by those whose data was leaked,” said Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “Breached personally identifiable information (PII) is similar to having an incurable disease: You may go into ‘remission’ and not have any problems for a while, but you’re still sick. In other words, your stolen data is still out there and could be used by identity thieves at any time.”
Consumer advocates are urging…