Talk about chutzpah! Equifax--a company that compiles credit data and sells it to lenders--just exposed at least 143 million people (and probably many more) to almost certain identity theft, and now the company wants to pick your pocket, too.

In the guise of trying to "help" consumers who are now at risk of identity theft, Equifax launched a website that allows you to check whether your data was compromised. If the website says that your data "may" have been compromised, Equifax offers you a free year of credit score monitoring.

There are eight reasons why this is a horrible and predatory idea:

  1. A year is inadequate to the potential threat. With 143 million victims to choose from, it could be decades before hackers use the data to steal a particular individual's identity.
  2. A free year is an obvious marketing ploy. Nearly every service on the Web nowadays offers a "free to try" option, which authorizes it to charge your credit card in a year, when you've forgotten that you signed up.
  3. Signing up limits your legal rights. Equifax gathers information without consent. If you sign the contract for the "free" service, you're bound by the contract terms, which will prevent you from suing Equifax if your identity is stolen.
  4. Credit card monitoring won't protect you. Monitoring services only warn you about credit events and even then it's after the fact. Identity theft is much more than just credit scams; with the level of data that Equifax exposed, identity thieves can clear out a bank account. Easily and without creating a credit event.
  5. You can monitor your credit for free anyway. You can get a free credit report every year from three credit monitoring services (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). This U.S. government site shows how.
  6. Why would you trust these bozos anyway? Like any company that holds sensitive data, Equifax's primary responsibility is keeping that information secure. Equifax's failure shows the company's technical staff are utterly incompetent.
  7. Why would you trust these bozos anyway? (part 2) According to CNN, "three Equifax executives sold shares of the credit-reporting company worth nearly $2 million shortly after a massive data breach [and] before the company announced the breach."
  8. Why would you trust these bozos anyway? (part 3) Equifax waited six weeks before discovering the breach and warning the public, thereby putting everyone at an even bigger risk.

In other words, having basically screwed 143 million people (BTW, the actual number may be closer to half a billion), Equifax's management is using the disaster to line their own pockets, increase revenue, and grow market share.

And it will probably work.

Since the financial services industry essentially owns the U.S. government (as evidenced by the fact that no CEO has been imprisoned for the crash of 2007), the worst that will happen is that a few executives might be forced to accept a golden parachute.