Now it’s John Oliver’s turn to take down Equifax

Posted Monday, October 16, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Atlanta-based Equifax is getting justifiably beat up for not only exposing half the American population to identity thieves but by the way it has reacted since the news came out last month.

Following Stephen Colbert’s smack-down a couple of weeks ago, John Oliver on his HBO show “Last Week Tonight” Sunday night tackled the same subject, hitting many of the same comedic notes.

The hackers may now have your Social Security number, your birth date and your driver’s license number, to name a few, which can be sold on the black market to folks who can use that info to open credit cards in your name and possibly raid your IRS refund. And they could do this to you until you die.

“In any other era, this would have been the biggest news story for a month,” Oliver said. But now every day’s headline, he said, is “Everything’s Bats*** Bananas Again Today,” so “it slipped under the radar.”

He said the people in charge at Equifax have done “literally everything wrong.”

Rick Smith, the then CEO of Equifax, informed the world of this hack on September 7, six weeks after the company supposedly discovered the information. He showed a video of Smith breaking the news with all the deadpan emotional urgency of Steven Wright.

“Rick Smith is so alarmingly mechanical,” Oliver said, “you’d probably have to put him in rice every time gets wet.”

He noted that several Equifax executives sold stock during that six-week period, which looks pretty darn suspicious, like a man wearing a bib to a petting zoo. Equifax claimed none of the executives knew about the data breach. “How is that even possible?” Oliver exclaimed. “Did they just ignore emails with the subject line ‘Breach!’ ‘Following breach! and ‘Where the f*** are you? Breach! Breach!”

They even missed the Department of Homeland Security warning them of a security hole back in March. And they’ve had multiple breaches in the past. Plus, one time, a woman requested her credit report and received 300 credit reports about other people instead. Then he made a Fraggle Rock joke.

He noted that the company created a website www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. A developer then mocked them with a fake site http://www.securityequifax2017.com. Equifax proceeded to Tweet that incorrect  site eight times. On the fake site, there is even a “Rick Roll” moment.

When Equifax offered a year of free credit protection program, people noticed the fine print: you lose your ability to sue. The company has since rescinded that clause.

He then mocks LifeLock, a third-party fraud prevention company, because if you pay them, some of the money goes right back to, you guessed it, Equifax. He noted that the LifeLock CEO in 2010 was so confident his company could prevent fraud, he placed his Social Security number in ad campaigns. The result? He had his identity stolen 13 times.

One big step he said everyone should do is contact all three credit monitoring services Equifax, Experian and TransUnion and freeze your credit. He said the show has Tweeted the links, which are not easy to find on the websites themselves.

Avoid paying for programs using the phrase “locks,” he said, but doing your own freeze is good. He said this is akin to Justin Bieber “dreadlocks” as “bad” but a dancing penguin in the “freezing” cold as “good.” (It may cost money, however, to unfreeze your credit report if you are seeking a loan or something along those lines.)

To Equifax, Oliver said, we are the product, not the customer. Businesses buy our credit information so they can sell us stuff. “We’re not the guy buying the 10-piece bucket,” he said. “We’re the f****** chickens.”

But businesses are not announcing they are dropping use of Equifax, which means things are probably not going to change any time soon.

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