Color of Money: Data breaches are no laughing matter

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- The epic Equifax data breach could make for some creative Halloween costumes. If there's a contest, I bet you'll win if you dress up like a horrifying hacker holding stolen credit reports.

Editorial cartoonists have certainly captured the rampant sense of dread and fear. Signe Wilkinson's depiction of the compromise of 145.5 million consumer files by Equifax reflects the attitude of many folks I've been hearing from. The cartoon portrays two people buying coffee. The first customer is paying with plastic and says, "I'm afraid my credit card will be hacked!" The other says, "I'm not."

Why isn't the second customer worried?

She's buying her coffee with cash.

A cartoon from Nick Anderson speaks volumes. In it, an elderly couple is in the office of an Equifax executive whom they tell, "We're dropping your creditability rating to zero."

The hole Equifax left in its computer system exposed Social Security, credit card and driver's license numbers. Hackers also got addresses and birth dates.

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The breach left people afraid and in search of information. Here are some recent questions I received. I relayed the first two to an Equifax spokesperson.

Q: Did the hackers in the Equifax breach gain access to my credit- freeze PIN number?

Equifax: The PINs associated with security freezes were not impacted by the breach.

Q: My son lives in Spain with his wife and baby. All three have Social Security numbers. I asked him to go to the Equifax site to see whether their info had been hacked. He emailed me that the site was blocked to people overseas. Is this the case?


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