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New York is the ninth worst state for identity theft and fraud.  It could be worse if you live in California (the worst), Rhode island, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, or Texas.  But ninth is pretty bad.  If you want to feel safest, you should move to Iowa according to a recent analysis by financial Web site Wallethub.

The chances that your identity is at risk rose exponentially this year when Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting companies, announced that 143 million Americans' private information including social security numbers and drivers licenses, and credit card information had been hacked.  This month the estimate was revised to 145.5 million.  Then it came out that the Equifax Web site had reportedly served malware to some site users, and the company may have been warned about their data vulnerability a year ago.  The company offered a year of its credit monitoring service for free, but some analysts said potential victims should avoid using it.

Equifax has been slow to admit the extent of the problem, but they have offered some resources to deal with the problem.  Whether you trust them to monitor your financial life or not, it will be worth using their tool to see if your data was potentially breached.  Their Am I Impacted? tool is a simple way to find out.

Source: WalletHub

I have long been uncomfortable with the notion that banks and credit card companies share information with these companies.  Some years ago I found an error in my information, but I found it close to impossible to correct it (two of the numbers of my social security number were inverted).  Well, impossible, really -- I just gave up, thinking that if they have it wrong my identity would be safe if they ever got hacked.

My biggest problem with these third party clearing houses is that they never asked me whether they could collect such sensitive information about me.  They then made it very difficult for me to find out what they had on me, and finally when free credit reports became available in a limited way they continued to make it difficult to correct it.  Why I should have to go chasing them down is beyond me anyway.  Doesn't my bank know whether my credit is good?

In fact, I don't even want a credit rating.  I know it is vital for many people, but I am extremely financially conservative and try not to borrow.  So I feel that these companies mining my private financial (and other private) data are invading my privacy.  I am sure it is of great benefit to them, but it is of no benefit to me.

This is the same reason I am extremely distrustful of Google, and, to a lesser degree, Facebook.  They lure us with so-called free tools and services that are, admittedly, great.  But the payment they recieve is us.  We pretty much sell ourslelves, our private lives, our likes and dislikes, our souls for the dubious priveledge of using these tools.  It is insidious, because we are not consciously aware that we have sold ourselves into a kind of social slavery for what turns out to be a pittance.  Google's famous motto, "Don't do evil" was a brilliant marketing tactic, but was it sincere?  No it wasn't.  Buying souls by tricking people into situations they think benefit them is kind of the classic notion of the Devil.

When Alphabet was formed, they fropped that motto.  Uh huh.  According to Time Magazine the company replaced it with, "Employees of Alphabet and its subsidiaries and controlled affiliates should do the right thing—follow the law, act honorably, and treat each other with respect."  Very nice, but they are still tricking people to gather as much personal information as they can to immediately turn around and sell for large -- and if you follow the news you know how  much money that company is worth -- sums of money.  Pretty much tricking people into contracts with the Devil and selling souls.

And that is exactly what the credit reporting gencies do, but without offering anything to lure you.  At least with Google we get a magnificent search engine, or a Web browser.  Buying souls is one thing.  Stealing them is another, and unfortunately these companies have huge and immediate influence on many people's finances.  One little error -- hard to correct -- on their part can mean the difference between a mortgage and homelessness, and one big error like the reported laissez faire attitude toward their Web site security issue and decidedly lazy approach to warning people the breach had affected them could potentially have a multi-million dollar consequence to millions of people. 

When the Social Security Administration warns us not to share our social security numbers it goes beyond the pale that these financial data clearinghouses feel free to do so.  I would like the social security number of the CEO of Equifax so I could share it with anyone I think should have it.  I am thinking Dave, our post office worker, should have that number to do with as he wishes.  Dave is a good guy.  I trust him.

That is more than I can say for Equifax or any of the companies that play fast and loose with our financial information.  To say the Equifax hack is a disaster is a mammoth understatement.  I simply don't understand why these companies are allowed to exist.

I wonder what the weather is like in Iowa this time of year?

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