Neil Offen

Equifax breach got you down? Become a hacker. It’s a growth industry — Neil Offen

This is the corporate headquarters of Equifax Inc. in Atlanta.
This is the corporate headquarters of Equifax Inc. in Atlanta. AP

You are concerned, understandably, about the recent massive data breach at Equifax where your personal information, including your locker number at the gym, may have been exposed. What should you do?

Check your credit report. Does it say that you’ve requested a mortgage to buy a condo on the beach in Uzbekistan? Ha! There is no beach in Uzbekistan. It’s landlocked. Try for a small, rustic but tasteful dacha in the mountains.

Does your credit report also say that you have opened accounts at several Swiss banks and purchased the nation of Liechtenstein? This probably means that your personal data is being used in ways that are not in your interest. You would have purchased Luxembourg.

Set up fraud alerts. If your personal data and thus identity has been stolen, it would be nice to get a ping on your phone every time some hacker is making believe he is you and finds out that he forgot where he left his car keys.

Consider a credit freeze. This is easy to do. Take all your credit cards and hide them in the freezer of your fridge, just under the boneless chicken breasts and the organic whole grain frozen waffles. That way, no one will be able to find them and if they do, you still have the chicken breasts.

Change your passwords. This would first require remembering all your passwords or at least finding that torn sheet of paper where you wrote them all down last December, during the last massive data breach. Then, you would have to remember your user name before you could access your account before you could change your password.

Even more embarrassing, you may have to click on both the “Forgot your password?” button and the “Forgot your user name?” button. IT people hiding in the ether will roll their eyes and snigger at you. All in all, it might be better to let them just have your social security number.

Consider two-factor authentication. Some websites offer additional security features, like putting their hands in your pockets to check for wrappers of old Peppermint Patties. They also require two-factor authentication for you to access your accounts.

That means when you enter your password, you will receive a message (usually a text, but sometimes a kiss on the cheek) with a one-time code that you must enter within 90 seconds of receiving it before you can log in.

The 90 seconds goes by pretty quickly, so there is a lot of pressure here, and this is also so complicated that most everyone gives up before authenticating the second factor, thus preserving the integrity of your account, mainly from you.

Change your hairstyle. If your identifying data has been stolen, you’re going to need a disguise. Instead of parting what remains of your hair on the left, consider growing bangs.

Change your identity. Become a hacker. It’s a growth industry.

Neil Offen can be reached at Past columns can be found at