Equifax (EFX 0.30%) was the target of a massive data breach in mid-2017, and 143 million Americans' personal information may have been stolen. Here's what this means to investors, and most importantly, how to protect yourself going forward.
A full transcript follows the video.
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This video was recorded on Dec. 18, 2017.
Michael Douglass: No. 5, and perhaps in a lot of ways the biggest story of the year, the Equifax account hacking scandal. 143 million accounts hacked, yours truly potentially included. It's been quite the year for Equifax.
Matt Frankel: Yeah. I look at this as kind of the biggest story of the year from a consumer point of view, not necessarily from an investor point of view. I personally wouldn't touch Equifax's stock. But I don't really foresee this affecting their bottom line on a long-term basis, simply because consumers aren't the ones who generate most of their revenue. They depend on consumers and their personal information for the revenue, but generally speaking, they're paid by companies. So I don't see this as a big investing story. I do see this as a big story from the personal side, as in the three main credit bureaus, their existence is predicated on the fact that they're good at handling people's personal information. So this highlights the need for people to protect their own identity, not necessarily by taking advantage of the credit monitoring service Equifax is offering customers as compensation, but just in general, monitoring your own credit, knowing how to freeze your credit if you need to, putting out a fraud alert. We actually had a lot of coverage come out about this around that time. I'm sure Michael would be able to send you any of our tips lists if you're concerned about your own -- what to look out for and what to do, what it means that your identity was compromised. But, like I said, I see this as the biggest story of the year from a consumer standpoint.
Douglass: Yes, I would be perfectly happy to send it along. If you have any credit concerns, drop us a note -- [email protected] -- and I'll be happy to send you along some of the content that we have. I think, thinking about this from a really broad standpoint, we've all known to some extent that companies and governments have been waging a defensive war against hackers for years. And frankly, the hacks are getting bigger and more frequent. It's been a real struggle for Equifax, for plenty of insurers and hospital systems. This is a problem that really crosses industry boundaries. And I suspect that it's going to get worse before it gets better. Of course, no one can predict the future, but it looks pretty rough. Personally, I was never that excited about Equifax as a business, so I'm a stay-away. Certainly, the hacking scandal didn't really endear them to me any extra.