Former Equifax CEO should pick up phone before declaring call center fixed

By Neil Roland. 3 October 2017.

Equifax's former chief executive told lawmakers Tuesday that the company's call center is "fully functional," but I made five phone calls in 45 minutes and got nowhere in obtaining a credit freeze to protect my account from hackers.

If my experience is representative, millions of other customers remain on thin ice with personal information 25 days after Equifax disclosed a massive breach of 143 million accounts — since revised to 145.5 million.

Entering my freeze request online would require providing a social security number and date of birth. I called instead because I lacked confidence in Equifax's ability to protect this information, despite former CEO Richard Smith's public assurances on Tuesday in testimony before the US House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection.

"My understanding is that the call centers are now fully functional," Smith testified.

My understanding — after five calls to the same number on Tuesday — is that the call centers are a mess.

First call: Am promptly referred to another number. When I call, a young woman politely says that I have reached a management company, not Equifax. Many people have mistakenly dialed this number, she said.

Second call: Am referred to a different number. While this call is ringing, the phone suddenly disconnects.

Third call: Am referred to yet another number. I go through an automated series of prompts, providing my state of residence, social security number and the numerical part of my street address.

I finally reach what appears to be the end, and am about to breathe a sigh of relief. Alas, too soon. "We're sorry, our automated system is currently unavailable. Good bye. Click."

Fourth call: Referred to a different number. Same drill: an automated series of prompts. Same finale: "We're sorry, our automated system is currently unavailable. Click."

I decide to give it a rest for 15 minutes before trying again.

Fifth call: Repeat of third and fourth calls. Same result.

Without a credit freeze, hackers can open an account in my name. They can use my personal information to take out loans, and lenders can check my credit score to approve loan applications.

I give up. Equifax, you win.

Click.