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The Equifax Hack Is The Most Disastrous Data Breach In History Because Now Hackers Have The Credit Information Of 143 Million Americans

Talk about a nightmare.  It is being reported that criminals were able to hack into Equifax and make off with the credit information of 143 million Americans.  We are talking about names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, home addresses and even driver’s license numbers.  If this data breach was an earthquake, we would be talking about a magnitude-10.0 on the identity theft scale.  We have never seen anything like this before, and to say that this will be “disastrous” for the credit industry would be a massive understatement.

What really disturbed me about this story is that this hack reportedly occurred between “mid-May and July of this year”

Credit monitoring company Equifax has been hit by a high-tech heist that exposed the Social Security numbers and other sensitive information about 143 million Americans. Now the unwitting victims have to worry about the threat of having their identities stolen.

The Atlanta-based company, one of three major U.S. credit bureaus, said Thursday that “criminals” exploited a U.S. website application to access files between mid-May and July of this year.

So why didn’t we learn about this until September?

Somebody out there really needs to answer that question for us.

And even though the “143 million” number is being thrown around constantly, according to USA Today we may never know the true number of victims…

When asked if there’s a way to quantify how many people have been harmed, John Ulzheimer, a credit expert and former employee at Equifax and credit score firm FICO, said: “There’s no way to know, and there may never be a way to know.”

Personally, I don’t see how Equifax can possibly survive after this.  Their stock price is already crashing, and now it has come out that they had put a “music major” in charge of data security…

When Congress hauls in Equifax CEO Richard Smith to grill him, it can start by asking why he put someone with degrees in music in charge of the company’s data security.

And then they might also ask him if anyone at the company has been involved in efforts to cover up Susan Mauldin’s lack of educational qualifications since the data breach became public.

It would be fascinating to hear Smith try to explain both of those extraordinary items.

Also, we are now finding out that Equifax has not just had security problems here in the United States.

According to the New York Post, data breaches have been taking place all over the globe…

Hackers had access to the names, dates of birth and e-mail addresses of nearly 400,000 people in the United Kingdom, said Equifax’s British subsidiary in a statement last week.

In Canada, sensitive data belonging to 10,000 consumers may have been hacked in the breach, said a statement from the Canadian Automobile Association.

In Argentina, one of the company’s portals was so easily accessible that it allowed quick exposure to the personal information of more than 14,000 people.

As noted above, the public didn’t learn about any of this until September.

But once top Equifax officials learned what had happened, some of them started dumping their shares of Equifax very rapidly

Three Equifax executives — not the ones who are departing — sold shares worth a combined $1.8 million just a few days after the company discovered the breach, according to documents filed with securities regulators.

Equifax shares have lost a third of their value since it announced the breach.

Needless to say, the SEC is going to be looking into this very closely.

As we move forward, there is a tremendous amount of concern as to how much this data breach will affect the U.S. economy.

Only time will tell, but without a doubt it will have an impact.  For example, according to Bloomberg this data breach could potentially have an absolutely disastrous impact on store-branded credit cards…

Equifax Inc.’s massive data breach could make an already tough market outlook even more daunting for the firms behind Gap Inc.’s and Ann Taylor’s store-branded credit cards.

Those retailers’ banking partners, including Synchrony Financial and Alliance Data Systems Corp., could see fewer account originations as more consumers freeze their credit to avoid hack-related fraud. Consumers have to take extra steps — including calling the credit bureau, going online or paying fees — to lift a block and get a new card.

“If people are defaulting to credit freezes, then if you’re a Macy’s retailer trying to sell credit cards, you can’t get that done at the point of sale,” said Vincent Caintic, an analyst at Stephens Inc. “It could become a regular thing, these freezes. It does slow down the origination process and it’s probably going to increase acquisition costs.”

If you believe that your data may have been compromised in this breach, there are some things that you can do right away to help protect against identity theft.  You can sign up for 24 hour a day credit monitoring, you can request fraud alerts, you can enable “two factor authentication” and beyond all of that you could go as far as to freeze your credit.

But if everybody in America suddenly started freezing their credit, that would slow down economic activity dramatically.  So needless to say authorities are hoping that does not happen.

In this case, Equifax needs to step up and do the right thing.  They need to inform all of the victims (even if that means reaching out to 143 million different people), and they should automatically provide free credit monitoring for all of those that were affected.

I seriously doubt that Equifax will take these measures, and I also seriously doubt that Equifax will be able to survive much longer.

When you bungle something as badly as Equifax has done, it is nearly impossible to restore faith in an organization.  The credit information of 143 million Americans is now in the hands of criminals, and the potential damage that could be done is absolutely off the charts.

Michael Snyder is a Republican candidate for Congress in Idaho’s First Congressional District, and you can learn how you can get involved in the campaign on his official website. His new book entitled “Living A Life That Really Matters” is available in paperback and for the Kindle on Amazon.com.

Why Are The IMF, The UN, The BIS And Citibank All Warning That An Economic Crisis Could Be Imminent?

Question Sign Red - Public DomainThe warnings are getting louder.  Is anybody listening?  For months, I have been documenting on my website how the global financial system is absolutely primed for a crisis, and now some of the most important financial institutions in the entire world are warning about the exact same thing.  For example, this week I was stunned to see that the Telegraph had published an article with the following ominous headline: “$3 trillion corporate credit crunch looms as debtors face day of reckoning, says IMF“.  And actually what we are heading for would more accurately be described as a “credit freeze” or a “credit panic”, but a “credit crunch” will definitely work for now.  The IMF is warning that the “dangerous over-leveraging” that we have been witnessing “threatens to unleash a wave of defaults” all across the globe…

Governments and central banks risk tipping the world into a fresh financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund has warned, as it called time on a corporate debt binge in the developing world.

Emerging market companies have “over-borrowed” by $3 trillion in the last decade, reflecting a quadrupling of private sector debt between 2004 and 2014, found the IMF’s Global Financial Stability Report.

This dangerous over-leveraging now threatens to unleash a wave of defaults that will imperil an already weak global economy, said stark findings from the IMF’s twice yearly report.

The IMF is actually telling the truth in this instance.  We are in the midst of the greatest debt bubble the world has ever seen, and it is a monumental threat to the global financial system.

But even though we know about this threat, that doesn’t mean that we can do anything about it at this point or stop what is about to happen.

The Bank of England, the UN and the Bank for International Settlements have all issued similar ominous warnings.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the Guardian

The IMF’s warning echoes a chorus of others. The Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, has argued that the world is entering the latest episode of a “three-part crisis trilogy”. Unctad, the UN’s trade and development arm, would like to see advanced economies boost public spending to offset the downturn in emerging economies. The Bank for International Settlements believes interest rates have been too low for too long, encouraging too much risk-taking in financial markets. All of them fear that the global financial system is primed for a crisis.

I particularly like Andy Haldane’s likening our current situation to a “three-part crisis trilogy”.  I think that is perfect.  And if you are familiar with movie trilogies, then you know that the last episode is usually the biggest and the baddest.

Citigroup economist Willem Buiter also believes that big trouble is on the horizon.  In fact, he is publicly warning of a “global recession” in 2016

Citigroup economist Willem Buiter looks at the world landscape and sees an economy performing substantially below potential output, which he uses as the general benchmark for the idea of a global recession. With that in mind, he said the chances of a global recession in 2016 are growing.

“We think that the evidence suggests that the global output gap is negative and that the global economy is currently growing at a rate below global potential growth. The (negative) output gap is therefore widening,” Buiter said in a note to clients. He added, “from an output gap that was probably quite close to zero fairly recently, continued sub-par global growth is likely to put the global economy back into recession, if indeed the world ever fully emerged of the recession caused by the global financial crisis.”

Usually when we are plunged into a new crisis there is some sort of “trigger event” that creates widespread panic.  Yesterday, I wrote about the ongoing problems at commodity giants such as Glencore, Trafigura and The Noble Group.  The collapse of any of them could potentially be a new “Lehman Brothers moment”.

But something else happened just yesterday that is also extremely concerning.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I warned that the biggest bank in Germany, Deutsche Bank, was on the verge of massive trouble.  Well, on Wednesday the bank announced a loss of more than 6 billion dollars for the third quarter of 2015

Deutsche Bank’s new boss John Cryan set about cleaning up Germany’s biggest bank on Thursday, revealing a record pre-tax loss of 6 billion euros ($6.7 billion) in the third quarter and warning investors of a possible dividend cut.

Write downs, impairments and litigation costs all contributed to the loss, the bank said.

Cryan became chief executive in July with a promise to cut costs. The Briton is accelerating plans to shed assets and exit countries to shrink the bank and is preparing to ax about 23,000 jobs, or a quarter of the bank’s staff, sources told Reuters last month.

Keep an eye on Germany – the problems there are just beginning.

Something else that I am closely watching is the fact that major exporting nations such as China that used to buy up lots of U.S. government debt are now dumping that debt at an unprecedented pace.  The following comes from Wolf Richter

Five large purchasers of US Treasuries – China, Russia, Norway, Brazil, and Taiwan – have changed their minds. They’re dumping Treasuries, each for their own reasons that are now coinciding. And at the fastest rate on record.

For the 12-month period ended July, sales of Treasuries by central banks around the world reached a net of $123 billion, “the biggest decline since data started to be collected in 1978,” the Wall Street Journal reported.

China, the largest foreign owner of Treasuries – its hoard peaking at $1.317 trillion in November 2013 – has been unloading with particular passion. By July, the latest data available from the US Treasury Department, China’s pile was down to $1.241 trillion.

Yes, I know, the stock market went up once again on Thursday, and all of the irrational optimists are once again telling us that everything is going to be just fine.

The truth, of course, is that everything is not going to be just fine.  Ever since I started the Economic Collapse Blog, I have never wavered in my belief that the greatest economic crisis that the United States has ever seen is coming, and I have written well over 1000 articles setting forth the case for the coming collapse in excruciating detail.  Nobody is going to be able to say that I didn’t try to warn them.

Those that have blind faith in Barack Obama, Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and the other major central banks around the planet will continue to mock the idea that a major collapse is coming for as long as they can.

But when the day of reckoning does arrive and crisis coming knocking at their doors, what will they do then?

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