Equifax data breach: Should I enroll in TrustedID Premier?

Posted: Updated:
(Source: The Associated Press) (Source: The Associated Press)

Q: Is it true that if I enroll in the free Equifax protection program that I can’t be part of a class action lawsuit?

A: In what may be one of the most damaging data breaches to date, Equifax - one of the big three credit bureaus -- announced that 143 million U.S. based consumers may be affected by a data breach that occurred between May and July of this year.

What makes this breach so damaging is that the most sensitive personal information, including Social Security numbers, birthdates and home addresses, was part of the breach.

[WATCH: Protecting your identity after Equifax hack]

[ORIGINAL STORY: Giant Equifax data breach could affect 143 million people]

Equifax TrustedID Premier enrollment
In an effort to provide some level of protection to impacted consumers, Equifax has launched a special website -- EquifaxSecurity2017.com -- to explain what has happened and to offer its ID theft and credit monitoring service for free to anyone who wants it.

Many have pointed out the irony of going to the very organization that couldn’t keep its data secure to protect you from further damage.

These types of "free" services typically only last for a year, which doesn’t really do you any good in the long run since you can’t change your Social Security number very easily.

The "Terms of Use" for TrustedID Premier has a pretty common arbitration clause that includes:… A WAIVER OF THE ABILITY TO BRING OR PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION, CLASS ARBITRATION, OR OTHER REPRESENTATIVE ACTION. (Click here to read the entire statement.)

UPDATE: Equifax has updated their FAQ on this question with the following: The arbitration clause and class action waiver included in the TrustedID Premier Terms of Use applies to the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection products, and not the cyber security incident. Enrollment for the free one-year subscription ends on November 21, 2017

[READ MORE: How to find out if you're affected by the Equifax hack]

‘Pretexting’ concerns
One of the most disconcerting aspects of this breach is that the sensitive information that was stolen is extremely useful for a form of "pretexting" that could have nothing to do with your credit file.

Pretexting refers to the act of pretending to be someone in order to gain access to private or sensitive information.

In this case, your information could allow a perpetrator to pretend that they are you to convince your bank, utility, cellular provider or even the IRS to change something like an email address or physical address because the typical information required to prove your identity is in the hands of the bad guys.

Tax filing concerns
Another big area of concern will be for the tax-filing season next year. The filing of fraudulent tax returns has become a billion-dollar problem and this breach just made it easy for this problem to grow.

Make a note in your calendar to file your tax return as quickly as you can next year to avoid the mess that’s created if a fraudulent return is filed before you file your real tax return.

[RELATED: Tax scams to watch for]

[MORE: Data Doctors]

Children’s credit files
Identity thieves covet the Social Security number of children because it’s a lot less likely that anyone is monitoring the credit of a young child. Whatever you decide to use to monitor your own credit files, don’t forget your children, as well.

Credit freeze
One of the best ways to lock down your credit file is to put a freeze on it with all three credit bureaus.

"A security freeze essentially blocks any potential creditors from being able to view or 'pull' your credit file, unless you affirmatively unfreeze or thaw your file beforehand," explains security expert Brian Krebs. Click here to learn more.

[RELATED: Yahoo breach lessons for everyone]

Click/tap here to download the free azfamily mobile app.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.