One of the three main U.S. credit bureaus, Equifax, reported a data breach that could impact as many as 143 million U.S. consumers—more than half of the total number of people that have credit reports. Names, social security numbers, addresses and birth dates may have been compromised, in addition to some drivers license numbers. Credit card numbers were accessed for 209,000 U.S. consumers. Some dispute documents, with personal identifying information, could impact 182,000 individuals. Equifax has indicated that they will notify individuals who could be impacted.
In an interview with John Ulzheimer (previously with FICO and Equifax), Business Insider reported that the Equifax breach is a bigger deal than the recent rash of other data breaches. The Equifax breach is more important because of both the type of information hacked and the breadth. According to Ulzheimer, the theft of credit card numbers is more annoying than serious because of the degree of fraud protection for credit cards (not debit cards) and the fact that issuers are used to dealing with their theft. The type of information in this breach is perpetual; you are unlikely to change your name, address, birth date, etc.
A Washington Post article summarized details of the breach and made suggestions on what could be done if one's data was breached. Suggestions include:
- Closely monitor credit reports from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Equifax will provide a year of free credit monitoring, but since perpetual data was breached, effected consumers should monitor their credit reports for far more than one year. Consumers can get a free annual credit report from each of the three bureaus from annualcreditreport.com.
- Consider freezing your credit reports for each of the three bureaus. The action does not impact your credit score, but does provide some protections and introduce some inconvenience. A freeze keeps new accounts (credit cards, loans, mortgages) from being opened in your name, but requires you to lift the freeze before opening a new account. Credit freezes do not prevent fraudulent filing of your tax return or changing currently opened credit card accounts.
In the credit reporting world, the release of confidential (secret) information is dangerous to our financial health. Risk is increased. Peace is interrupted. Frustration can increase for years.
In the kingdom, the proper disposition of secrets can be sources of blessings or self-inflicted curses. We are told to do certain things in secret, and warned about other things in secret. We would do well to discern the difference.
Specifically, we are told to do charitable deeds, to fast, and to pray in secret; not for the admiration of others. Our giving, fasting and praying in secret will be rewarded if done in secret. His word is sure and will not fail.
"That your charitable deeds may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly" (Matt. 6:4).
"So that you will not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matt. 6:18).
"But you, when you pray, enter your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matt. 6:6).
The Lord tells us that He will hide us in the secret of His presence. Paul learned the secret of facing lack and abundance. Solomon told of the secret counsel of the Lord if we are righteous. Secrets can be a source of blessing.
"You will hide them in the secret of Your presence from conspirators; You will keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues" (Ps. 31:20).
"I know both how to face humble circumstances and how to have abundance. Everywhere and in all things I have learned the secret, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Phil. 4:12).
"For the perverse is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret counsel is with the righteous" (Prov. 3:32).
But secrets can also be a source of self-inflicted curses. Many believers have fallen from secret sins. Other believers have suffered needlessly because they suffered in secret. Many unbelievers have not come to the Lord because Christians kept their light in a secret place. Other unbelievers don't think the Lord loves them because Christians have kept their knowledge of His lovingkindness, mercy and grace secret.
"For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret" (Eph. 5:12).
"No one, when he has lit a candle, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a candlestick, that those who come in may see the light" (Luke 11:33).
Secrets can be good or bad; a source of blessings or self-inflicted curses. The Bible gives clear direction on what should be kept secret and what should not. Our Lord kept the secrets of the kingdom hidden to those who were outside by using parables. But in our future, believers and nonbelievers, all secrets will be revealed. Let us decide to follow the King's direction on secrets.
"He said to them, 'To you is given the secret of the kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, everything is said in parables'" (Mark 4:11).
"For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and revealed" (Luke 8:17).
Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.
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