The San Francisco personal finance company, Credit Karma, has told users “we have your back” after the enormous personal data breach at the consumer credit reporting agency Equifax that affected people around the world including in the UAE.
Credit Karma is a one-stop-shop that offers free access to credit scores, reports and monitoring. The company has enrolled users in free credit monitoring. "So we'll let you know if we see changes on your credit reports," the firm also said in its email sent on Tuesday. "We're also accelerating our plans to expand our credit monitoring services and we'll be introducing more alerts in the next few weeks."
The Equifax hack, which resounded around the world, goes beyond many of the previous cybersecurity attacks that have made headlines. The company is one of three main credit scoring agencies in the United States. Each time an individual’s credit is checked, it is run through these systems, although each uses different calculation methods. And not just American citizens - it applies to any individual who has credit or assets in the US.
Acquiring credit information also requires individuals to provide detailed personal identification, including a social security number, which is essentially a key to access personal identity. Credit Karma’s popularity has risen as it aggregates the reports from Equifax and its peer TransUnion while sending regular email status updates and to offer financial products. Founded in 2007, Credit Karma registered more than 60 million users last year, soaring from 1 million in 2010.
The service is especially useful for American expats to help them to stay on top of their credit history, which is why the Dubai resident, Harold Katz, 36, signed up in 2012. He checks his score monthly as he is preparing to purchase a home over the next year. "A credit score is important for the interest rate that I'll get on a loan - which could be the difference of tens of thousands of dollars," he told The National.
The hack of Equifax’s system, which holds data for more than 143 million people, occurred in July although the company did not alert the public until last week.
Shortly after that, the credit scoring agency provided a website for individuals to check if their data had been compromised, which for many led to the company to informing them: "Based on the information provided, we believe that your personal information may have been impacted by this incident."
To compound the matter, three executives, including Equifax's chief financial officer, sold shares worth almost US$1.8 million a few days after the cyberattack was initially discovered. US congress members are demanding answers from the company by the end of the month to determine if the selling of the stocks was based on the knowledge of the breach.
“Someone should go to jail for this,” said Mr Katz.