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On September 7th, credit monitoring company Equifax announced that a breach of their system exposed names, social security numbers, birth dates, and other data for approximately 143 million Americans – that’s about half of the U.S. adult population. In Massachusetts, Equifax reported 2,929,675 residents were affected. On October 2nd, Equifax announced that additional consumers may have been impacted. To minimize confusion, Equifax announced they would mail written notices to all of the additional potentially impacted U.S. consumers identified since the Sept. 7 announcement.

Equifax has created a website, www.Equifaxsecurity2017.com, where consumers can check to see if their information was exposed during this breach, review frequently asked questions about the breach and enroll in free credit monitoring services for one year. The offering, called TrustedID Premier, includes credit monitoring of Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock Equifax credit reports; identity theft insurance; and internet scanning for Social Security numbers. If your information wasn’t exposed, Equifax is still providing the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier and has extended the deadline to enroll to January 31, 2018.

Consumers are also being advised to consider fully freezing their credit (meaning also freezing with Experian and TransUnion). A security freeze prohibits a credit reporting agency from releasing any information from a consumers’ credit report without written authorization. However, consumers should know that placing a security freeze on your credit report may delay, interfere with, or prevent the timely approval of any requests you make for new loans, credit, mortgages, employment, housing or other services.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, and you provide the credit reporting agency with a valid police report, it cannot charge you to place, lift or remove a security freeze. In all other cases, a credit reporting agency may charge up to $5 each to place, lift or remove a security freeze. Learn more about freezing your credit here: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/request-a-credit-report-security-freeze. Equifax

In response to several consumer complaints, Equifax adjusted their PIN generation for consumers placing a security freeze to ensure PINS are random. Additionally, Equifax will not apply any arbitration clause or class action waiver (these limit your ability to take legal action against the company) for claims related to the free products offered in response to the breach incident or for claims related to the incident itself.

Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:

  • Review and monitor your credit and debit card accounts, making sure to look at older statements. If you notice any suspicious or unauthorized activity, contact your bank or the card issuer immediately.
  • Obtain a copy of your credit report from all 3 credit reporting bureaus. Consumers are entitled to one free credit report each year from each.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report. Fraud alerts require creditors to contact you before opening up a new account or increasing credit limits.
  • If you are the victim of identity theft or financial theft, act quickly. Contact your local police department and file an official report with the Federal Trade Commission and law enforcement authorities. Visit http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft for more information.
  • The FTC also suggests consumers file their taxes early to help prevent anyone else from filing in your name.

 

Contact Equifax at their website or call their call center: 866-447-7559 available from 7:00am-1:00am EST seven days a week.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

 

 

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