COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has offered tips for consumers following the recent announcement by Equifax, one of the country’s three main credit reporting bureaus, of a data breach affecting some 143 million United States consumers.
Equifax has reported that the information was compromised between May and July of this year and includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers. The data breach also included the credit card numbers of approximately 209,000 U.S. consumers, according to Equifax.
“Data breaches involving Social Security numbers are especially serious,” Attorney General DeWine said. “If your information has been compromised, take the time to understand what that means and how you can better protect yourself moving forward.”
To see if your personal information was impacted by the breach, visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. You will be prompted to enter your last name and part of your Social Security number, at which point Equifax will inform you if your information was involved in the breach.
Regardless of whether or not your information was accessed, Equifax is offering one year of free enrollment in “TrustedID Premier” for all U.S. customers if you enroll by November 21, 2017. TrustedID is a credit monitoring service that monitors all three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – as well as provides you with copies of your Equifax credit report. You can sign up for this feature by visiting www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
Tips for affected consumers include:
• Check your credit report. Monitoring your credit report can help you identify signs of potential identity theft. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com to access those reports. You can pull all three at once, or you can stagger pulling your reports throughout the year.
• Place an initial fraud alert on your credit report. Contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion — to place an initial fraud alert, which will stay on your credit report for 90 days. The alert is free of charge and will make it more difficult for someone to open credit in your name.
• Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze essentially puts a lock on your credit so that most third parties can’t access your report. This helps protect you from unauthorized accounts being opened in your name. In Ohio, security freezes are permanent until you lift them. You can be charged a $5 fee per credit reporting agency to place or remove a freeze. Contact each credit reporting agency separately to place a freeze. Note that Equifax is offering a free “freeze” for one year with enrollment in their TrustedID program; however, this will not freeze your reports at Experian or TransUnion.
• Beware of scams related to the breach. Con artists may pretend to have information about the breach or they may falsely claim to want to help you. Some calls or messages may be scams designed to steal your money or personal information. Don’t give out personal information to those who contact you unexpectedly (even if they say they want to help you) and be wary about clicking on links or downloading attachments in messages.
• Monitor your bank accounts. Look for suspicious activity. If you find errors, immediately notify your bank or credit provider.
• When it’s tax season, consider filing early. File your taxes as soon as you have all of the information necessary to file so that there is less of a chance for someone to fraudulently file on your behalf. This is especially important if you know your information has been compromised.
Signs of possible identity theft may include:
• Unexpected mail about accounts you did not open.
• Credit card charges you never made.
• Unexpected collection calls.
• Another person’s name showing up in your background check or credit report.
• Credit reporting errors or a lower-than-expected credit score.
Victims of identity theft should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioProtects.org. Please note that the Ohio Attorney General recommends checking your credit reports first, and then contacting the Ohio Attorney General’s Office only if your information appears to have been misused.