Iowa's AG says residents should act now after Equifax data breach

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- Iowa's Attorney General Tom Miller has opened an investigation into Equifax Inc.

This comes after the credit reporting company notified the Consumer Protection Division nearly 1.1 million Iowans were affected by a massive data breach.

The breach exposed personal information from about 143 million consumers nationwide.

The data involving 1,099,125 Iowans include Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers.

The company said the breach happened between mid-May through June and so far say they have not found evidence of unauthorized activity.

“This data breach is astonishing, not only because of the number of consumers that it impacts but also because of the key personal information that it exposed,” Attorney General Tom Miller said. “Unfortunately, a criminal who gets a hold of this kind of personal information really hits the identity theft jackpot, and I’m concerned about the potential long-term impact this could have on countless consumers here in Iowa and across the country.”

Miller urges all Iowans to check on whether the breach exposed their personal information. Equifax established a data breach website at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

There, consumers can run a check by entering in their last name and the last six digits of their Social Security number. The site will instantly display a message stating whether the breach exposed their personal information.

Regardless of whether a consumer’s information was exposed in the breach, Equifax is offering free credit report monitoring for one year. Consumers can enroll through November 21 for “TrustedID Premier” monitoring through the same site at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.

Consumers with questions can also call an Equifax breach call center at 866-447-7559 from 6 a.m. to midnight, Central time.

“Our office is investigating the breach. We intend to hold Equifax accountable for what happened, and ensure that something of this magnitude never happens again,” Miller said. “For now, though, our primary focus is helping and protecting Iowans affected by the breach.”

Identity Theft Consumer Tips:
• Request and review your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). You can obtain each one for free once a year through a single website: www.annualcreditreport.com . You can choose to obtain all three at once, or you can stagger and rotate them throughout the year (one report from a different agency every four months).
• Consider placing a security freeze on your credit report. A security freeze locks out businesses from checking your credit report prior to opening a new account in your name. You can allow a credit check to proceed by providing a Personal Identification Number, and can stop the freeze at any time. You must contact all three credit reporting agencies separately for a credit freeze (one for each agency). The fee is $10 per agency for consumers who are not identity theft victims. Equifax announced it will waive security freeze fees for 30 days.
• Consider an initial fraud alert. If you suspect or can confirm someone stole your identity, an initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. An initial fraud alert requires a business to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name. You only need to contact one credit reporting agency about an initial fraud alert, and that agency will notify the other two.
• Monitor your accounts and review your statements. Report any activity that is suspicious.
• Do not provide or “confirm” personal information to a caller who claims the call is related to the data breach, even if the caller-ID information appears legitimate. Look out for emails, which can be fake but look authentic, and be especially wary of clicking on links, opening attachments, or entering information on website addresses provided through emails or pop-up ads.

Consumers with questions or complaints can contact the Consumer Protection Division online at www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov, by email at consumer@iowa.gov, or call 515-281-5926 or toll-free at 888-777-4590 (outside the Des Moines metro area only).

To report and recover from identity theft, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s site at www.identitytheft.gov.

Read the original version of this article at www.kcrg.com.