Nashville, TN – With over 3 million Tennesseans’ sensitive information exposed in a data breach at the credit reporting firm Equifax, the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance’s (TDCI) Consumer Affairs Division wants to help vulnerable consumers plan a course of action to protect themselves from scammers aiming to mine their data through bogus websites and phishing calls.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III has strongly encouraged Equifax to focus on free credit monitoring as opposed to any fee based credit monitoring and to extend the free credit freezes past the current deadline of November 21st, 2017.
Additionally, General Slatery has urged the company to reimburse fees paid by consumers for security freezes by other credit reporting agencies.
“Our Department supports General Slatery’s work on behalf of Tennessee consumers and will continue to lend support to the efforts being made to rectify this troubling situation,” said TDCI Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “Unfortunately, scammers work quickly to make a bad situation worse. To avoid criminal impostors, we urge consumers to ensure they are using the legitimate website for the Equifax data breach and to refrain from sharing their personal information with unsolicited callers.”
According to Equifax, the breach lasted from mid-May through July and exposed the data of over 143 million Americans. The hackers accessed people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some instances, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for about 209,000 people and documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
The TDCI Division of Consumer Affairs shares the following ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ to help Tennesseans in wake of the Equifax data breach:
- DO find out if your information was exposed. Visit Equifax’s official website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com, click on the “Potential Impact” tab and enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is sensitive information, so make sure:
- You’re using the legitimate web address. When typing it in to your browser, make sure no letters or numbers are missed.
- You’re on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it.
- DO consider signing up for the free credit monitoring being offered. Whether or not your information was exposed, U.S. consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The Equifax website will give you a date when you can come back to enroll. Write down the date and come back to the site and click “Enroll” on that date. You have until November 21st, 2017 to enroll.
- DO check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — for free — by visiting annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
- DO consider placing a credit freeze or fraud alert on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. If you want a free credit freeze from Equifax you can call them at 800.349.9960 or visit them online at freeze.equifax.com before November 21st, 2017. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts. If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you. To learn more about credit freezing and fraud alerts, click here.
- DO monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
- DO file your taxes early— as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
- DON’T give your personal or financial information to an unsolicited caller. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not. Don’t provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct.
- DON’T click on links from sources you don’t trust. For enhanced safety, type the official website (www.equifaxsecurity2017.com) directly into your browser instead of clicking a link, even if the link was sent by a well-meaning friend.
- DON’T use information that may have been in your credit report as part of any online user name or password. Information like your birthdate, current or past phone numbers, street addresses, etc. should be avoided.
Tennessee consumers who may have been affected by the Equifax breach can file complaints with the Division of Consumer Affairs. We are interested in complaints related to harms incurred as a result of the breach, any payment made since the breach (September 7th) for a credit freeze with Equifax (and not reimbursed) or to any other credit reporting agency.