RI atty. gen. joins investigation of Equifax data breach

This July 21, 2012, photo shows Equifax Inc., offices in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With the personal information of 143 million Americans exposed in a  data breach at credit monitoring company Equifax last week, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin said Wednesday his office is joining a multistate investigation into the company.

Equifax, based in Atlanta, said last Thursday the files were stolen through the exploitation of a U.S. website application.

Consumer names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and addresses were taken — and in some cases, driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers — enough to give crooks the power to hijack victims’ finances and lives.

The breach was actually discovered July 29, more than a month before the announcement.

“Consumers… are rightfully angry and frustrated over the lack of information and clarity from the company on how this happened…”
Attorney General Peter Kilmartin

Since the breach was finally revealed, “we have received countless calls and emails from consumers who are rightfully angry and frustrated over the lack of information and clarity from the company on how this happened, protections that are being offered, and what rights consumers may have against the company,” Kilmartin said in a statement Wednesday.

Kilmartin’s office is updating its website daily at http://www.riag.ri.gov with information on how the breach is being dealt with, and how consumers in various other states are being affected, as well as offering other crucial tips for consumers. (See below for a list of tips.)

Click here to find out if you’re affected »

The company set up a dedicated website for consumers to check if their records were part of the breach, and is giving those affected a free year of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection from their subsidiary, TrustedID Premier. The company also took heat for including language in terms of service that appeared to say some rights to take legal action would be waived; Equifax said on the security site that language was removed.

If a hacker has attempted to use your compromised information to get access to accounts or financial information (including, but not limited to, bank accounts, credit cards, and retirement or investment accounts), the Attorney General’s office wants to hear from you; call the Rhode Island Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400, or email consumers@riag.ri.gov.

TIPS TO BETTER PROTECT YOURSELF

Attorney General Kilmartin reminds consumers of measures to take outside of the Equifax process to better protect from being victimized:

  • All consumers should be very suspect of emails from government agencies or their financial institutions looking to confirm specific personal information or financial account information.
  • Do NOT trust any unsolicited email, text message, or phone call that claims to be from a government agency or financial institution.
  • Do NOT click on a link in any email or text message that claims to be from a government agency or financial institution.
  • Do NOT provide personal information over the telephone to someone who contacts you that claims to be from a government agency or a financial institution.
  • Always contact your financial institution directly — by phone — to report suspicious activity on your accounts or to confirm whether they sent you a notification.
  • Check ALL your financial accounts DAILY for suspicious activity and report it immediately to your financial institution.

Finally, Kilmartin’s office said, “Based on information out of Alabama where a hacker used a person’s compromised information in an attempt to trick a retirement broker into gaining access to a client’s account, we strongly advise that you contact your investment or retirement manager to understand what protocols and safety measures are in place to ensure someone cannot pose as you to gain access to your accounts.”