Rhode Islanders can file police report in Equifax breach, but is it necessary?

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

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A South Kingstown couple told police they “may have been affected in the Equifax hack” and they “want it on file,” according to an incident report by Call 12 for Action.

In East Providence, a police report reveals a resident told authorities “none of his accounts or financials have been compromised,” but said he was filing a police report because a letter from Equifax advised him to.

The notice, advising consumers of the unprecedented data breach at Equifax, said Rhode Island residents “have the right to obtain a police report in regard to this incident.”

Though Rhode Island law allows consumers who’ve been affected by a breach to file a police report, is a police report necessary?

“You may file a police report, but if nothing has happened yet, there isn’t anything the police will be able to do for you because you’re not a victim yet,” said Martha Crippen, the head of the consumer protection unit at the R.I. Attorney General’s office.

That changes if your information is used to create fraudulent accounts. If that happens, filing a police report will be critical.

“You will need that police report in order to dispute with your credit card company or your bank,” Crippen explained.

Equifax admitted that hackers stole names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver’s license numbers and some credit card numbers.

The breach lasted from mid-May through July, according to the credit reporting agency, but customers weren’t notified until September.

Click here to find out if you’re affected »

“We always recommend that people are hyper-vigilant in checking their bank statements and their credit card accounts,” Crippen added. “The faster you pick up that something has happened, the easier it should be to get it taken care of.”

Equifax is providing free identity theft protection to all U.S. consumers. The enrollment deadline is Jan. 31, 2018.

Susan Campbell (scampbell@wpri.com) is the Call 12 for Action and Target 12 consumer investigator for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.