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This report was updated at 3:25 pm on September 8 adding comments from US Senator Richard Blumenthal.
A spokesperson for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection said in the hours following a report identifying one of the largest personal data hacks ever that occurred in May at Equifax, the state’s DCP is mirroring information just released around 11 am Friday, September 8, by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Connecticut Better Business Bureau (CT/BBB) told The Newtown Bee Friday morning that consumers have legitimate reasons to be worried about a successful cyber-attack against credit monitoring company Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting companies in America. CT/BBB says the hackers were able to capture the most sensitive of personal and financial information on almost half of the US population.
They were able to obtain all of the details necessary for Equifax to rate the financial history and lending risk of individuals, according to Better Business Bureau spokesman Howard Schwartz.
“This information includes the basic building blocks of identity theft, such as consumers’ names, addresses, and Social Security Numbers; however, the credit monitoring companies also store crucial information about consumers’ loan details, credit cards, child support payments, employment history, and much more,” the CT/BBB spokesman said in a release.
“Ironically, consumers will often pull their credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Trans-Union to determine whether they are the victim of identity theft, by looking for unauthorized lines of credit. The scope of this data breach is startling,” Mr Schwartz added.
Equifax says the breach occurred between mid-May and July, and was discovered July 29, and is the second credit monitoring company to suffer a data breach. The second largest of these companies, Experian was hacked in 2015, giving cyber thieves access to personal data on 15 million Americans.
The chief security researcher for SecurityScorecard commented in Forbes that the same web vulnerabilities used to launch many cyber-attacks have been used for decades.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said there is no excuse for Equifax failing to strengthen its cyber-systems after suffering several previous breaches.
“The Federal Trade Commission must investigate this breach to assess whether Equifax did everything it could to secure all its systems given the sensitive nature of the consumer data it holds,” Sen Blumenthal said. “The massive data breach at Equifax is likely to impact millions of consumers – as many as half of all Americans – many of whom don’t even have a direct relationship with the company and may not know that their data has been compromised. That means all consumers need to be on high alert and vigilant about checking their credit, banking, and other accounts for potential misuse.”
Sen Blumenthal is insisting that congress must also enact data breach and security legislation immediately.
“Only stiffer enforcement and stringent penalties will make sure companies are taking precautions to guard consumer data with the strongest available technology,” he said.
The initial September 8 statement from FTC Attorney for the Division of Consumer & Business Education, Seena Gressin states: “If you have a credit report, there’s a good chance that you’re one of the 143 million American consumers whose sensitive personal information was exposed in a data breach at Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies.”
Here are the facts, according to Equifax:
*The breach lasted from mid-May through July.
*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 dispute documents with personal identifying information for about 182,000 people.
*And they grabbed personal information of people in the UK and Canada, too.
There are steps to take to help protect your information from being misused. Visit Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
Find out if your information was exposed. 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 on a secure computer and an encrypted network connection any time you enter it. The site will tell you if you have been affected by this breach.
Whether or not your information was exposed, US consumers can get a year of free credit monitoring and other services. The site 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 21, 2017, to enroll.
You also can access frequently asked questions at the site.
Here are some other steps to take to help protect yourself after a data breach:
*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.
*Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
*Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
*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.
*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.
Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach. Or view the video at this FTC site: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/09/equifax-data-breach-what-do?utm_source=govdelivery
Also, see the message from Rick Smith, Chairman and CEO of Equifax