Illinois residents are urged to be vigilant following a massive data breach of consumer reporting agency Equifax.
Equifax announced late last week that it suffered a breach affecting at least 143 million Americans. Information compromised in the breach includes Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, names, dates of birth, credit card numbers and addresses. This creates an ideal opportunity for impacted people to become victims of identity theft.
The company has set up a website where people can check whether their personal information potentially was affected by the breach: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Consumers with questions regarding Equifax’s data breach are encouraged to contact Equifax at 866-447-7559.
Illinois residents are urged to take the Equifax breach seriously and take precautions, such as:
· Seriously consider placing a credit freeze on your credit reports with all three consumer reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax;
· Regularly request your free credit reports, inspect them closely, and promptly dispute any unauthorized accounts;
· Inspect all financial account statements closely and promptly dispute any unauthorized charges;
· Consider placing alerts on your financial accounts so your financial institution alerts you when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;
· Beware of potential phishing emails; don't open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders and do not click on any unknown links. Fraudsters will frequently send coercive and misleading emails threatening account suspension or worse if sensitive information is not provided. Remember, businesses will never ask customers to verify account information via email. If in doubt, contact the business in question directly for verification and to report phishing emails; and
· Be on the lookout for spoofed email addresses. Spoofed email addresses are those that make minor changes in the domain name, frequently changing the letter O to the number zero, or the lowercase letter l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.
People can also contact the state Attorney General’s Identity Theft Hotline at 1 (866) 999-5630 or review Identity Theft resources on the AG’s website. The hotline is staffed with identity theft experts who can help victims report the crime to local law enforcement and financial institutions, work to repair their credit and prevent future theft. Hotline operators can also assist callers who want to take proactive steps to prevent their personal information from being stolen.
The Attorney General is also calling on Equifax to suspend its charge for placing a credit freeze on their accounts in light of the significant risk of identity theft posted by the breach. Currently, Equifax is permitted to charge Illinois residents up to $10 to implement a credit freeze, remove a freeze or temporarily thaw a credit freeze, with limited exceptions for identity theft victims, individuals age 65 or older, and active-duty military service members. In announcing the breach, Equifax also said it would offer free credit monitoring to everyone.