Equifax Data Breach: AG urges Vermonters to protect personal data

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MONTPELIER — Attorney General T.J. Donovan is urging thousands of Vermonters to protect themselves after a massive data breach at the giant credit reporting agency, Equifax, exposed millions of Americans to identity theft or other criminal activity.

The data breach, which occurred on July 29, might have affected more than 240,000 Vermonters and up to 143 million Americans.

On Friday, Donovan, in partnership with the Vermont Department of Public Safety issued an alert through the Emergency Alert system — part of the Attorney General's new Scam Alert initiative to directly contact more than 15,000 Vermonters with information about how to protect their credit and other personal information.

"Our priority is to protect the health and safety of Vermonters," said Donovan. "And, that includes their financial health and protecting their personal information from criminals. Today, I am issuing an emergency alert to tell Vermonters about this data breach and provide them information about how to protect themselves."

Donovan noted that Vermont takes the dangers of a date breach very seriously. "Vermonters deserve and expect that their personal information will be secure, and if a breach occurs that they are notified immediately. Vermonters can expect that we will continue to enforce our consumer protection and data breach laws and protect Vermonters from harm."

Vermont's Security Breach Notice Act requires businesses and state agencies to notify the Attorney General and consumers in the event a business or state agency suffers a "security breach." A security breach is defined as the "unauthorized acquisition or a reasonable belief of an unauthorized acquisition of electronic data that compromises the security, confidentiality, or integrity of personal information maintained by the [business or state agency]."

Businesses are required to notify the Office of the Attorney General within 14 days of discovering or being notified of a breach.

The data breach exposed sensitive consumer information, including Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and possibly even driver's license and credit card information.

"Most Vermont adults are likely impacted by this breach," said Donovan. Equifax will be sending letters to all affected consumers.

Equifax is a consumer credit reporting agency that gathers and provides credit information based on an individual's borrowing and bill-paying habits.

A breach does not necessarily mean you are a victim of identity theft, but it does mean you are now susceptible to it. Identity theft is the unauthorized use of another person's personal identifying information to obtain credit, goods, services, money or property. Identity theft may involve fraudulent use of credit card or bank account information. In some cases, your social security number and other personal information may be used to fraudulently obtain driver's licenses, lines of credit, loans or other consumer accounts.

If you think you might be a victim of identity theft, review your credit reports carefully for any unauthorized accounts. You can obtain your free credit report from each of the Credit Reporting Bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find anything that should not be there, be sure to save a copy of the report. Then, contact the

credit reporting agency to dispute all inaccurate items.

People can also place a fraud alert or consider a freeze on their credit reports. Freezing a credit report could help prevent unauthorized creation of new accounts using your information. Freezing a credit report does not mean freezing a bank account, or that you can't use your credit card.

To place a fraud alert or freeze on your credit files, contact the three credit reporting agencies listed here: Equifax at 1-800-525-6285; Experian at 1-888-397-3742; and Transunion at 1-800-680-7289.

Othere steps include closing any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently; filing an "identity theft" police report and ask for a copy for your records; filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission; writing down the name of anyone you talk to, what he or she told you, and the date of the conversation; following-up in writing with all contacts you've made about the ID theft on the phone or in person; and using certified mail, return receipt requested, for all correspondence regarding the theft.

It's also important to keep copies of all correspondence or forms relating to the ID theft as well as keeping the originals of supporting documentation, like police reports and letters to and from creditors; send copies only.

For more information, visit the Vermont Consumer Assistance Program website or call 800-649-2424.

Equifax is also available here or by calling 866-447-7559 every day from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. to see if you were affected or to follow the ongoing investigation. Be aware that the Equifax website contains a waiver of certain legal rights.

The Attorney General's office can be contacted at 800-649-2424 or here.


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