N.H. joins states’ legal questions about massive Equifax data breach

  • Attorney General Gordon MacDonald speaks in the Executive Council chambers in Concord on March 28. AP

  • Manchester attorney Gordon MacDonald speaks, as his wife, Jennifer Eder, and their daughter, Nellie, 8, listen during a public hearing in the executive council chambers, Tuesday, March 28, 2017, at the New Hampshire Statehouse in Concord, N.H. MacDonald is Republican Gov. Chris Sununu's nominee to be the state's next attorney general. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola) Elise Amendola

Monitor staff
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Hampshire’s attorney general has joined onto a letter telling credit reporting firm Equifax to stop trying to sneakily profit from the massive data beach that it allowed, a breach that left some 143 million Americans vulnerable to identity theft and financial problems.

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald announced Monday that his office has joined with attorneys general from around the country telling Equifax to disable links for enrollment in a fee-based credit monitoring service, which might confuse people into buying services they don’t need.

The letter objects to Equifax “seemingly using its own data breach as an opportunity to sell services to breach victims.”

Further, the attorneys general want Equifax to reimburse consumers who have to pay the nation’s other two major credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion, when getting a credit freeze from those firms, in order to completely freeze their credit. A credit freeze prevents somebody from taking certain financial actions, such as opening a new credit account.

“Equifax should not give even the impression that it is attempting to make any sort of profit off of this enormous breach, and consumers should have access – at zero cost – to the best available credit monitoring services and protections,” MacDonald said.

Equifax said last week that hackers accessed sensitive data, including Social Security numbers, names and addresses of as many as 143 million U.S. consumers, as well as customers in Canada and up to 400,000 in the U.K.

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a criminal probe into reports that several Equifax officials sold large chunks of stock after they learned of the data breach but weeks before it was made public. Equifax’s stock has fallen sharply since the reports came out.

The attorneys general, in their letter, ask for more information about the breach, why it took months for a public disclosure and how the company intends to protect consumers affected by the breach.

What you can do

To establish a credit freeze, you have to take action at each of the three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It can be done at each company’s website, or by calling these numbers:

Equifax: 1-800-349-9960

Experian: 1-888-397-3742

TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872

Many officials are expressing concern about tax seasons, because the data breach included Social Security numbers that are used to identify tax filings. Hackers may use them to file false tax returns and get a refund; you’ll only find out when you try to file your taxes and are told they are already filed. The only good defense is to file taxes as early as possible.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)