The Equifax Breach: WNY Names Show Up As Victims

Suzie Q and Jane Doe Listed Among 43 Million Effected Americans

Dave Debo
September 19, 2017 - 6:52 am

AP photo

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Suzie Q and Jane Doe might be the latest Western New Yorkers to have been victims of the Equifax credit bureau breach that exposed the data of 143 million Americans. 

Hearing customer concerns daily,  Linda Mallia, the president of Hunt Mortgage, conducted an experiment.  She found her own name listed as a possible victim on the Equifax credit bureau's website along with those other names as well.

 "Go to their website, follow their advice, you put their name in, to the best of my knowledge it always comes back that you've been breached. And I know this because I put my own name in. And then I put in Jane Doe and other names and they all came back as being breached," says Mallia. 

" I think Equifax is maybe taking the position that everyone over a certain age has been breached. And then they recommend that you take their free credit monitoring . The problem with that is the small print on that is that you opt out of any potential class action lawsuit, " she says.

A little over a week since the breach was first revealed and the company is under fire for it's candor in dealing with the incident. Regulators and others are coming up with a range of solutions.  

While some experts suggest the best thing to do is put a unilateral freeze on your credit with all the reporting bureaus, consensus is that at the very least increased credit monitoring is required.

"The best piece of advice we can provide is to monitor your accounts... pay special attention to your statements. And I would definitely sign up for alerts. It really lets you know what's happening to your accounts on a real time basis, ' says Richard McCarthy, a Vice President at M and T Bank.

Adds KeyBank's Mike Anderson: " I think it's important to know that there are monitoring services that you can purchase... There are a lot of services out there that can help you monitor your identity and your finances as well. At several financial institutions, as well as at KeyBank, we have personal financial management apps and our credit cards offer fraud alerts. So if there is a larger than normal purchase or a withdrawal outside your normal spending patterns, they can let you know." 

 See More KeyBank Tips on How to Combat ID Theft at the bottom of this page

Other ways consumers should be vigilant: 

- Closely monitoring their credit reports, which are available free once a year, and stagger them to see one every four months.

- Keeping watch, possibly for a long time. Scammers who get ahold of the data could use it at any time - and with 143 million to choose from, they may be patient.

- Considering freezing your credit reports. That stops thieves from opening new credit cards or loans in your name, but it also prevents you from opening new accounts. So if you want to apply for something, you need to lift the freeze a few days beforehand.  

For more on how to freeze your credit, consult the websites of the big three credit reporting agences:  Equifax  |  TransUnion  | Experian

A NEW MORNING

WBEN Photo/Susan Rose


Hear Susan and Brian In Studio and In-Depth
with Prof. Ed Hutton,  Director of the Financial Services Laboratory at Niagara University

WHAT IS A CREDIT FREEZE:

"I don't see a real big downside to getting a credit freeze," said Ed Hutton, Director of Niagara University's Financial Services Laboratory. 

Hutton explained how to go about freezing your credit. 

"You go on to the website and you have to give some information, so there's the first thing, to make sure you go to the right site and that you haven't been the victim of a phishing site," Hutton said. "Once you do that, you go on and you place a freeze on your credit. When you do that what happens is you get a PIN number. Before any bank or any type of credit agency would be able to pull your credit report, you have to unlock it."

Freezing your credit would not prevent you from using your credit cards, but would not allow you to open a new line of credit like a store card without first unfreezing it.

Here's how Experian explains it on their website:

"A security freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans and services from being approved in your name without your consent. However, the alert may delay or interfere with or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent requests or application you make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, insurance, rental housing, employment, investment, license, cellular phone, utilities, digital signature, internet credit card transactions or other services, including extension of credit or services at point of sale.

When you place a security freeze on your file, you will be provided a personal identification number or password to use if you choose to remove the security freeze from your file or authorize the temporary release of your credit report for a specific person or period after the security freeze is in place. If you are actively seeking credit, you should understand that the procedures involved in lifting a security freeze may slow your own application for credit.

You should plan ahead and lift a freeze, either completely if you are shopping around, or specifically for a certain creditor, a few days before actually applying for new credit."

For more on how to freeze your credit, consult the websites of the big three credit reporting agences:  Equifax  |  TransUnion  | Experian

SCAMMERS PREYING ON THE EQUIFAX BREACH

You may have already received offers of credit monitoring to protect against identity theft.  "Watch out - the credit monitoring industry is not regulated" said Ed Hutton.

"I feel a lot better dealing with a bank. I know the kind of regulatory scrutiny they are under.  If I get a solicitation from an email, I don't know who it is".   Hutton said some of the solicitations could put you at further risk.

Hutton said some scammers are making random calls, asking people to verify their account information.  He cautions to never respond to an unsolicited phone call or email. 

WHAT IS EQUIFAX DOING?
(At left, the warning that Equifax has been sending out to customers on their electronic devices)

Along with bulking up its call centers and waiving fees for credit freezes, Equifax announced late Friday that its chief information officer and chief security officer would be leaving the company immediately.

The credit data company - under intense pressure since it disclosed last week that hackers accessed the Social Security numbers, birthdates and other information - also released a detailed, if still muddled, timeline of how it discovered and handled the breach.

Equifax said that Susan Mauldin, who had been the top security officer, and David Webb, the chief technology officer, are retiring.

Company executives are also under scrutiny. Equifax's CEO has been called to testify before Congress on Oct. 3.

And three Equifax executives sold shares worth a combined $1.8 million just a few days after the company discovered the breach. Equifax said the three executives "had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time."

Equifax's stock has fallen more than a third since the scandal broke.

Cuomo Calls for More State Regulations

(AP) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday proposed tougher state regulations for credit reporting agencies such as Equifax in the wake of the massive hacking of the Atlanta-based company's computers.

The Democrat announced that he has directed the state Department of Financial Services to issue new regulations requiring credit reporting agencies to register in New York for the first time and to comply with the state's cybersecurity standards.

The proposal, first reported Monday by The New York Times (, would require Equifax, Experian and similar firms to adhere to the same consumer protection rules the state imposes on banks and insurance companies.

Cuomo said consumer credit reporting agencies operating in New York will be required to register annually with DFS by Feb. 1, 2018, and by Feb. 1 of each year afterward. The DFS superintendent will have the authority to deny or revoke an agency's authorization to do business with New York consumers and state-regulated financial institutions if a firm fails to comply with regulations, the governor said.

"The Equifax breach was a wakeup call and with this action New York is raising the bar for consumer protections that we hope will be replicated across the nation," Cuomo said.

 

 From Key Bank:

ID Theft and Fraud Tips

  While the Equifax issue is dominating headlines, it is important to remember identity theft can happen at any time to any one—not just when a database is breached.   According to a 2017 study by Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 15 million individuals were victims of identity fraud in 2016—representing $16 billion in losses.

Identity theft occurs when someone wrongfully obtains and uses your data to access your personal information or financial assets for their own personal gain. It has been and continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the U.S.

 The power of proper protection: You can actively prevent and protect your finances from identity theft and fraud by building cautious habits and working with your financial advisor to determine necessary levels of insurance protection. Some effective tips include:

  • Change passwords and other online credentials regularly, and make sure they are complex.
  • Don’t use the same password and login credentials for multiple financial sites.
  • Avoid clicking through to online financial management accounts via emails sent to you. Instead, directly visit the financial institution’s website.
  •  Pay attention to statements and billing schedules. If a check or other payment does not clear when expected, consider placing a stop payment. If an account statement or bill seems late, check to see if there’s any reason to believe it could have been stolen from your mail.
  • Never, under any circumstances, reveal verifying personal information (name, social security number, address, date of birth, account numbers, etc.) to anyone who has reached out to you—whether by phone, email or text.
  • When in public, don’t provide credit card numbers or other personal identification numbers (PIN) over the phone.
  • Don’t carry important documents, including your birth certificate or Social Security card, unless necessary.
  • At home, install a mailbox with a lock, and pick up mail quickly. If mail containing personal information, such as your bank statement, doesn’t show up on time, call your financial institution immediately.
  • Get a shredder. Prior to throwing out financial mail or paperwork, such as preapproved credit card or loan applications, shred them.

Incorporating identity theft protection into your financial planning is so important for your overall financial wellness. Services that can help with this include:

  • Account alerts – notify you via email or text of important events occurring in your account.
  • Identity monitoring – monitor personal information used in credit applications, public records, websites and other places for any unusual activity that could be signs of identity theft.
  • Credit monitoring – regularly review your credit reports for changes or inaccurate information that may indicate fraudulent activity.
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