State opens investigation into Equifax breach, offers advice for Hawaii residents

The State of Hawaii Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) announced Friday that it has initiated an investigation into the massive data breach involving the consumer reporting agency Equifax.

The breach affects at least 143 million people — that’s nearly half of the U.S. population — and included consumers’ names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. Click here for more details on the breach.

Those exposed now have the potential to become victims of identity theft.

In announcing the breach, Equifax stated it would offer free credit monitoring to everyone. The company has set up a website where people can check whether their personal information potentially was affected by the breach.

RELATED LINK: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com

“Anytime you’ve opened a bank account or applied for credit through a bank or a credit card company or a store charge account, those credit accounts are reported into the bureaus by the companies. They keep track of your record of payment history and that record follows you for the rest of your life,” explained Greg Dunn, Hawaii Better Business Bureau CEO.

“Equifax’s negligence has created unnecessary risks for Hawaii consumers,” said Stephen Levins, OCP executive director. “Every Hawaii resident should take precautions such as placing a freeze on their credit report to reduce any damage likely to occur because of Equifax’s massive data breach.”

The Office of Consumer Protection is urging consumers to seriously consider placing a credit freeze on their credit reports with all three consumer reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.

Additionally, the OCP states that consumers should:

  • Regularly request their 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on their financial accounts so their financial institution alerts them when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;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.

Even children can become victims.

“They’ll open a credit account in a child’s name because it’s a clean record and it’ll be easy to establish credit for the child,” Dunn warned. “In some cases, the bills can be racked up into the $50,000 to $100,000 range.”

Consumers with questions regarding Equifax’s data breach are encouraged to contact Equifax at 866-447-7559.

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