Today, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin urged credit reporting agencies Experian and TransUnion to stop charging fees to consumers who want to put in place credit freezes on their accounts in light of the massive data breach at the consumer reporting agency Equifax.
Attorney General Kilmartin sent a letter to the consumer reporting agencies urging them to stop charging fees for credit freezes and fees to lift or temporarily lift credit freezes on consumers' accounts. The Equifax data breach reported last month has so far affected over 145 million Americans.
"The scope and breadth of the Equifax data breach was extraordinary and all consumers are rightfully concerned about the security of their personal and financial information and skeptical of using a security freeze mechanism provided by the same company that compromised that information," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "With only three companies that offer security freezes, I believe it is the right thing for Experian and Transunion to provide this service at no cost to the consumer."
Currently, some of the credit reporting agencies offer what they call a credit lock, which is similar to a credit freeze, but in some cases they also charge a monthly fee for the lock and combine it with other services, such as credit monitoring. In other cases, credit reporting agencies offer a credit freeze free of charge, but the terms and conditions indicate that consumers' information will be shared with affiliates and third-party marketers. Attorney General Kilmartin believes consumers should be able to receive the credit freezes provided for by law without fees and without being subjected to marketing from unknown third parties.
In addition to placing a credit freeze on all your credit reports, Attorney General Kilmartin offered the following tips consumers can take to safeguard against identity theft: • 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alerts on your financial accounts so your financial institution alerts you when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn; • Beware of potential phishing emails; don't open any email messages or attachments from unknown senders and do not click on any unknown links.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 "I" to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.