Vermont Business Magazine Attorney General TJ Donovan, with 37 attorneys general, urge consumer reporting agencies Experian and TransUnion to immediately stop charging fees to consumers. The AGs maintain that after the Equifax data breach, many consumers want to put in place credit freezes on their accounts. Donovan and the other attorneys general sent a letter to the consumer reporting agencies (CRA’s, also referred to as “credit bureaus”) 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 affected over 145 million Americans.
“Vermonters are rightly outraged that their personal, sensitive information has been exposed by this massive data breach,” said Donovan. “Credit bureaus may stand to profit when they charge fees for consumer requests for credit report freezes,” he said. “That’s not fair and I’ll fight to prevent that from happening,” said Donovan.
In addition to the letter Attorney General Donovan immediately acted after the data breach to get information out to Vermonters, and to make sure Vermonters knew how to protect themselves:
- Immediately issued an alert about the breach to over 15,000 Vermonters in partnership with the Department of Public Safety through our new Scam Alert system.
- Launched an investigation into the data breach to hold the company accountable.
- The Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) set up a webpage with up to date information about the data breach, action steps consumers can take, and a dedicated hotline for all Equifax questions (888-516-6179). CAP has returned over 700 calls to Vermonters and continues to speak directly with constituents every day.
In addition to consideration of placing a credit freeze on all credit reports, Donovan 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alerts on your financial accounts so your financial institution alerts you when money above a pre-designated amount is withdrawn;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 l to the number one. Scrutinize all incoming email addresses to ensure that the sender is truly legitimate.
Vermont AG: Oct 12, 2017