Fraud Watch: What Montanans can do about the Equifax data breach

HELENA – More than 140 million Americans have been affected by the Equifax data breach earlier this month.

On Sept. 7, consumer credit reporting agency Equifax announced 143 million people had their driver’s license numbers, names and social security numbers compromised in a massive breach. Of those millions of people, nearly 368,000 Montanans were impacted.
“What the criminal hackers do is they go on the dark web and they sell it [personal information],” explained Chief of Montana’s Department of Justice Office of Consumer Protection Mark Mattioli.

Equifax said the breach happened sometime between mid-Ma and July and a little more than two weeks after the breach was announced, Equifax CEO Richard Smith resigned.

“They spent six weeks announcing the breech, but his resignation was, papers were signed yesterday and announced today, so they could do it quicker if they wanted to do it and I hope that moving forward, we will be watching, okay,” Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester told the Senate Banking Committee.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox sent a letter to Equifax asking the company to waive fees for credit monitoring, along with other more than 40 other state attorneys general.
Now, millions of Americans and thousands of Montanans are left to figure out what’s next.
To find out if your information has been compromised, go to the Equifax website and enter your last name, along with the last six digits of your social security number. Then, you’ll get a notification, but it’s important to know, “[the] Words they use are ‘may be affected’ but it actually means you are affected,” Mattioli explained.

One thing you can do if you have been affected by the breach, sign up for a fraud alert; Mattioli noted that these expire after 90 days so it’s important to remember to sign up again.

“If you want to be more aggressive and more protective, you can get a freeze, a security freeze on your credit,” Mattioli added.

If you think your identity has been stolen, it’s not enough to just report that to all three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

Mattioli recommended,”Go to the police and file a report with them, you should go on the FTC [Federal Trade Commission] website and report it to them and contact our office.”
To ensure your information is safe in the wake of this data breach and in the future, Mattioli urges everyone to go back to the basics.

“People really have to develop the habit, the old fashion habit of looking at your financial records, look at your bank statements, your credit card statements and getting a credit report frequently.”

Mattioli said since this announcement, OCP has received hundreds of calls from concerned Montanans.

The Federal Trade Commission website can be found here to report any identity theft activity. Read more information about what AG Tim Fox is doing regarding the Equifax breach here: