Protect Your Identity from the Equifax Data Breach
240,000 Vermont residents had sensitive and personal financial information exposed in the Equifax Data Breach this summer. That is approximately 1 out of 2 adults in Vermont. While you may not have experienced any misuse of your information yet, you need to take precautions:
– Determine if you were affected. Contact the Consumer Assistance Program, a joint venture between the Vermont Attorney General’s office and the University of Vermont. The website is really easy to use (consumer.vermont.gov, no “www” necessary). If you’d rather speak with a live person, dial 800-649-2424.
-Monitor your credit. Regularly check any credit card statements (paper or online) to make sure there are no erroneous charges. Get a copy of your credit report (it’s free) and make sure that it is an accurate representation of your credit and there are no new accounts opened in your name. The website above (consumer.vermont.gov) has links to the three major credit bureaus.
If your data was affected, you may want to put a “Security Freeze” on your credit information with the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion and Experian. This does not freeze your existing credit cards or other credit tools, but it does lock down your information. If you are applying for new credit (auto loans, mortgages, credit cards, even insurance or apartment lease), you will have the ability to authorize a company to access your credit for a short time. FEES APPLY! While Equifax is waiving its security freeze fees, Transunion and Experian are not. AND there is a fee for lifting your security freeze.
-File your annual federal and income tax returns as soon as possible. A known scam is to file tax returns before you do in order to get any refund that may be due.
We will be taking up the issue when the legislature reconvenes in January.
For an overview of the existing laws regulating credit bureaus, view this summary provided by an attorney with the Vermont Legislative Council: http://legislature.vermont.gov/assets/Documents/2018/WorkGroups/House%20Commerce/Privacy%20and%20Data%20Security%20Breaches/W~David%20Hall~Protection%20of%20Consumer%20Information%20-%20Overview~11-9-2017.pdf
Please contact me with any questions you may have regarding this issue.