HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 14, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following the recent announcement that hackers had gained access to consumer data from Equifax, one of the three major credit-reporting agencies, Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann today advised consumers to take control of their personal and financial data.
When consumers apply for credit cards, bank accounts, or loans, lenders rely on this information supplied by Equifax and the other two major credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion. Equifax announced that data of 143 million American consumers may have been compromised, including names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and even drivers' license numbers and credit card numbers.
"We are living in an age where technology has made simple tasks easier and complex functions more convenient," Secretary Wiessmann said. "However, along with these advances in technology, the associated risks to consumers have evolved and become more challenging and daunting. People's identities can be stolen, their bank accounts can be drained, and their credit can be ruined by criminals in distant lands over the course of weeks, months, or even years."
Wiessmann advises that consumers look out for new scams and consider taking steps to help protect their personal and financial data.
- Visit Equifax's dedicated website for consumers to determine if your personal information was compromised and sign up for credit file monitoring and ID theft protection: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
- Consider placing a freeze on your credit, which will prevent businesses – and criminals – from viewing your credit report or opening credit in your name. You can visit or call the credit reporting agencies: Experian (1-888-397-3742), Equifax (1-800-349-9660), and TransUnion (1-888-909-8872). Note: you may have to pay a fee for this service.
- Set up a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies, which will notify you if someone tries to apply for credit in your name: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
- Check your credit reports and financial statements regularly for discrepancies and mismatched information to help ensure that your accounts are being used only by you. You are entitled to a free credit report once a year each from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Visit: https://www.annualcreditreport.com
- Change your online passwords. The department has produced a short video about how to choose passwords: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyJAbhMtFIE&list=PLPptG_EW3WhTnLvEmSt3CzHjx6YXFfbyv&index=9
"Even if you do not conduct financial transactions online, your information may be at risk," said Wiessmann. "Consumers and businesses cannot assume that the risks in this era of technological transformation will be 'taken care of' by third parties. Everyone is going to have to take control of their own personal and financial data by being more diligent and working harder to protect themselves, their information, and their money."
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft, you can contact:
- PA Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection: call 1-800-441-2555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Federal Trade Commission: call the Identity Theft hotline: 1-877-ID-THEFT or visit www.identitytheft.gov
The department offers additional online resources that can help consumers protect themselves from cyberthieves:
- VIDEO: Cybersecurity Basics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dukspzOuJ9E&t=43s&index=2&list=PLPptG_EW3WhTnLvEmSt3CzHjx6YXFfbyv
- Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft: http://www.dobs.pa.gov/Documents/Publications/Brochures/IDTheft2014.pdf
- Understanding Credit Reports and Scores: http://www.dobs.pa.gov/Documents/Publications/Brochures/CreditReportsandScoresWeb.pdf
Consumers can contact the department with questions about financial issues or to file a complaint at 1-800-PA-BANKS. Members of the public are invited to connect to the department through Facebook and Twitter, or subscribing to the department's newsletter.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Novak, 717-783-4721
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities