Nearly 250,000 North Dakotans affected by Equifax security breach
In the wake of last week’s announcement by Equifax that personal information of more than 143 million Americans might have been stolen by hackers, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem urges North Dakotans to take immediate steps to protect against identity theft.
“I have learned from Equifax that more than 248,000 North Dakotans may have been affected,” Stenehjem said in a press release. Customer information that was potentially stolen includes names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, and in some cases, credit card numbers.
“North Dakotans who are concerned that the security breach at Equifax may have exposed their personal information should take immediate steps to protect against identify theft by placing a fraud alert on their credit reports,” said Stenehjem. A fraud alert is effective for ninety days and alerts legitimate creditors and service providers to the potential unauthorized use of a consumer’s information. The Attorney General’s website has information on how to file a fraud alert, at attorneygeneral.nd.gov/.
Stenehjem suggests consumers check Equifax’s website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/, to determine if they are affected, and to do so from a secure computer because of the risks associated with providing the last six digits of a Social Security number, which is required to determine if a person’s credit file has been jeopardized.
Stenehjem also emphasized that placing a security freeze on an individual’s credit file may prevent anyone else from opening fraudulent new accounts. It does not affect the individual’s credit score, and can be temporarily “lifted” by the consumer if necessary. More detailed information on how to place a security freeze is available on the attorney general’s website, at https://attorneygeneral.nd.gov/consumer-resources/identity-theft/credit-security-freeze.
“As my office reviews this massive data breach, we need to determine what steps Equifax could have taken to prevent this data breach, and what actions will be needed to prevent a re-occurrence in the future, said Stenehjem. “I will insist that the relief Equifax provides be commensurate with the harm it caused, and that it take extraordinary measures to make consumers whole.”
Stenehjem says he is reserving final judgment but noted that an offer for one year of free credit monitoring is not sufficient considering that the theft of someone’s Social Security number and other personal information may become a dormant threat with adverse results years in the future. “It is Equifax’s sole responsibility to protect the personal information it compiled and to prevent the unauthorized use of such information,” said Stenehjem.
Parrell Grossman, director of the Consumer Protection Division, reminded North Dakota residents that they are entitled to a free credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies. “Checking your credit report regularly will help you to spot, and stop, identity theft quickly,” said Grossman. Information on how to obtain the free credit report is at attorneygeneral.nd.gov/consumer-resources/consumer-rights.