State Attorney General advises Iowans to take action after Equifax data breach

EnlargeSmith Collection  Gado via Getty Images

N.C.'s Attorney General says that 4.4 million people in N.C. may have been affected by the massive data breach at Atlanta-based credit bureau Equifax. "You should also watch your credit card statements very closely because if someone were to find out who your accounts were with, and get replica cards sent to them, then they could charge in your name and you wouldn't know until it showed up on the bil", he said.

However, Team Clark is hearing from people who've had a lot of trouble placing a credit freeze through Equifax's website.

Also known as a security freeze, this tool lets you restrict access to your credit report, which in turn makes it more hard for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.

And even if everything seems fine now, you should also continue to keep a close eye on your accounts and credit reports because your identity might not be stolen right away.

To begin with, the law did not require Equifax to disclose the data breach immediately so consumers could guard against fraud.

The data that might have been accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses. "We are already in direct contact with Equifax to establish the facts including how many people in the United Kingdom have been affected and what kind of personal data may have been compromised".

The company provided a new website for consumers to check if their personally identifiable information (PII) was exposed in the breach, but the website was rife with problems. But when you're not looking to take out any loans or open any lines of credit, it can be a financial lifesaver.

But the fact remains that there are three major credit reporting agencies-Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.

I can assure you that the instructions in Clark's credit freeze guide are accurate.

Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually.

Be advised, this means that if you want to open a new credit card, you will not be able to do so until you call them and remove the hold. "After entering all the info in the prompts, it comes back and tells you "We're unable to process your request".

But not every bureau has an identical set of financial information on every person, which accounts for even more variability in credit scores.

What should you do if you've been unable to place a credit freeze online?

What is a credit freeze?

Beyond the legal liabilities this could create, such activities may make the public feel that the privacy and security of their data was not the most important issue for company leadership after discovery of the breach. Once identity thieves get ahold of your stolen data they will use your personal information to file an early return in your name, and get a huge refund. We have seen so many other big breaches over the last few years (Yahoo, Target, etc.) that we have become inured to these kinds of incidents, and the attendant masses of potential victims. Reports that data obtained by hackers may be used to impact voting systems further underscores the need for tighter regulation and better security across the board. These companies play a huge role in our lives, but they simply aren't accountable, and are often unavailable, to consumers at all.

Related News: