Costello takes Equifax to task; consumers urged to stay on guard
An area lawmaker is among those harshly criticizing Equifax over the massive data hack of the personal information of 143 million Americans.
But unlike most, U.S Rep. Ryan Costello has been able to confront in person the CEO in charge of the company that was supposed to be guarding the online information of its customers.
Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, whose district includes parts of Berks, Chester, Lebanon and Montgomery counties, was able to grill Equifax’s former CEO as part of a recent House Energy and Commerce Committee meeting. And he wasn’t happy with the responses.
“After receiving feedback from constituents in all four counties I represent, I had the opportunity to hear the concerns of my colleagues and offer my own to the former Equifax CEO, Mr. Richard Smith ... I emphasized to Mr. Smith that the company should have been prepared to assist its millions of customers, including Pennsylvanians who I represent, in the face of such a significant breach of personal information, and how the slow rollout to provide consumers with a path forward was inexcusable.
“My office will continue to assist constituents as they inquire if they were affected and seek to secure their accounts,” Costello said after the recent hearing. “This was just one hearing and the ongoing scrutiny by myself and Congress over this massive display of negligence will continue until we receive answers and those culpable are held accountable.”
Costello was particularly critical of the company’s pace of providing call centers to answer question from consumers after the breach.
“ ... The slow rollout and how poor it was done, to me is just inexcusable,” Costello told Smith. “I mean you have to have departments dedicated to dealing with this potential and it doesn’t appear to me as though that was planned – or if it was planned, it was planned extremely poorly.”
More alarming news related to the data breach at the credit reporting agency was reported this week.
It was discovered that driver’s license data for roughly 10.9 million Americans were endangered during September’s hack at Equifax, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The report follows statements made by Equifax on Tuesday that a UK file comprised of 15.2 million consumer records was also breached during the hack.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration has issued warnings and advice to consumers and businesses wondering what, if anything, they should do in response to the hacks.
When consumers apply for credit cards, bank accounts or loans, lenders rely on the information supplied by Equifax and the other two major credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann explained. Information at risk due to the Equifax breach are names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, drivers’ license numbers and credit card numbers.
Wiessmann advised consumers to visit Equifax’s dedicated website for consumers to determine if their personal information was compromised and sign up for credit file monitoring and ID theft protection: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com.
She also said consumers should consider placing a freeze on their credit, which will prevent businesses — and criminals — from viewing their credit reports or opening credit in their name.
Consumers can visit or call the credit reporting agencies: Experian (1-888-397-3742), Equifax (1-800-349-9660), and TransUnion (1-888-909-8872), although there may be a fee for those service, Wiesmann said, adding they could also set up a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies.
Wiessmann also reminded consumers they are entitled to a free credit report once a year each from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. She advised them to visit: https://www.annualcreditreport.com
“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.”
For businesses, meanwhile, an area of growing cybersecurity concern is the occurrence of business email scams or business email compromise. Those target employees who have access to financial or sensitive information, impersonating a trusted partner and often requesting a wire transfer or payment.
Wiessmann referred businesses to a new reference guide:http://www.dobs.pa.gov/Documents/Publications/Handouts/Business%20Email%20Scams.pdf to help businesses better understand business email scams and what they can do to protect themselves.
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud or identity theft, can contact:
• Pa. Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection: call 1-800-441-2555, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/Search.aspx?searchtext=scams;
• Federal Trade Commission: call the Identity Theft hotline: 1-877-ID-THEFT or visit www.identitytheft.gov