The Attorney General of Virginia issued a warning to Virginians that a recent Equifax data breach may have compromised their personal and financial info.Equifax, one of the three major credit bureau monitoring agencies, recently sent a data breach notification to Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring. According to the notification, approximately 4,045,576 Virginia consumers’ personal information may have been accessed by hackers who have exploited vulnerabilities in Equifax’s website. Herring said in a press release that the data breach “is breathtaking in scope and severity ... and is especially troubling considering the source.” Herring also went on to say that “consumers should exercise caution in the weeks and months to come to protect their personal information and wallets.” Consumers who think they may have been impacted are urged to keep a close eye on their finances. Those who believe they have been victimized by the breach should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section. Equifax reported that hackers have illegally obtained Social Security numbers, names, addresses, and birthdates. The hackers may also have accessed credit card numbers, driver’s license numbers, and documents containing personal information. Because the breach raises the potential for identity theft, the Consumer Protection Section of the Attorney General has set up an Identity Theft Guide which provides steps and info on how individuals can protect their personal information and what to do if you have been victimized.
While consumers should closely monitor their bank accounts and credit cards for unauthorized charges, Equifax is offering one year of identity theft protection and credit monitoring to consumers, regardless of whether they have been impacted by the breach. The offer includes credit monitoring for each of the three major credit monitoring agencies -- Equifax, Transunion, and Experian. Consumers should use the offer, as doing so would provide individuals with the ability to lock credit reports produced by Equifax while also providing online scanning for Social Security numbers, copies of Equifax reports, and identity theft insurance. Equifax also has established a website which provides more info on the data breach and on how consumers can help protect themselves against the illegal use of hacked information. Consumers are encouraged to visit the site, however, the Attorney General and state officials have said that problematic language exists in the website’s terms and that consumers should read the terms and conditions very carefully. State attorneys are working to remove the problematic language from the terms as consumers who only visit the site to see if their info was hacked may potentially waive their right to be part of Class Action lawsuits and the ability to sue Equifax. If you want to know if your info has been hacked, you should pay special attention to your finances and keep an eye out for suspicious transactions and activity, use the Consumer Protection Section’s Identity Theft Guide, and take advantage of the one-year credit protection offer.