FTC SAYS CREDIT REPORT RESELLERS ALLOWED HACKERS TO ACCESS CONSUMERS’ INFO
The Federal Trade Commission has settled charges against credit report resellers for not taking reasonable steps to protect consumers’ personal identifying information. The credit report resellers, SettlementOne Credit Corporation, ACRAnet, Inc., and Fajilan and Associates, Inc., also doing business as Statewide Credit Services are required to strengthen their data security according to the FTC order. The FTC charged the credit report companies with lax security measures after hackers accessed more than 1,800 credit reports without a permissible purpose. The credit report companies must also submit to data security audits over the next 20 years.
Stuart Pratt, CEO of the Consumer Data Industry (CDIA), wrote the FTC and complained about holding credit report resellers liable for unauthorized access to consumers information. Pratt also argued that credit reporting agencies should not be held liable for “the failure of end-users’ security programs.” Click here to read the FTC’s response to Pratt’s letter.
What To Do If Your Personal Information Has Been Compromised
Companies or institutions that keep personal information about you have an obligation to safeguard it. Still, from time to time, the personal information they hold may be accidentally disclosed or deliberately stolen. If your information falls into the wrong hands, it may be misused to commit fraud against you.
If you get a notice that your personal information may have been compromised, taking certain steps quickly can minimize the potential for the theft of your identity.
If the stolen information includes your financial accounts, close compromised credit card accounts immediately. Consult with your financial institution about whether to close bank or brokerage accounts immediately or first change your passwords and have the institution monitor for possible fraud. Place passwords on any new accounts that you open. Avoid using your mother’s maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of your Social Security number (SSN) or your phone number, or a series of consecutive numbers.
If the stolen information includes your Social Security number, call the toll-free fraud number of any one of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies and place an initial fraud alert on your credit reports. This alert can help stop someone from opening new credit accounts in your name.
Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); P.O. Box 2002, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790
If you are unable to speak with a live person at Equifax, Experian or Trans Union when contacting the fraud departments, contact us and speak with a love customer service representative 24/7 at 1-800-263-9091.
An initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for 90 days. When you place this alert on your credit report with one nationwide consumer reporting company, you’ll get information about ordering one free credit report from each of the companies. It’s prudent to wait about a month after your information was stolen before you order your report. That’s because suspicious activity may not show up right away. Once you get your reports, review them for suspicious activity, like inquiries from companies you didn’t contact, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain. Check that information — like your SSN, address(es), name or initials, and employers — is correct.
If the stolen information includes your driver’s license or other government-issued identification, contact the agencies that issued the documents and follow their procedures to cancel a document and get a replacement. Ask the agency to “flag” your file to keep anyone else from getting a license or another identification document in your name.
Once you’ve taken these precautions, watch for signs that your information is being misused. For example, you may not get certain bills or other mail on time. Follow up with creditors if your bills don’t arrive on time. A missing bill could mean an identity thief has taken over your account and changed your billing address to cover his tracks. Other signs include:
- receiving credit cards that you didn’t apply for;
- being denied credit, or being offered less favorable credit terms, like a high interest rate, for no apparent reason; and
- getting calls or letters from debt collectors or businesses about merchandise or services you didn’t buy.
Read your financial account statements promptly and carefully, and to monitor your credit reports every few months in the first year of the theft, and once a year thereafter. For more information on getting your free credit reports, contact attorney Micah Adkins.