Attorney General Ken Paxton today issued a consumer alert following a report from Equifax Inc., one of the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies, that it experienced a data breach affecting 143 million Americans, including nearly 12 million Texans.
From mid-May through July, hackers accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers from Equifax credit reports. Around 209,000 individuals had their credit card numbers stolen. Equifax revealed the breach last week.
“My office has been in contact with Equifax and is working to get to the bottom of how this massive data breach occurred, and how we can protect the 12 million Texans it reported who are at potential risk of identity theft,” Attorney General Paxton said. “We will do what’s necessary to hold Equifax accountable. In the meantime, I encourage Texans to educate themselves about how to best protect their personal information and to file a complaint with my office if they have any concerns about this breach.”
The Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office offers the following tips to Texans who may be affected by the Equifax data breach:
Check your credit report by going to a free service: www.annualcreditreport.com. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft.
Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. Such action makes it more difficult for someone to open a new account in your name.
If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. It warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and will make it more difficult for someone to open credit in your name.
Beware of email and telephone scams related to the data breach. Don’t give out personal information to those who contact you asking for information to verify accounts, and be wary of clicking on links or downloading attachments in email messages. Legitimate businesses do not ask consumers to verify account information via cold calls or emails. If in doubt, contact the bank or business directly at a phone number or website known to you.
Carefully review bank and credit card account statements and look for unauthorized charges. If you find any, contact the bank or business immediately to dispute them.
When it’s tax season, consider filing early and look out for any correspondence from the IRS. This will lessen the chance of someone fraudulently filing on your behalf. This is especially important if you’ve confirmed you’re a victim of identity theft.
For more information on how to protect your credit and personal information, visit the Fighting Identity Theft page of the attorney general’s website at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/identitytheft. If you believe you are a victim of the data breach, you can file a complaint online at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/file-a-consumer-complaint.