AG Fox Joins with Other AGs in Asking Equifax to Disable Fee-Based Monitoring Services; MT Joins Multi-State Investigation of Company

AG Fox Joins with Other AGs in Asking Equifax to Disable Fee-Based Monitoring Services; MT Joins Multi-State Investigation of Company

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox today joined with other attorneys general in sending a letter to credit reporting firm Equifax requesting that it disable links for enrollment in fee-based credit monitoring service in the wake of the massive data breach impacting 143 million people.

The attorneys general launched an investigation as soon as Equifax publicly disclosed the breach last week. Equifax is offering free credit monitoring services in response to the breach, but the attorneys general today objected to Equifax “seemingly using its own data breach as an opportunity to sell services to breach victims,” they wrote.

“We believe continuing to offer consumers a fee-based service in addition to Equifax’s free monitoring services will serve to only confuse consumers who are already struggling to make decisions on how to best protect themselves in the wake of this massive breach,” the attorneys general wrote. “Selling a fee-based product that competes with Equifax’s own free offer of credit monitoring services to victims of Equifax’s own data breach is unfair, particularly if consumers are not sure if their information was compromised.”

The attorneys general also said that, although Equifax has agreed to waive credit freeze fees for those who would otherwise be subject to them – which includes Montana residents – the other two credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion, continue to charge fees for security freezes. The attorneys general said that Equifax should be taking steps to reimburse consumers who incur these fees to completely freeze their credit.

The attorneys general emphasized that the breach has also caused considerable consumer confusion, which could lead breach victims, who are already vulnerable, to inadvertently sign up for a costly program instead of the free service, and that consumers, who are at no fault in this situation, should not have to pay anyone to completely freeze their credit.  Click here to view today’s letter.

On a related note, Attorney General Fox announced Montana has joined a multi-state investigation to learn more about the circumstances that led to the breach, the reasons for the months-long delay between the breach and the company’s public disclosure, what protections the company had in place at the time of the breach and how the company intends to protect consumers affected by the breach.

“As soon as we learned about the data breach, my Office of Consumer Protection jumped into action, and, working with other states, joined in an investigation,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “I encourage Montanans to monitor their credit reports, bank accounts, and credit card statements, and report any suspicious activity immediately.  We’ve received hundreds of calls this week from consumers across the state who are angry that their personal information may have been exposed by Equifax.  My consumer protection team stands ready to assist Montanans in determining what resources are available to help them get answers and move forward.”

The Montana Department of Justice offers a variety of tips on its website to educate consumers about how to determine if they’ve been impacted by the breach and encourages residents to visit https://media.dojmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/Equifax-Consumer-Letter-1.pdfto get the latest information.

The attorneys general have also had communications with Equifax expressing concerns about terms of service relative to the free credit monitoring services and the prominence of service enrollment information on Equifax’s Web page. Equifax was responsive to these concerns.

Assistant Attorneys General Mark Mattioli, Kelley Hubbard, and Chuck Munson of Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection, are assisting  Attorney General Fox with this matter.

Last Friday, the Montana Department of Justice announced that Equifax revealed 367,737 Montanans were affected by its data breach; nearly one-third of the state’s population.  Click here to read the news release.

 

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