PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro Demands Equifax Stop Charging Consumers for Credit Freeze Fees Following Massive Data Breach
Authored By: Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, with a growing, bipartisan group of 32 Attorneys General from across the country, in sending a letter to Equifax demanding the credit reporting agency stop charging fees to consumers attempting to freeze their credit following the massive data breach affecting 143 million Americans and up to 5.4 million Pennsylvanians on September 15.
“Equifax waited six weeks to disclose this breach to Americans and they’ve done everything wrong since,” Attorney General Shapiro said. “Pennsylvanians need to able to get accurate information and freeze their credit, if they choose, without cost or bureaucratic delay; instead, Equifax has been trying to make a buck off of vulnerable consumers.”
The letter sent by Attorney General Shapiro and his colleague attorneys general demands that Equifax:
- Disable all fee-based services for consumers to check their credit, and offer onlyfree credit-check services to consumers.
- Reimburse consumers for all costs they incur to freeze their credit because of the breach – including costs they incur at other credit reporting agencies.
- Staff hotlines 24 hours daily and more prominently display call numbers on their websites.
- Disclose its plans to communicate with impacted consumers, which will help attorneys general detect unauthorized scam and phony communications to consumers.
“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 letter states. “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, the other two credit bureaus, Experian and Transunion, continue to charge fees for credit freezes. The attorneys general said Equifax should reimburse consumers who incur any fees to completely freeze their credit.
Pennsylvania is leading the investigation along with a group of other attorneys general, in a probe that was launched the day after Equifax publicly disclosed the data breach on August 7. In an initial letter sent to Equifax last week, Attorney General Shapiro and other attorneys general demanded information about the circumstances that led to the breach, the reasons for the 6-week delay in public disclosure, the protections in place at the time of the breach and the proposed response by Equifax to safeguard consumers moving forward.
“The day after the data breach was disclosed, I ordered our Office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to begin an investigation of Equifax’s conduct,” said Attorney General Shapiro. “We’ll pursue this investigation wherever it leads us and as long as it takes to protect every Pennsylvanian and American whose personal, financial information was compromised.”
Attorney General Shapiro and his colleagues recommend consumers do the following:
- Freeze your credit. This is the surest way to stop cyber thieves from opening accounts in your name. Call or visit websites for the reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion & Experian – and freeze your credit. The attorneys general are advocating to ensure no consumer has to pay a fee for these credit freezes.
- Set up fraud alerts. You can also sign up for fraud alerts with the reporting agencies. They’ll alert you if anyone tries to open an account in your name.
- Check your own credit statements. Examine them closely for unauthorized activity and alert your credit card company or vendor immediately if you see anything suspicious.
- Call or email the Pennsylvania Attorney General. If you’re a Pennsylvanian and believe you may have been affected by the Equifax breach or any kind of identity theft, contact our Bureau of Consumer Protection at 800-441-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please click here to the letter directed to Equifax..