Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing new regulations to protect the personal information of New Yorkers, by requiring credit reporting agencies to register with the state and comply with New York’s nation-leading cybersecurity standard.
The Governor’s announcement comes after Equifax announced last week the company had been targeted by computer hackers, exposing the personal financial data of 143 million Americans, of which 8 million were New Yorkers.
Equifax subsequently set up a separate website, offering a number of credit protection services, free of charge, but consumers have complained of trouble getting through to register for those services, the website is at times overloaded and inaccessible, and sometimes callers are put on hold for extended periods of time.
Scott Laughlin, Vice President of Community and Creditor Relations for Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo said consumers need to take action in light of the Equifax security breach, “Opening up a fraudulent account is pretty easy to look at.”
But Laughlin said there are other ways your stolen identity can be used without showing up on a credit report, “Somebody could file taxes in another person’s name, and we won’t see that on a credit report. The IRS will see that later, and we might find out about it sometime after April 15.”
A thief could also use your stolen identification to open a bank account at a bank that doesn’t report to Equifax, which is why Laughlin said it is imperative to put a freeze on your credit at all three credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
“Maybe that bank had an account opened with them, but they only report to Experian, a different credit reporting agency. You could have had your information stolen through the Equifax breach but an account was opened at a bank that may not be reporting back to Equifax.”
But if you do freeze your credit, Laughlin emphasizes, get your credit report first, “You have to have a PIN in order to actually, momentarily un-freeze it and allow somebody to gain access to it.”
Un-freezing a PIN, a personal identification number, allows a bank or other financial institution to check your credit before you try to buy a car, a house, or take out a loan, and Laughlin pointed out credit checks are not confined to borrowing money. Some employers check the credit of job applicants before deciding whether to hire them.
New Yorkers might also file a complaint with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman who is considering a lawsuit against Equifax for allowing those 143 million accounts to be compromised.