BOSTON, Mass. (SHNS) – State officials apparently don’t think too much about requests by Equifax for consumers to enter the last six digits of the Social Security numbers to check and see if their personal information was exposed by the credit bureau’s data breach, which may have ensnared as many as 143 million people.
Attorney General Maura Healey, one of the state’s chief consumer advocates, this week declined to recommend whether consumers should take Equifax up on the company’s suggestion that they should enter their digits, saying it was a matter of individual choice.
Healey aides have told the News Service that they were told by Equifax that the six-digit requirement is needed because entering the last four digits was not sufficient enough to authenticate people. The aide said people should assume they are at risk and noted agencies like Equifax already have the information they are requesting.
Consumers should monitor their credit, seek free credit reports, be vigilant for suspicious activity and in some cases may want to institute a credit freeze to make it more difficult for criminals to open a credit card or a bank account in their name. People considering a credit freeze should be aware that they would need to lift it to allow credit checks if they are opening a new account, applying for a job, renting an apartment, or buying insurance, the aide said, noting the cost and lead times to lift a freeze vary, so it’s best to check with the credit reporting company in advance. People instituting freezes should contact all three credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
During a hearing on consumer credit protection bills Tuesday, Rep. Randy Hunt advised consumers to get through their “four stages of grief” over the Equifax breach and take steps to try to protect themselves. A Sandwich Republican, Hunt made clear he doesn’t think much of the Equifax six-digit page, which also invites consumers to enter a program called TrustedID Premier. “That page is baloney and I’d like anyone at Equifax to tell me it’s not,” said Hunt, a certified public accountant.