Following news of a massive file breach at credit reporting agency Equifax, the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, which administers the Fair Credit Reporting Act in Maine, is encouraging people to take this matter seriously and consider basic steps to protect their identify, financial accounts and credit reports.
The Bureau’s Principal Examiner, David Leach, emphasizes that state and federal laws are in place to protect consumer from the effects of a data breach. “Maine is one of the few states in which consumers can ‘freeze’ their credit report information to prevent unauthorized persons from opening credit accounts in their name,” Leach said.
Equifax provides an automated, secure line (1-800-349-9960) for consumers to freeze their credit report with the agency. The file freeze is immediate. Within 10-14 days, consumers receive a letter from Equifax which provides a toll-free number and unique (to each consumer) personal identification or PIN number for use in freely unlocking/relocking their credit file.
The Bureau also highly recommends freezing credit files with the other two major credit reporting agencies: Experian (1-888-397-3742) and Trans Union (1-888-909-8872).
Leach noted that if an unauthorized person opens a credit account in the name of a consumer and incurs debts, the consumer is not legally obligated to pay those debts. He also explained that consumers can view their own credit reports free of charge once a year at www.AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228.
Consumers affected by this breach will be provided with additional ways to view and monitor their credit files without charge, and the state recommends that consumers do so.
Individuals seeking more information or further guidance can contact the Bureau by calling 1-800-332-8529 (toll free in Maine) or 207-624-8527. Online information about consumer financial protection issues is available at www.credit.maine.gov.