HARTFORD, CT - Attorney General George Jepsen today joined with attorneys general around the country in 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.
Connecticut is co-leading the states' investigation with the attorneys general from Illinois, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia; the investigation was launched 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 Connecticut 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.
"Consumers are understandably angry and upset about this breach, and their feelings are entirely warranted given the extremely sensitive nature of the compromised information," said Attorney General Jepsen. "This breach has also caused considerable confusion, which could lead breach victims, who are already vulnerable, to inadvertently sign up for a costly program instead of the free service. Additionally, consumers, who are at absolutely no fault in this situation, should not have to pay anyone to completely freeze their credit."
Attorney General Jepsen continued, "Equifax should not give even the impression that it is attempting to make any sort of profit off of this enormous breach, and consumers should have access – at zero cost – to the best available credit monitoring services and protections."
In a letter sent to Equifax last week, the attorneys general requested information 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.
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.
"As soon as this breach was disclosed, my office mobilized and, working with other states, opened an investigation," said Attorney General Jepsen. "While our investigation is ongoing, consumer can take steps to monitor their credit reports and their bank accounts and credit card statements, and report any suspicious activity immediately."
Assistant Attorneys General Michele Lucan and Matthew Fitzsimmons, head of the Privacy and Data Security Department, are assisting the Attorney General with this matter.