Costello takes Equifax to task

Area con­gress­man ques­tions for­mer CEO on the com­pany’s data breach; state and fed­eral of­fi­cials urge con­sumers to stay on guard

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - BUSINESS - By Brian McCul­lough bm­c­cul­lough@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @wc­dai­ly­lo­cal on Twit­ter

An area law­maker is among those harshly crit­i­ciz­ing Equifax over the mas­sive data hack of the per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of 143 mil­lion Amer­i­cans.

But un­like most, U.S Rep. Ryan Costello has been able to con­front in per­son the CEO in charge of the com­pany that was sup­posed to be guard­ing the on­line in­for­ma­tion of its cus­tomers.

Costello, R-6, of West Goshen, whose district in­cludes parts of Berks, Ch­ester, Le­banon and Mont­gomery coun­ties, was able to grill Equifax’s for­mer CEO as part of a re­cent House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee meet­ing. And he wasn’t happy with the re­sponses.

“Af­ter re­ceiv­ing feed­back from con­stituents in all four coun­ties

I rep­re­sent, I had the op­por­tu­nity to hear the con­cerns of my col­leagues and of­fer my own to the for­mer Equifax CEO, Mr. Richard Smith ... I em­pha­sized to Mr. Smith that the com­pany should have been pre­pared to as­sist its mil­lions of cus­tomers, in­clud­ing Penn­syl­va­ni­ans who I rep­re­sent, in the face of such a sig­nif­i­cant breach of per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, and how the slow rollout to pro­vide con­sumers with a path for­ward was in­ex­cus­able.

“My of­fice will con­tinue to as­sist con­stituents as they in­quire if they were af­fected and seek to se­cure their ac­counts,” Costello said af­ter the re­cent hear­ing. “This was just one hear­ing and the on­go­ing scru­tiny by my­self and Con­gress over this mas­sive dis­play of neg­li­gence will con­tinue un­til we re­ceive an­swers and those cul­pa­ble are held ac­count­able.”

Costello was par­tic­u­larly crit­i­cal of the com­pany’s pace of pro­vid­ing call cen­ters to an­swer ques­tion from con­sumers af­ter the breach.

“The slow rollout and how poor it was done, to me is just in­ex­cus­able,” Costello told Smith. “I mean you have to have de­part­ments ded­i­cated to deal­ing with this po­ten­tial and it doesn’t ap­pear to me as though that was planned – or if it was planned, it was planned ex­tremely poorly.”

More alarm­ing news re­lated to the data breach at the credit re­port­ing agency was re­ported this week.

It was dis­cov­ered that driver’s li­cense data for roughly 10.9 mil­lion Amer­i­cans were en­dan­gered dur­ing Septem­ber’s hack at Equifax, the Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported.

The re­port fol­lows state­ments made by Equifax on Tues­day that a UK file com­prised of 15.2 mil­lion con­sumer records was also breached dur­ing the hack.

Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Wolf’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has is­sued warn­ings and ad­vice to con­sumers and busi­nesses won­der­ing what, if any­thing, they should do in re­sponse to the hacks.

When con­sumers ap­ply for credit cards, bank ac­counts or loans, lenders rely on the in­for­ma­tion sup­plied by Equifax and the other two ma­jor credit re­port­ing agen­cies, Ex­pe­rian and Trans Union, Sec­re­tary of Bank­ing and Se­cu­ri­ties Robin L. Wiess­mann ex­plained. In­for­ma­tion at risk due to the Equifax breach are names, So­cial Se­cu­rity num­bers, birth dates, ad­dresses, driv­ers’ li­cense num­bers and credit card num­bers.

Wiess­mann ad­vised con­sumers to visit Equifax’s ded­i­cated web­site for con­sumers to de­ter­mine if their per­sonal in­for­ma­tion was com­pro­mised and sign up for credit file mon­i­tor­ing and ID theft pro­tec­tion: https://www. equifaxse­cu­

She also said con­sumers should con­sider plac­ing a freeze on their credit, which will pre­vent busi­nesses — and crim­i­nals — from view­ing their credit re­ports or open­ing credit in their name.

Con­sumers can visit or call the credit re­port­ing agen­cies: Ex­pe­rian (1-888397-3742), Equifax (1-800349-9660), and Tran­sUnion (1-888-909-8872), although there may be a fee for those ser­vice, Wies­mann said, adding they could also set up a fraud alert with the credit re­port­ing agen­cies.

Wiess­mann also re­minded con­sumers they are en­ti­tled to a free credit re­port once a year each from Ex­pe­rian, Equifax, and Tran­sUnion. She ad­vised them to visit: https://www. an­nu­al­cred­itre­

“Even if you do not con­duct fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tions on­line, your in­for­ma­tion may be at risk,” said Wiess­mann. “Con­sumers and busi­nesses can­not as­sume that the risks in this era of tech­no­log­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion will be ‘taken care of’ by third par­ties. Ev­ery­one is go­ing to have to take con­trol of their own per­sonal and fi­nan­cial data by be­ing more dili­gent and work­ing harder to pro­tect them­selves, their in­for­ma­tion, and their money.”

For busi­nesses, mean­while, an area of grow­ing cybersecurity con­cern is the oc­cur­rence of busi­ness email scams or busi­ness email com­pro­mise. Those tar­get em­ploy­ees who have ac­cess to fi­nan­cial or sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion, im­per­son­at­ing a trusted part­ner and of­ten re­quest­ing a wire trans­fer or pay­ment.

Wiess­mann re­ferred busi­nesses to a new ref­er­ence guide: http://www.­u­ments/ Pub­li­ca­tions/Hand­outs/ Busi­ness%20Email%20 Scams.pdf to help busi­nesses bet­ter un­der­stand busi­ness email scams and what they can do to pro­tect them­selves.

Any­one who be­lieves they have been a vic­tim of fraud or iden­tity theft, can con­tact:

• Pa. At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Bu­reau of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion: call 1-800-441-2555, email scams@at­tor­ney­gen­ or visit https://www. at­tor­ney­gen­ aspx?search­text=scams;

• Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion: call the Iden­tity Theft hot­line: 1-877-IDTHEFT or visit www.iden­ti­


Penn­syl­va­nia Sec­re­tary of Bank­ing and Se­cu­ri­ties Robin L. Wiess­mann is ad­vis­ing con­sumers to be vig­i­lant in the wake of the Equifax data breach.

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