It feels like an almost daily occurrence, another big company breached, your data in the wrong hands, but the Maryland Public Interest Research Group Foundation, a consumer advocacy group, classifies last year's Equifax incident as the worst in history.
According to a new report by the organization, around three million Marylanders, half of the state’s population, were impacted. And up to 145.5 million consumers had both their social security numbers and birth dates accessed by hackers.
“Social security numbers, dates of birth, for some people they also lost credit card numbers and driver's license numbers. This data is the data that people can use to steal your identity,” said Emily Scarr, director of Maryland PIRG.
How many people that's actually happened to has yet to be determined. What is known is that people actively seek this information.
“Dark operatives on the internet, criminals, other folks have access to it. They've actually gone in and stolen it so that they can sell it to the highest bidder,” Scarr said.
Putting American consumers in that position at all is why Maryland PIRG is calling out Equifax. In the report, they say not enough was done to punish the credit bureau. There were hearings and several executives retired, but Maryland PIRG believes there should be financial consequences.
“There have been a number of investigations by the federal government, state's attorneys general, but we want them to take action to actually punish Equifax for this breach and ensure they're held responsible for what they've caused the American public,” said Scarr.
The hiccup potentially exposed millions of Americans to a slew of scams and fraudulent activities.
“It can feel like you have no control. Fortunately, there are things consumers can do to protect themselves. The number one thing we recommend is everyone freezes their credit at all three credit bureaus for them and their children,” said Scarr.
The first freeze is free for everyone in Maryland. And starting September 21, thanks to a new federal law, it'll be free for everyone.