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Attorney general warns consumers to protect personal information following major data breaches

HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane is encouraging consumers to be proactive in protecting their financial security in the wake of two recent data breaches.

"It is important for consumers to remain vigilant in monitoring their credit reports," Kane said. "If you suspect fraudulent activity has taken place, report it immediately."

According to T-Mobile, an unauthorized party gained access to an Experian server, which contained the personal information of more than 15 million T-Mobile consumers. Approximately 484,000 of those affected consumers may be Pennsylvania residents.

The breach included data that was used by T-Mobile in connection with credit checks of individuals who applied for T-Mobile services from Sept. 1, 2013, through Sept. 16, 2015. The data included names, addresses, birthdates, and Social Security numbers, as well as driver's license, military ID and passport numbers. Experian has offered to waive all fees for placing and lifting a credit freeze on a consumer's Experian credit report.

On Oct. 2, Scottrade, an online investing firm, sent an email to 4.6 million customers in which it said a database containing customer names, addresses, email addresses, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information may have been accessed by an unauthorized party. It is unclear at this time how many Pennsylvania consumers may have been affected. Scottrade is encouraging customers to look for spam stock emails. Although Scottrade doesn't believe Social Security numbers were stolen, the company is offering a year's worth of free credit monitoring services to affected customers. More information can be found here.

The Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection offers the following tips for consumers:

- Consumers can check their credit report with the three major nationwide credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If consumers find errors on their report, contact the reporting company in writing. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers are entitled to a free copy of their credit report from each company every 12 months. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228 for more information.

- AnnualCreditReport.com and the national credit reporting bureaus will not call consumers or send an email requesting personal information. Consumers are urged to hang up on any unsolicited calls and refrain from replying to these emails.

- Consumers may place a fraud alert or credit freeze on their credit reports by contacting the three credit reporting agencies: Equifax, (800) 525-6285; Experian, (888) 397-3742; and TransUnion, (800) 680-7289.

- Consumers should watch for "phishing" schemes or emails that appear to be from legitimate websites or companies that also have links. Messages from T-Mobile or Scottrade about the breach will not contain any links. Consumers are encouraged to delete such emails and never provide sensitive personal information to unsolicited requests claiming to come from retailers, banks or other institutions.

- More information: Call the Bureau of Consumer Protection at (800) 441-2555 or email Consumers@attorneygeneral.gov.

Original article published at MeadvilleTribune.com

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