Experian has notified the New Hampshire Department of Justice of data breach where unauthorized third parties may have obtained consumers credit reports. The company discovered the breach in February 2012 and began notifying affected consumers on May 17, 2012.
The breach notice did not disclose the number of consumers affected. The unauthorized access occurred between November 2010 and March 2012. An investigation into the breach was conducted including the analysis of computer logs. In its breach notice, Experian stated:
"... we do not believe that any third party obtained access to any specific data elements that are covered by the New Hampshire security breach law because those data elements (e.g., financial account numbers) were redacted or truncated on any credit report disclosure..."
New Hampshire is one of about 46 states that require entities (e.g., companies and state agencies) to notify both the state and affected residents in each state whose personal information archived by that entity was lost, stolen, or accessed by unauthorized persons.
In its breach notice to consumers, Experian stated:
"While any consumer report will contain public information like name and address, Experian masks or displays only partial social security numbers, birth dates, and account numbers, so they are not identifiable and cannot be abused."
This is troublesome because, a) the breach went undiscovered for a long time, 16 months; b) partial social security and bank account numbers, partially masked, and c) the extremely sensitive personal and financial information contained in consumer credit reports.
Experian placed fraud alerts on the files of breach victims, and, of course, is offering breach victims two years of fee credit monitoring services through its ProtectMyID service.
Experian is one of the three larges credit reporting agencies. The other two are Equifax and TransUnion. Experian also operates the Triple Alert and FreeCreditReport.com websites. In 2010, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission changed the disclosre rules for web sites offering free credit reports. Consumers should know that the official webiste for truly free credit reports.