The Montana Department of Justice announced Friday that nearly 368,000 state residents may have been affected by the data breach of credit reporting agency Equifax, which announced Thursday the breach may have leaked the personal information of 143 million people in the country.
According to Mark Mattioli, head of Montana’s Office of Consumer Protection, the information of 367,737 people in the state was caught up in the breach. While Mattioli says that’s roughly a third of the state’s population, it's roughly 45 percent of all Montana adults, according to population figures from the Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey.
The theft of personal info from Equifax included consumers' names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and, in some cases, driver's license numbers. The purloined data can be enough for crooks to hijack the identities of people whose credentials were stolen through no fault of their own, potentially wreaking havoc on their lives.
“This is a huge data breach and consumers should take this news very seriously. While we expect Equifax to send notification letters to Montana consumers impacted by the breach, we urge people to visit the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) website to learn more about next steps following this announcement.”
Mattioli also directed consumers to a state resource put together by his office for information on how to put a freeze on their credit file.
Residents also can call the Montana Office of Consumer Protection at 800-481-6896 or 406-444-4500 or email the office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Equifax discovered the hack July 29, but waited until Thursday to warn consumers. The Atlanta-based company declined to comment on that delay or anything else beyond its published statement. It's not unusual for U.S. authorities to ask a company hit in a major hack to delay public notice so that investigators can pursue the perpetrators.