Today, according to WA State AG Bob Ferguson, about 330,000 Washington residents are among the 15 million people affected by the cyberattack on T-Mobile US data at credit-services company Experian. If you are a Washington State resident and victim of the T-Mobile/Experian data breach, please contact Catherine@Stritmatter.com. We are currently investigating a class action lawsuit against Experian.
WA AG Ferguson urges T-Mobile customers “…to take immediate steps to determine whether you have been a victim of ID theft, and to protect your information going forward,” he said in a statement offering advice to affected consumers.
According to T-Mobile and the credit-reporting company Experian, the breach compromised data that was used by T-Mobile to run credit checks of individuals who applied for T-Mobile services from Sept. 1, 2013, through Sept. 16, 2015. Unauthorized access was gained to Experian’s servers, exposing data including name, address, birthdate, Social Security number, other ID numbers (such as driver’s license, military ID, or passport numbers), and additional information used in T-Mobile’s credit assessment. An estimated 15 million consumers nationwide may have had their data compromised. Experian plans to notify affected consumers.
The Attorney General’s Office offers affected consumers the following advice to guard against identity theft.
- Monitor your credit reports. You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union). You can request one free report from a different bureau every four months to monitor throughout the year.
- Consider placing a “fraud alert” with each of the three credit bureaus. An alert does not block potential new credit, but places a comment on your history. Creditors should contact you prior to opening a new account.
- Consider placing a “security freeze” with each of the three credit bureaus to prohibit the release of any information from your reports. A security freeze can help prevent identity theft since most businesses will not open credit accounts without checking a consumer’s credit history first. This increases the likelihood that if an ID thief tries to open a new account under your name, they will be denied.
- Beware of unsolicited calls or emails offering credit monitoring or identity theft services. Consumers should never provide their Social Security number, credit card numbers or other personal information in response to unsolicited emails or calls.
If you find unexplained activity on your credit reports, or if you believe you are the victim of identity theft, check these resources for information on steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Review the Attorney General’s ID theft website.
- Review the Federal Trade Commission’s ID theft website.
Sprint may have been overcharging its consumers to the tune of millions of dollars by cramming unauthorized charges onto its consumers’ bills. Haven’t we heard this before? Yes, in fact earlier this year, SKW attorney Brad J. Moore, also the President Elect of Public Justice (the country’s largest public interest law firm focused on consumer protection) obtained a $20 million class action settlement against Sprint PCS for illegal taxes.
Most recently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are targeting Sprint in an investigation for practices of illegally billing customers tens of millions of dollars for unauthorized charges related to premium text messages.
Just yesterday, the consumer bureau sued Sprint in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The lawsuit claims that Sprint has been operating a billing system that allows third parties to “cram” unauthorized charges onto consumers’ mobile phone bills.
On a parallel track, the F.C.C. is conducting a similar investigation. Sources reveal that a settlement where Sprint would pay $105 million in refunds/restitution is imminent.
“Consumers ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in unauthorized charges, even though many of them had no idea that third parties could even place charges on their bills,” said Richard Cordray, director of the consumer bureau. “As the use of mobile payments grows, we will continue to hold wireless carriers accountable for illegal third-party billing.”
In the past, the F.C.C., the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general have participated in lawsuits or settlements with AT&T and T-Mobile for similar alleged cramming charges. The practices under scrutiny typically focused on charges on customers’ bills for premium text messages, that came via horoscopes or other digital content.
The three major mobile companies have gotten hit with accusations of ignoring warning signs that many of the charges were unauthorized. Ignoring thousands of consumer complaints, these carriers blithely allowed third-party companies to assess the charges.
The action by the consumer bureau is a clear signal (again, no pun intended!) of its ongoing plans to police mobile payment systems (e.g., Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and others). Thank goodness for consumer protection groups and watchful agencies who are not entirely in the pockets of these mobile companies.