FL Attorney General Warns of Exposed Data

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TALLAHASSEE, FL - Attorney General Bill McCollum today issued a consumer advisory warning of two separate incidents where Floridians' personal identification information may have been compromised.

The first incident was originally reported by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, which warned state employees that some individual has been calling state employees, claiming to be with the State of Florida's Division of Securities in an effort to obtain personal financial information.

The second data breach was recently reported by LendingTree, who contacted its consumers to warn them their personal information may have been exposed on mortgage applications.

The first data alert warns of an identity theft scam commonly referred to as a "phishing" scheme through which identity thieves use the information they are able to obtain to steal individuals' identity and eventually, their financial assets.

According to the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the Division of Securities will not ask for PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

Individuals, including state employees, who receive a phone call from someone claiming to be a government agency and asking for confidential information should assume the call is fraudulent and avoid providing any information. An important suggestion is to independently verify the authenticity of the call by calling the state agency directly and asking about the incident.

Likewise, Floridians are cautioned to be wary of e-mails asking to verify or provide account information. More information about preventing identity theft is available online at: http://myfloridalegal.com/identitytheft.

The second incident involves a situation with LendingTree, an online company that offers consumers the opportunity to compare lending and realty services. Recently, LendingTree learned that several former employees may have helped mortgage lenders gain access to LendingTree's customer information by sharing confidential passwords with the lenders. The company has since contacted the authorities and is helping with their investigation. The company has also stated it made several system security changes since discovering the problem.

Consumer advisories have gone out to affected LendingTree customers, and the Attorney General is urging any affected consumers to immediately take the necessary steps to secure their information, including requesting a free credit report.

A credit report can help consumers look for any accounts they didn't open and/or inquiries from creditors that they didn't initiate. If there is any information on the report that a consumer did not authorize, he or she should immediately contact the credit bureau, and if necessary, file a fraud alert with the bureaus.

While the company has not released any information about how many consumers may have been affected, Attorney General McCollum encouraged all LendingTree customers to be alert and monitor any suspicious activity on their bank accounts, credit card statements and credit reports.

The Attorney General stressed the importance of being proactive to prevent identity theft and reminded consumers that anyone may contact the Attorney General's fraud hotline at 1-866-966-7226 for further assistance.


The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) is a federal law that forced each of the nation's credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and Trans Union) to provide one free credit report each year to every American. Unfortunately, FACTA didn't force them to publicize how you should take advantage of this right.

To find out how to get your free annual credit report click here

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