Equifax: First the hacking, then the lawsuits

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You can get one free copy from each of the three national services once every 12 months, so by staggering your requests, you can get a free report once every four months. The payload is believed to include names, social security numbers, birth dates, home addresses and some drivers' license information.

The Equifax breach was announced last week and it resulted in 143 million people having their information stolen.

Equifax is a credit checking agency. Within 10 to 14 days, consumers receive a letter from Equifax which provides a toll-free number and unique (to each consumer) personal identification or PIN number for use in freely unlocking/relocking their credit file.

Fortunately, there are defensive steps you can take.

Here's how to freeze your credit.

The free-credit-score website, WalletHub has some tips for how potential victims can keep their financial information safe as well. Equifax maintains data on more than 820 million customers worldwide and protecting that information is central to its mission. "One of the biggest values of a service like that is that if you find you're the victim of identity theft, majority will assign a case worker to walk you through the steps of writing to credit bureaus, police departments and so on", Baird said. To place a fraud alert, you only need to contact one credit bureau, which is then responsible for contacting the other two: Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

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FactSet Market Watch

"They'll open a credit account in a child's name because it's a clean record and it'll be easy to establish credit for the child", Dunn warned.

"It's far from a ideal solution - freezing and unfreezing isn't slick - but short of changing your SSN and date of birth it's probably your best protection". But for Australian businesses, it's a powerful reminder that it's time to get your breach notification house in order. The amount of the charge depends on where you live.

Corporate culture could also be a factor.

"On any other day, Equifax, would probably be a major headline", Zafar said. And Rep. Greg Walden, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says he'll hold a hearing examining what wrong and how to better protect against future hackings.

However, sensitivity of the information exposed in Equifax's data breach case makes it one of the worst in recent times as well as bigger than those at the aforementioned companies.

Several state attorneys general have also said they would investigate, including those from New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. The least that could be done - and perhaps this is something for regulators to insist upon - is to prohibit them from charging consumers to protect their data using essential security controls made even more essential by the likes of the Equifax breach. The company has since told Business Insider by email that the executives had no knowledge that an intrusion had occurred at the time they sold their shares.

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