Stone: Equifax breach is a Category 5

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Stone: Equifax breach is a Category 5

Equifax Inc. said last Thursday a security breach occurred over the summer that compromised the private information of up to 143 million Americans, along with an undisclosed number of Canadians. A freeze takes consumers' credit reports out of circulation from the nation's three leading credit-monitoring firms: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Equifax's shares have fallen more than 30 percent amid revelations of investigations into the data breach and the company's decision to delay disclosing it.

Hackers pilfered names, birthdays and addresses, as well as Social Security and driver's license numbers - a treasure trove for identity thieves.

David Vega is a commercial lender at Bancorp South in Columbus.

Sherrod Brown told reporters that the single year of credit monitoring that Equifax is offering those whose data was exposed is "not enough to protect consumers".

First check the Equifax website to see if your personal information has been compromised.

Our Social Security numbers are quite vulnerable.

Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion by visiting annualcreditreport.com.

Another piece of advice, with hackers becoming better at accessing information it's important to check your bank transactions regularly for any unusual activity. Rohit Chopra, once an assistant director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and now a senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America, recently told The New York Times, "You can not fire the three credit bureaus".

But when she filed a credit freeze with Equifax, the website said it was unable to process her request.

Placing a security freeze on your credit reports can block an identity thief from opening a new account or getting credit in your name.

NOTE: You can temporarily "thaw" your freeze so you can get a vehicle loan or a credit card. There wasn't much of a financial cost; my credit card company quickly negated the charges, but it was a massive waste of time.

Equifax's response has made matters even worse. And if you have credit, Equifax has your sensitive information. You do not have to enroll in the credit monitoring program if you don't want to.

The credit reporting companies, as well as the company that reports the information about you, will need to correct erroneous information.

Along with questionable response moves, concerns about the nature of the attack and the scope of the Equifax data breach continue to grow. Chief financial officer John Gamble, president of USA information solutions Joseph Loughran, and president of workforce solutions Rodolfo Ploder reportedly sold a combined $1.75 million in Equifax stocks on August 1 and 2.

So you can still use them like you always would, but if you want to apply for a auto loan or a new credit card, you'll have to unfreeze it. "We are hopeful that Equifax will use this unfortunate event to reconsider its broader support of pre-dispute, forced arbitration".

Maryland PIRG is not recommending people sign-up for Equifax's free services until Equifax confirms they won't take away your right to sue in all terms of use on its websites.

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