There's good news and bad news about Equifax credit freezes

The huge data breach at Equifax which leaked credit card numbers and other sensitive data is now being investigated by the US Federal Trade Commission as well as congressional panels

Data breaches and hacking have become a fact of life but the one reported by United States credit-reporting agency Equifax last week could be one of the worst to date. Filing can also sometimes require paying a fee, although that payment can be waived in most states with proof of a legitimate identity theft threat, he added. Fraud alerts may be effective at stopping someone from opening new credit accounts in your name, but they may not prevent the misuse of your existing accounts. If you believe you were affected by the Equifax breach, and there is almost a 50/50 chance you were, consider instituting a credit freeze.

Consumers also have questions about whether mailing in their name, date of birth, address, and social security number is a secure way to request a credit freeze.

Make sure to stay updated on your accounts, so you know right away if anything was changed, or added.

He also addressed the delay in notifying consumers about the breach, saying the company initially "thought the intrusion was limited".

Equifax announced the move on Twitter in reply to a customer tweet - which has less visibility than a new standalone tweet and would only be seen by people reading the comment thread or following a link.

Just recently, Target agreed to payout over $39 million to settle litigation with banks and another $18.5 with consumers over a 2013 breach that exposed 40 million credit and debit cards and the personal information of about 60 million customers. This means that a lender must contact you to verify your identity before it issues credit in your name.

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

After receiving your freeze request, each credit reporting company will send you a confirmation letter containing a unique PIN (personal identification number) or password. "It was a full-on investigation with the postal service inspector and all three credit bureaus". The only people who wouldn't want to freeze their credit files are those who are activity pursuing a auto loan or mortgage or who plan to apply for a new credit card within days. The upshot is hackers now have the most important pieces of identification for almost half the country.

Beyond the legal liabilities this could create, such activities may make the public feel that the privacy and security of their data was not the most important issue for company leadership after discovery of the breach. The enrollment process is scheduled over several days to minimize delays, the Equifax website says. "Hackers are resourceful criminals who are constantly looking to exploit any vulnerabilities, and I encourage everyone to educate themselves about how to best protect their personal information".

But the company's own website offers plenty of clues.

One way to stay on top of your credit report is to stagger when you get your report from each of the three credit reporting agencies throughout the year.

A spokeswoman for the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, which is the central agency in Canada, that collects identification theft complaints and other related matters, has not received any complaints in connection with the Equifax hack.

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