Equifax to offer free locking of credit files for life — unless you're Canadian

Equifax’s new CEO apologized to the more than 143 million people who had their personal information stolen as a result of the company’s recent data breach, and promised free credit locking for life — but not for Canadians.

In a letter published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Paulino do Rego Barros Jr. offered his “sincere and total apology to every consumer affected by our recent data breach” that was announced earlier this month, where hackers made off with names, addresses, credit card information and even social security numbers for 143 million Americans and 100,000 Canadians.

While Barros noted that any company can be vulnerable to a cyberattack, the company’s response to the attack was just as problematic, as Equifax was slow to respond to the flood of consumer inquiries, and even gave out incorrect information at times.

“Our responsibility is to provide timely, reassuring support to every affected consumer,” the letter said.

Barros has been chief executive of the company for barely two days, after Richard Smith, who had led the company since 2005, abruptly stepped down on Tuesday.

In addition to a full apology and vow to do better, Barros also announced customers would soon be able to lock and unlock their personal credit files, to guard against fraud. By January, all the company’s U.S. customers “will be able to do this at will. It will be reliable, safe and simple. Most significantly, the service will be offered free, for life.”

Canadians demand answers

The service will not, however, be offered to Canadians. “These new services do not apply to Canadian consumers, a spokesperson with Equifax Canada told CBC News.

“Equifax Canada is offering complimentary credit monitoring for one year, as well as identify theft monitoring, for Canadian consumers impacted by the breach.”

One of the best defences against identify theft is to implement a “freeze” on one’s credit report, which would block any attempts to borrow money under a person’s identity. The problem for Canadians, however, is that service isn’t available in Canada — even for a fee.

The company says it will be contacting affected Canadians by mail, and in their statement to CBC News Thursday, they say that process is underway.

“Equifax has engaged a leading cybersecurity firm to conduct a comprehensive forensic review to assist us with identifying potentially impacted Canadians,” the statement read. “The investigation is ongoing. We have begun the preparation necessary to notify impacted consumers.”

Anyone impacted faces the possibility of having fraudsters apply for credit in their name, along with other forms of identity theft. They would have to alert their various financial services providers and possibly even go as far as applying for a new Social Insurance Number from the government.

Many of the company’s Canadian customers have complained that the company’s response has been slow and inadequate, something the new CEO promised to address. 

“Our responsibility is to provide timely, reassuring support to every affected consumer,” the CEO’s letter reads.

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