5.4 million Illinois residents affected by massive Equifax data breach

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Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Monday that 5.4M Illinois residents had personal financial information

Illinois Attorney General said Monday that 5.4 million Illinois residents had personal financial information exposed in the massive Equifax data breach last week.

Madigan got the Illinois number from Equifax attorneys Monday.

Madigan said that in addition to the Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver's license and phone numbers that were exposed in the breach, some individual credit card account numbers were also taken. Those who had their credit card numbers stolen will receive a letter from Equifax soon, she said.

Madigan also said she reiterated her request to Equifax Monday that the credit reporting bureau pay for credit report freezes at all three bureaus. The other two bureaus are Experian and TransUnion. Credit freezes prevent identity thieves from opening lines of credit using the names of consumers who have had their Social Security numbers stolen. Madigan said Equifax agreed to consider her request.

Earlier Monday, Equifax blamed for anticipated longer wait times at its call centers in the wake of the breach, which affected 143 million customers nationwide.

Equifax said Friday that it tripled its call center team to more than 2,000 agents and that it continues to add agents. But on Monday the Atlanta-based credit bureau said Hurricane Irma was a concern because many call center employees work in Florida and Georgia.

"When we recognized that Hurricane Irma could impact some of our call center wait times, we arranged to ramp up agents quickly to replace agents impacted by the storm," Equifax said on its website. "As a result of the storm, we anticipate that call center wait times may be longer than usual for the next few days."

Madigan, who has launched an investigation into the breach, called the Irma-related call center delays a "perfect storm."

Equifax call centers can be reached at 866-447-7559.

The company recommends that consumers visit its website — — where consumers can determine if their data were exposed.

There have been numerous complains about the accuracy of the information that site is providing, something that Madigan said she raised with Equifax Monday after she typed a fake name into the site and received a response that the person was potentially impacted by the breach.

Some consumers are doing more than contacting Equifax.

At least two lawsuits, one from Sean Neilan, of Chicago, on Friday and another from Dan Lang and Russell Pantek, of Cook County, on Sunday, were filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago and seek class-action status. Those suits join others already filed in Oregon and Georgia.

Both of the locally filed lawsuits noted that Equifax discovered the breach — which the company said was the work of criminals — on July 29. The unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July.

"Equifax's decision to wait six weeks after the alleged data breach before informing all consumers was willful, or at least negligent," the Lang and Pantek lawsuit alleges.

Equifax has had other security failures in the past and has continually failed to safeguard consumers' information, the suit says.

"Equifax knew or should have known that the private information contained in its databases was a prime target for hackers," Neilan's suit alleges.

Both lawsuits seek jury trials as well as actual and punitive damages.

Equifax also said Monday that it added a frequently asked questions section to its website to confirm that enrolling in the free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection that it's offering as part of the breach doesn't waive any rights to sue. Some financial services companies require customers to instead take their beefs to arbitration.

Meanwhile, Chicago-based credit reporting agency TransUnion is prominently displaying information on the Equifax breach on the home page of its website, providing a link back to its rival's website for worried consumers.

TransUnion, in its most recent annual shareholder report, said consumer awareness of the increased risk of identity theft is growing, partly due to data breaches. The number of consumers subscribing to a credit monitoring or identity protection service has more than doubled from 2014 to 2016, TransUnion said.

byerak@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @beckyyerak

gmarksjarvis@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @gailmarksjarvis

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Article 5.4 million Illinois residents affected by massive Equifax data breach compiled by www.chicagotribune.com