TORONTO _ Canadians who are worried they might be victims of the Equifax Inc. hack say they are being treated as an afterthought in the wake of one of the largest online data breaches in history.
The company has provided consumers in the U.S. with a website that shows whether they are at risk of identity theft and is allowing them to monitor their files for free for one year.
But the online database does not provide Canadians with accurate information because it is based on U.S. social security numbers. The Equifax Canada website says it costs $19.95 per month for the same monitoring service.
Toronto lawyer Frances Macklin said she is frustrated that Canadians are being treated worse than their U.S. counterparts and questioned why there isn’t a dedicated portal for consumers north of the border.
“We’re equally affected. Just because I don’t have a social security number, I don’t get access to information,” said the partner at Gowlings law firm. “I’m completely bewildered by that.”
Equifax Inc. said last Thursday that 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.
But the company has not provided further details, including how many Canadians may have been exposed. Equifax Canada did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
However, Equifax Canada’s customer service agents have told callers that only Canadians who have had dealings in the United States are likely to have had their information compromised in the data breach.
The credit monitoring company’s call centre staff said that Canadians who have Equifax accounts in the U.S. could be at risk of having their data compromised, such as those who have lived, worked or applied for credit south of the border.
Equifax Canada’s website says that “only a limited number of Canadians may have been affected” and it is working to find out how many.
It adds that personal information that may have been breached includes names, address and Social Insurance Number and “the breach is contained.”
Robert Johnson, lead plaintiff in a proposed class action lawsuit against Equifax Canada filed in Saskatchewan, said he is upset that Canadians have only been told that a limited number have been compromised.
The Regina business analyst said he trusted them with his personal information and does not understand why it is taking so long to provide more information about the hack, which was discovered on July 29.
Communications expert Warren Weeks believes Equifax could not have handled this issue in a worse way.
“We’re talking about the gateway to all of your financial information in your life,” said Weeks, who is the principal of communication firm Weeks Media Group.
“And Canadians, in specific, don’t know if they’ve been targeted or not or they’ve been impacted or not? I think in 2017, that’s unacceptable.”