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St. Pete attorney sues Equifax over data breach

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A St. Petersburg attorney is filing a first-of-its-kind suit against credit-ratings agency Equifax over a recent data breach that compromised millions of user Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and other personal information.

Matthew Decell “Matt” Weidner is a Preeminent-rated attorney who specializes in foreclosure defense, consumer law, probate and trusts. He is president and managing partner at Weidner Law, a three-attorney firm based in St. Petersburg.

Equifax, headquartered in Atlanta, is one of three major credit-rating firms reporting on American consumers. On Sept. 7, the company announced “criminals” had gained access to personal information Equifax kept on roughly 143-million U.S. consumers. Data included names, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses and (in some cases) credit-card numbers and other items.

Equifax apologized for the breach, and created a website designed “to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection.” The company is offering the service free for one year.

In a complaint filed Sept. 15 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Weidner accused Equifax of violating rights in multiple ways under both state and federal law.

On Sept. 16, a day after filing the case, Weidner issued a press release urging consumers “to be wary of class action lawsuits which will drag on for years and which may limit or restrict their rights. Instead, consumers should consult their own lawyers and move quickly to protect themselves.”

Among the accusations, Weidner says the company failed to take adequate measures to safeguard sensitive personal information from disclosure, despite “fraudulently” promising such data would be secure. Next, Weidner accuses Equifax of waiting “more than a month” after discovering the breach before making the announcement. Also, Equifax allegedly failed to place a promised “security freeze” on Weidner’s credit file, despite several attempts by him to call and request it.

Weidner is seeking damages and legal fees.

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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