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Equifax concerns taxing customer service at Chicago-based TransUnion

TransUnion continued to have problems with its website Wednesday, a day after the Chicago-based credit reporting bureau acknowledged that service had been subpar for worried consumers seeking help in the wake of the Equifax data breach.

TransUnion Chief Financial Officer Todd Cello told analysts Tuesday that the company's call centers and website quickly became "overwhelmed" after Atlanta-based rival Equifax disclosed a data breach affecting as many as 143 million Americans.

TransUnion's call centers remained open over the weekend — they're usually closed — and the company also hired an outside contractor to help handle inquiries.

But Cello said that even by Tuesday "the response times and the abandon rates on the calls are still not where we'd want them to be."

As of late Wednesday morning, consumers flocked to Twitter to express their frustration.

"#Transunion credit freeze system is down following #equifaxbreach Maybe they don't want millions of people opting out of their system?" tweeted @alexsheshunoff.

Meanwhile, personal finance writer Lynnette Khalfani-Cox tweeted: "My SS#/data got breached in #equifaxhack. @Equifax & @TransUnion can you both please FIX YOUR WEBSITES TODAY so I can do a #creditfreeze?!!"

In response to requests for comment Wednesday, TransUnion spokesman David Blumberg reiterated Cello's statements on the steps the company has taken to deal with "the unprecedented number of consumers contacting us," including "adding agents, keeping our call center open through the weekend and authorizing overtime."

"We encourage consumers to visit ... www.transunion.com/equifax-data-breach-faqs ... for more information on how to protect their identity," Blumberg added in an emailed statement.

Ramping up service will hit TransUnion's bottom line.

The added cost is "significant enough that we're watching it closely," Cello said at Barclays Global Financial Services Conference. "But the priority is now to make sure that we're helping the consumer through this time, so we're ultimately not sparing any expense."

At this point, TransUnion doesn't believe that it has been subjected to a similar cyberattack, Cello said.

"We recently had a firm in that tried to penetrate our network," Cello said. "And then the learnings that we got out of that — we're always making course corrections."

On Monday, Equifax blamed Hurricane Irma for anticipated longer wait times at its call centers in the wake of the breach. Equifax said Friday that it tripled its call center team to more than 2,000 agents and that it continued to add agents.

byerak@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @beckyyerak

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