I STILL have a childlike delight in getting letters through the post. Somehow it seems just that little bit more romantic than an email appearing in your inbox.

But I think it’s fair to say very few letters I receive these days actually bring any joy.

The evidence indicates that what drop through my letterbox tend to be bills or offers from dodgy companies wanting me to cash in my pension early or release equity from my house so I can have a ‘comfortable retirement’.

But one day last week, the postman delivered a missive that sent chills down my spine – a letter from credit rating agency Equifax.

There’s a good chance you have never heard of Equifax. There’s also every chance Equifax has certainly heard of you.

Ever taken out a mobile phone contract? Equifax will know.

Ever taken out a mortgage, bank loan or credit card? Equifax will know who you are.

Equifax is one of the three credit reference agencies that compile information on how well you manage credit and make your payments and they are used by banks and other lenders when they make the decision to give you credit or not.

The three main CRAs are Experian, Equifax and Callcredit.

Each of them holds a credit report file on you and the information they hold is fairly extensive including:

  • A list of your credit accounts including bank and credit cards as well as outstanding loan agreements or utility company debts. They will show whether you have made repayments on time and in full.
  • Details of any people who are financially linked to you.
  • County Court Judgments, house repossessions, bankruptcies and individual voluntary arrangements.
  • Your current account provider but only details of overdrafts.
  • Whether you are on the electoral register.
  • Your name and date of birth.
  • Your current and previous addresses.
  • If you’ve committed a fraud (or someone has stolen your identity and committed fraud).

You don’t have a say in all this. They are entitled to hold this information and use it to protect banks and other providers of credit from bad risks and fraud. That’s fair enough.

But they do have a responsibility and duty of care to protect the information, to keep it safe and secure.

Imagine then my anger at getting a letter from Equifax last week telling me its security system was breached by a cyber attack and the hackers now have my name, date of birth and landline phone number.

The letter blithely told me it was a ‘recent’ cyber attack then goes on to say the hackers have had my details since May 2017.

I don’t know how Equifax defines recent but more than eight months doesn’t really seem that recent to me.

According to which.co.uk, I was in the last tranche of victims to be contacted – along with 167,000 others.

We were those with phone numbers in public directories. Almost 700,000 other victims who had even more sensitive data stolen were contacted earlier.

I am truly angry at Equifax – some might say outraged – and while there is no compensation, the company is offering UK customers free services which monitor whether your identity has been compromised online.

There’s just one problem with that. To enrol in any of the services, I have to give even more of my personal information to Equifax.

Given its track record, I don’t think that’s going to happen any time in the near future.

  •  I COULDN’T help but notice what looked like an alarming number of violent attacks on people reported on the Guardian’s website last week, including one in Sankey Valley Park that left a man in a serious condition in Walton Hospital.

Is the town becoming a more violent place, I wonder, or is it the fact violence is still a relatively rare occurrence and that’s what makes it newsworthy?

I’d welcome your views on this.