Equifax Breach reaches $700 Million Settlement
Remember back in 2017 when Equifax announced a cybersecurity incident that involved the unauthorized data access to millions of users? It was the largest breach in history and data loss included critical PII (personally identifiable information) including names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and possible driver's license numbers. A settlement has finally been reached and the consumer credit reporting agency is set to pay up to $700 million to settle federal and state investigations.
The exact breakdown of the settlement included: $300 million to cover free credit monitoring services the company offered for impacted consumers, $275 million to 48 U.S states, and $100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) for civil penalties. These amounts are not yet final and if the initial amount does not completely cover losses felt by consumers the company can expect to pay an additional $125 million. For those consumers who purchased out-of-pocket expenses can also be compensated. In addition, beginning in January 2020 Equifax will provide all U.S. consumers with six free credit reports each year for seven years - in addition to the one free annual credit report that nationwide credit reporting agencies already provide.
The Federal Trade Commission Chairman, Joe Simons, stated that "Companies that profit from personal information have an extra responsibility to protect and secure that data. Equifax failed to take basic steps that may have prevented the breach that affected approximately 147 million consumers. This settlement requires that the company take steps to improve its data security going forward, and will ensure that consumers harmed by this breach can receive help protecting themselves from identity theft and fraud.”
How does this affect me?
First and foremost I highly advise you to constantly check and monitor your credit reports often for fraudulent activity. As stated before, each of the 3 nationwide credit bureaus offer free annual reports for you to see the history of your credit.
Check this website for updates on how to see if you are eligible to be a class member in the settlement and file a claim. The settlement includes: free monitoring or $125 cash payment, other larger cash payments in you can provide fraudulent activity has taken place because of this breach, and free identity restoration services. The case is still being close, so be sure to check back often for other announcements.
Lastly, if you are unsure of what to do or how to better protect your credit you have the option to freeze your credit. Doing so places a block on anyone being able to open accounts in your name without your explicit permission. The block is placed there until you write or contact the credit agencies regarding removing the block. More information about freezing your credit and other options can be found here.