As another demonstration that America really is a country dominated by the rule of law and punishes companies that jeopardize their customers’ well-being, Equifax, based in Atlanta and one of the three big consumer reporting companies that dictate the credit score of most Americans seeking to borrow any capital, was slapped with the largest settlement of its kind for the largest ever data breach as explained by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
AG Raoul said, “The largest settlement in the history of this country with regards to data breach, and as a result of this settlement, consumers will have relief to deal and reimbursement for the efforts that they have to, they had to make to deal with this data breach. The settlement contemplates $300 million into a settlement fund for the benefit of affected consumers with the possibility of an additional $125 million dollars into the settlement fund for a total of $425 million.”
The 2017 Equifax data breach was a gross failure to protect consumer confidentiality and exposed the private financial information of nearly 150 million people, or roughly half of the U.S. population, to global online predators and identity thieves including Social Security numbers and other private details. Victims of Equifax’s breach will be eligible for up to 10 years of credit monitoring services for free, seven years of identity-restoration services, and six free copies of Equifax’s credit reports per year for the next seven years on top of the free credit reports each U.S. resident is already eligible for from the credit reporting companies under U.S. law.
Raoul said, “Information stolen from consumers could include sensitive private financial information, the types of information that would appear in an individual’s credit report. And as we know that this is sensitive information about everything and anything that an individual through the course of a number of years may have engaged in via loans, exposure to credit, and so forth.”
Raoul said, “We’ve come to an agreement amongst the states with Equifax for the settlement agreement to reimburse and remediate for the damages caused to consumers throughout the country, 147 million affected throughout the country.”
This settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, will be paid in multiple forms as Equifax will pay initially $380.5 million into a fund to cover potential identity theft that was caused as a result of the breach, as well as any costs that a potential victim had to pay for credit monitoring, a $100 million civil penalty, and other relief for a data breach that was not detected for six weeks and resulted in the abrupt dismissal an Equifax CEO, as well as numerous other executives at the company.
Raoul said, “There are people who are preying online and trying to access individual’s private information globally not only within this country but globally, and certainly entities such as Equifax have the responsibility to be aware of this atmosphere and to protect consumers from that.”
An additional $125 million would be paid by Equifax if victims’ out-of-pocket expenses end up depleting the initial fund. Equifax could also potentially pay $2 billion to cover credit monitoring services if all 147 million victims sign up for credit monitoring services. The settlement must still be approved by the federal district court in the Northern District of Georgia.
Includes reporting from the Associated Press.