WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON (AP) - Equifax will pay up to $700 million to settle with the Federal Trade Commission and others over a 2017 data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly 150 million people.
The proposed settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, will provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers, a $100 million civil money penalty, and other relief. The bureau coordinated its investigation with the FTC and attorneys general from across the U.S.
The announcement Monday confirms a report by The Wall Street Journal that the credit reporting agency had reached a deal with the U.S.
“Companies that profit from personal information have an extra responsibility to protect and secure that data,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons. “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.”
“Today’s announcement is not the end of our efforts to make sure consumers’ sensitive personal information is safe and secure. The incident at Equifax underscores the evolving cyber security threats confronting both private and government computer systems and actions they must take to shield the personal information of consumers. Too much is at stake for the financial security of the American people to make these protections anything less than a top priority. For consumers impacted by the Equifax breach, today’s settlement will make available up to $425 million for time and money they spent to protect themselves from potential threats of identity theft or addressing incidents of identity theft as a result of the breach. We encourage consumers impacted by the breach to submit their claims in order to receive free credit monitoring or cash reimbursements,” said Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen L. Kraninger.
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Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard says anyone who thinks they're impacted should freeze their credit instead of just monitoring.
“The most valuable step you can do to protect yourself, regardless of where the breach might come from, is to set up a credit freeze. It’s free, will take about 15 minutes to set up one time with all three credit bureaus, doesn’t impact credit you already have, but prevents criminal from opening new account as if they’re you,” Howard said.
Approval of the settlement deal could take about six months.
No disbursements from any of the funds will be available until that happens, likely close to the end of the year.