What harm did consumers suffer from the massive Equifax data breach? Some may have had their identities stolen because their personal information was exposed. Many may have spent time and money on credit monitoring or freezes. Either way, they may be eligible for some compensation.
The fine against Equifax over the 2017 breach that affected abut 147 million people, announced Monday by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, totals $575 million and could reach $700 million. The largest ever penalty for a data breach includes $175 million in penalties to states, including California, which will receive $18.7 million. About $300 million will go to a fund for consumers.
Consumers who apply and provide receipts could be eligible for cash to reclaim up to $20,000 each for what they’ve lost, including money they’ve spent on credit reports, monitoring and freezes. Those who paid third parties for credit monitoring can be reimbursed up to $125. Consumers can also be paid back for the time they spent dealing with the matter: $25 an hour for up to 20 hours. Consumers can self-certify for up to 10 of those hours, the FTC said.
“It is very difficult to trace specific identity theft back to a specific breach,” said Maneesha Mithal of the FTC during a press conference in Washington. “Even for consumers who have not necessarily suffered out-of-pocket losses, it can be a real burden and a hassle… to unravel the identity theft.”
Affected consumers will also be eligible for free credit monitoring for up to 10 years, and identity-theft restoration services, she said.
Under the settlement, which is pending court approval, Equifax must pay an additional $125 million into the consumer restitution fund if needed.
When asked about whether he thought the settlement will help avoid future data breaches, FTC Chief Joseph Simons reiterated that his agency has asked Congress for the power to fine companies directly for initial violations.
“That’s why civil penalty authority is so important,” he said.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a separate announcement Monday that the state will use its share of the civil penalties to investigate and enforce similar violations.
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Consumers can begin filing claims once the settlement is approved.
Phone number: (833) 759-2982