Equifax will pay up to $700 million to settle with the U.S. and states over a 2017 data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly 150 million people.
The settlement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as 48 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, would provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers, a $100 million civil money penalty, and other relief. It stems from a class-action lawsuit.
The breach was one of the largest ever to threaten the private information. The consumer reporting agency, based in Atlanta, did not detect the attack for more than six weeks. The compromised data included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver license numbers, credit card numbers and in some cases, data from passports.
The announcement Monday confirms a report by The Wall Street Journal that the credit reporting agency had reached a deal with the U.S.
The company said earlier this year that it had set aside around $700 million to cover anticipated settlements and fines.
The settlement must still be approved by the federal district court in the Northern District of Georgia.
If you suspect you have been affected by the data breach, here is what you should know:
When you can file a claim and what to do now
You'll be able to file a claim once a court approves the settlement. In the meantime, the FTC says to save any documents you have that are related to what you've done to avoid or respond to identity theft stemming from the 2017 data breach. Check this page for updates or call 1-833-759-2982 for other information.
How to know if you've been affected by the Equifax data breach
If you're not sure if you have been affected, you can sign up for an FTC email update that lets you know when a tool will be available to check.
You will be able to file claims for money spent on credit protection
Consumers may be eligible to receive money by filing one or more claims for conditions including money spent purchasing credit monitoring or identity theft protection after the breach and the cost of freezing or unfreezing credit reports at any consumer reporting agency. For any cash payments, you'll be able to get a check or debit card sent to your mailing address.
You will be able to sign up for free credit monitoring and identity theft protection
All impacted consumers would be eligible to receive at least 10 years of free credit-monitoring, at least seven years of free identity-restoration services, and, starting on Dec. 31 and extending seven years, all U.S. consumers may request up to six free copies of their Equifax credit report during any 12-month period. Once you file a claim, you'll get an activation code with instructions by email or snail mail, the FTC says.
You could get reimbursed for a credit-monitoring product of your choice
If consumers choose not to enroll in the free credit monitoring product available through the settlement, they may seek up to $125 as a reimbursement for the cost of a credit-monitoring product of their choice. Consumers must submit a claim in order to receive free credit monitoring or cash reimbursements.
"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."
When will you receive benefits?
The settlement administrator will send out benefits after the initial claims period deadline has passed. Again, the claims process begins following court approval.