Equifax, already facing lawsuits in the wake of its disclosure last week that it exposed vital data like Social Security numbers of about 143 million Americans, is the subject of a Federal Trade Commission investigation as well, the federal agency told CNBC Thursday.
The agency does not usually comment on investigations but did so because of the massive scope of the breach, and the reaction to it.
"The FTC typically does not comment on ongoing investigations. However, in light of the intense public interest and the potential impact of this matter, I can confirm that FTC staff is investigating the Equifax data breach," spokesman Peter Kaplan said.
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Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., had asked the FTC to investigate the Equifax hack and the company's CEO, Richard Smith, has been invited to testify to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
The company and its competitors, TransUnion and Experian, gauge how much of a risk people are for borrowing money. So they have some of the most sensitive information about Americans' financial lives — all of it a trove for identity theft.
Warner said in a letter to the FTC that Equifax's lapses in security and methods of handling customers' inquiries "may potentially represent a systemic failure by firms currently incentivized to collect and store highly sensitive identification and financial data for Americans."
Some state authorities and several law firms have already announced lawsuits against Equifax. If the firms' suits become class-action cases, they would be one of the largest class-action suits, by number of affected customers, in history.
The FTC has suggested that consumers concerned about protecting themselves in the wake of the breach check credit reports for accounts or activity that they don't recognize — a sign on identity theft. They can also consider putting a credit freeze or fraud alert on their files, and file taxes early.