WASHINGTON (AP) — Equifax will pay up to $700 million to settle with federal authorities and multiple 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, the Federal Trade Commission, 48 states (including Missouri, 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.
Missouri is to receive $2.3 million as part of a $175 million payment to states, according to a Missouri Attorney General's Office news release. The state's administrative team will determine what Missouri does with its share of the payment following court approval of the settlement, according to Chris Nuelle, press secretary for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.
The breach is one of the largest ever to threaten consumers' private information. Equifax, a 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.
Affected 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.
All affected 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 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.
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.
Missouri consumers may find answers to a number of their questions at ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/press-releases/2019/equifaxsettlementfaq.pdf?sfvrsn=2.
"Once the (federal district court in the Northern District of Georgia) approves the settlement, Equifax will provide a look-up tool on the settlement website (EquifaxBreachSettlement.com) that you can use to determine whether you are affected by the data breach," according to the faqs page.
Consumers will be required to provide the last six digits of their Social Security numbers, which Equifax will use only to determine whether they are affected.
Consumers will be able to submit claims on the website or by calling 1-833-759-2982. The deadline to file claims will be determined after the court has approved the settlement. The deadline will be posted on the website.
Consumers are asked to record the claim number they receive when they visit the site.
Anyone wishing to be notified when the breach settlement begins accepting claims is asked to submit their email address at ftc.gov/equifax-data-breach, a site operated by the Federal Trade Commission.
"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."
The announcement Monday confirms a report by The Wall Street Journal that the credit reporting agency had reached a deal with the United States.
The company said earlier this year that it had set aside around $700 million to cover anticipated settlements and fines.
A settlement administrator will contact consumers when decisions are made about their claims. Using their claim numbers, consumers may follow the status of their claims on the Equifax breach site.