By Josh Stein
In July, I reached a $600 million settlement with the credit bureau Equifax over its 2017 data breach. It was the largest ever breach of consumer data, affecting more than 5.3 million North Carolinians and more than 147 million Americans. Shortly after the breach, I joined the executive committee of a group of states to investigate Equifax’s security practices and response to the breach.
As a credit bureau, Equifax keeps incredibly detailed consumer data about everyone, including people’s names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers and credit card numbers. We learned that Equifax had failed to put the appropriate security measures in place to protect this information, fix known security flaws or monitor its network for suspicious activity. Equifax had a responsibility to protect our data – and it failed. That’s why the largest breach of consumer data required nothing less than the largest ever data breach settlement in history.
The settlement with Equifax includes up to $425 million in restitution for customers whose personal information was compromised. I want to make sure that everyone who was affected can file a claim and get some form of restitution. You have until Jan. 22, 2020 – here’s what you need to do.
First, go to https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/. If you don’t know whether your information was affected by the breach, you can find out by clicking on ‘Find Out if Your Information was Impacted’. If it was, go ahead and file your claim by selecting ‘File a Claim Today’.
There are a few options you can choose from when you’re filing a claim. You can opt for a cash payment, but given how many people were affected by the breach and may be asking for a cash payment, you may not receive a substantial amount. You can also consider receiving free credit monitoring for the next four to 10 years. If the breach caused a scammer to steal your identity or compromise your credit, you can also get free identity restoration services to help address the pain caused by the fraud. The website also includes information on how to file a claim by mail instead. You can get assistance with additional questions you may have by filling out the online form or calling 1-833-759-2982.
You are due this restitution because Equifax failed to protect your information, and I hope you will take advantage of it. Companies have a responsibility to safeguard data and ensure the strongest protections are in place to prevent breaches. And when a breach occurs, they have a responsibility to immediately notify consumers so we can take action to protect ourselves. That’s why Rep. Jason Saine and I worked together to create the Act to Strengthen Identity Theft Protections, which will require companies that have our data to do more to protect it. I call on the General Assembly to pass our legislation to protect you and your data from theft and fraud. As your attorney general, I will continue to hold businesses and corporations to the highest standards of consumer data protection and hold them accountable if they fail to meet those standards.
Josh Stein serves as attorney general for North Carolina.