Maine Attorney General Aaron M. Frey announced on July 22, 2019 that he and Attorneys General from 47 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico have reached an historic $600 million settlement with Equifax Inc. following the largest data breach enforcement action in history. The settlement, which is part of a global settlement that Equifax reached with the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC"), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ("CFPB") and the multi-district class actions, is the result of an investigation into a massive 2017 data breach.Equifax will pay $300 million dollars, and up to an additional $125 million dollars, into a single Consumer Restitution Fund for the benefit of consumers affected by the breach. In addition, Equifax will pay the Attorneys General a total of $175 million, of which Maine will receive $1,000,000.
"This settlement will enable Maine consumers to obtain relief in the event they experience identity theft resulting from Equifax's failure to protect personal information," said Frey. "Entities like Equifax who store our personal information have a duty to make every effort to ensure that information is secure from unlawful access."
Equifax is the oldest and one of the three largest American consumer credit reporting agencies. The settlement resolves allegations by the Attorneys General that Equifax failed to adequately inform consumers about its data protection practices, and to take reasonable steps to protect consumers' personal information from the 2017 data breach. The breach affected more than half of the U.S. population - more than 147 million U.S. consumers - of which 542,268 are Maine residents. Breached information included social security numbers, names, dates of birth, addresses, credit card numbers and, in some cases, driver's license numbers.
As part of the settlement with the Attorneys General, Equifax will offer consumers affected by the 2017 data breach free credit monitoring services for 10 years, and free Identity Theft Restoration services. Equifax will also take other steps to assist consumers in making it easier for consumers to freeze and thaw their credit and to dispute inaccurate information in credit reports; and requiring Equifax to maintain sufficient staff dedicated to assisting consumers who may be victims of identity theft. In addition, Equifax will strengthen its security practices, including by minimizing its collection of sensitive data and the use of consumers' Social Security numbers, performing regular security monitoring, logging and testing, and using new policies regarding the identification and deployment of critical security updates and patches.
The program to pay restitution to consumers will be conducted in connection with the settlements that Equifax reached with the FTC, the CFPB and the multi-district class actions. Consumers who are eligible for relief from the Consumer Restitution Fund will be required to submit claims online or by mail. Paper claim forms can also be requested over the phone. Consumers can obtain information about the settlement, check their eligibility to file a claim, and file a claim on the Equifax Settlement Breach online registry. To receive email updates regarding the launch of this online registry, consumers can sign up at www.ftc.gov/equifax-data-breach. Consumers can also call the settlement administrator at 1-888-759-2982 for more information.