In the global settlement, Equifax agreed to pay consumers $757 million, and potentially much more, for not informing them until September of 2017 about a massive data breach that had occurred in late July.
In their initial reporting on this story, business journalists will want to focus on what the settlement is and when and how readers can file claims if they were a victim of fraud because of the data breach.
But in the months ahead, as the Equifax settlement winds its way through the courts, business reporters can continue to emphasize the importance of protecting personal data. The Equifax data breach was not the first major breach—and likely won’t be the last—as recent hacks into the databases of the Marriott Hotel chain and First American Financial Settlement Corporation continue to show.
For now, in the best tradition of personal finance service journalism, inform your readers about how the Equifax settlement affects them by answering these three questions:
What’s important to know about the Equifax settlement?
Equifax is offering free credit monitoring for up to 10 years for victims of fraud, and has agreed to pay $300 million, and another $125 million once that money is depleted. The credit bureau will also spend $1 billion on strengthening its data security network. But the proposed settlement estimates that only 7 million of the 147 million members affected will sign up. If more sign up, Equifax will pay much more. The settlement is part of a coordinated effort by the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and 48 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Equifax will also pay $275 million in fines to end investigations with these agencies and states. The lawsuit was filed in Atlanta, where Equifax has its headquarters. You’ll find contact information for lawyers on both sides in the filing.
How do I find out what benefits are available to me?
This summary from the FTC explains the benefits offered to consumers, which include cash compensation, credit monitoring, and help restoring identity. Ask a consumer expert, and a representative from your state’s consumer affairs department, to join an online discussion to answer readers’ questions.
What do I need to do now?
Find out if you are eligible to file a claim on this website.The site should be up and running soon. Consumers can also call the settlement administrator toll-free at (833) 759-2982 and file their claim by mail. While you wait, collect any documents you have about your efforts to avoid or recover from identity theft. Reporters can talk to staff in their state’s attorney general and consumer protection agencies on how the settlement affects state residents.