Equifax Exposes The Data Of 147 Million Americans And Barely Pays Any Penalty
Equifax is a consumer credit reporting agency that aggregates data on 800 million individuals and 88 million businesses worldwide. It is one of the ‘Big Three’ credit reporting agencies that is trusted by all banks, corporations, and government entities to verify the credit score of individuals, which can make the difference between someone buying a house or being forced to rent an apartment and lose 90% of their income for the rest of their life. Despite being trusted with such a huge responsibility, there are apparently over 10,000 reports every year of Equifax reporting inaccurate information. This article is not about the track record of Equifax or its role in the government-industrial stranglehold on society however. This article is about how Equifax exposed the data of 147 million Americans, causing widespread chaos and loss, and paid practically no penalty.
On July 29 2017 Equifax learned that the personal identification data of 147 million Americans, including social security numbers, birthdays, and addresses, as well as hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers, had been stolen by hackers. Equifax did not even inform the public until over a month later in September, allowing the hackers to run wild with this personal information.
Even worse, the hackers took their time during the hack. For 76 days the hackers infiltrated and uploaded the data, and Equifax supposedly did not notice.
The data that the hackers obtained can be used for identity theft, meaning that a hacker can assume the identity of someone else to take out loans, to commit crimes, print ID cards for illegal immigrants and so forth. Once someone’s personal data is exposed like this to hackers it can lead to serious financial and legal problems. People that have been trying to keep their credit scores high their whole life could suddenly find that their credit score has plummeted due to several loans and credit cards they did not take out. Other people may find that a criminal has committed crimes under their name, and that is an even stickier situation since there is no way to prove innocence if it was a well thought out internet crime.
One of the most ridiculous aspects of this incident is that Equifax is one of the top credit monitoring agencies, meaning people pay Equifax to monitor their credit and halt credit fraud. Now Equifax may be at fault for compromising the credit of up to half the people in America. If credit fraud and identity theft was sporadic before, now it may be widespread thanks to Equifax and their poor security. This is definitely good for Equifax’s business, but bad for everyone else in the country.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the government agency in charge of regulating disasters like this, settled with Equifax about two years after the hack occurred in July 2019. The settlement is for $300-$425 million for people impacted by the data breach, and originally $125 was promised to anyone affected by the hack, but the devil is in the details.
First off, $125 is a ridiculous settlement for a potential lifetime of credit card fraud and identity theft. However, the FTC capped the cash payouts at $31 million for Equifax, and as millions of people have rushed in to claim their $125, the settlement check will likely only be a few pennies. This means Equifax exposed the identity information of most Americans and will not even be penalized, despite the severe problems this causes for each individual that is impacted.
Supposedly if someone can prove that the Equifax hack directly led to identity theft and known damages they can receive up to $20,000 in the settlement. However, good luck proving that the Equifax hack was the direct cause of a particular incident of identity theft. Even if there is some really good proof, Equifax’s lawyers will fight the victim in court and do everything they can to prevent compensation. That is just how the legal system works. Also, settlements will not start being paid out until early 2020, despite the hack occurring in 2017.
To add insult to injury, people that applied for the $125 payment are now being called and emailed, and urged to choose free credit monitoring from Equifax instead of any monetary compensation. Would someone who had their identity compromised by Equifax want to have their credit monitored by Equifax? Only in another dimension with different laws of physics.
Ultimately, Equifax is a company which makes nearly $600 million of profits per year and has $7,230 million of assets, as well as $3,240 million of equity, and the government of the United States deemed it appropriate to charge Equifax $31 million and maybe a little more for compromising the personal information of roughly half of the United States.
Ultimately, this Equifax incident is proof why people need to use cryptography to protect their own identity and personal information, since the government and corporations will be of little help when things go wrong.