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Money News

All About the Equifax Data Breach Settlement

July 23, 2019

2 min read

Credit reporting agency Equifax will pay hundreds of millions of dollars to settle dozens of lawsuits related to a massive cybersecurity breach in 2017.

Two years ago, cybercriminals gained access to Equifax’s network by exploiting a website vulnerability, making off with the personal information for 147 million U.S. consumers (nearly half the country’s population). That information included names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and in some cases driver’s license numbers.

Additionally, criminals walked away with credit card details for 209,000 consumers, and personally identifying information related to credit disputes for an additional 182,000 consumers, according to Reuters.

Here are the details:

You can find out more about the settlement here.

What is Equifax?

Equifax is one of three credit reporting agencies, or bureaus. The others are Experian and Transunion. Credit reporting agencies collect data on consumers related to all aspects of their financial lives, including bank and credit card account information, mortgages, and bankruptcies. They file this information in something called a credit report, and sell it to mortgage, automobile, and credit card companies, among others, that wish to build customer profiles for loans.

Credit reporting agencies also create something called a credit score, ranging from 300 to 850; the latter is considered perfect credit. Credit scores affect the cost of loans, and all consumers who have applied for credit have a credit score.

More about the breach

The information stolen in the Equifax break-in is most typically bought and sold by criminals on the black market, and via something called the Dark Web, an underground criminal network. So far, there is no evidence that the information has been used for that purpose. That has led some experts to theorize a foreign nation was involved in the attack, for the purpose of spying.

Numerous other companies in recent years have suffered big hack attacks resulting in the loss of important customer data. In 2018, hotel chain Marriott announced that its systems had been hacked by criminals who made off with data related to 500 million guests. Similarly, Yahoo had email addresses for 3 billion customers stolen in two separate attacks starting in 2013, and JPMorgan Chase which lost names and log-ins for about 80 million accounts in 2014. The Equifax hack attack, however, is the most significant such breach in terms of potential damage to consumers, financial experts said.

Find out more about the Equifax hack here.

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By Jeremy Quittner
Jeremy Quittner is the senior writer for Stash.

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