Senator Warren Wants Answers From FTC Over Equifax Breach

Filed Under: Misc.

In September 2017 Equifax had a massive data breach that exposed the personal information of about 147 million Americans, and several weeks ago a settlement was finally reached with the Federal Trade Commission.

If you’re one of the people who was impacted by this (nearly half of Americans were) you’re entitled to either free credit monitoring or some cash as part of the settlement.

A $125 check from Equifax?!

What’s really odd is that with this settlement, the FTC said that those impacted could get either 10 years of free credit monitoring or $125.

As I covered at the time, that didn’t really make much sense, as they had only $31 million to distribute as this part of the settlement, and surely there would be a lot of people signing up. This is especially true given how much public attention this got, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez telling everyone to get their check from Equifax.

https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1154852681523093505?

So at that point the FTC had to clarify that consumers wouldn’t be getting anywhere close to $125 each. As they explained in FAQs:

I thought I could choose $125 instead of free credit monitoring. What happened?

The public response to the settlement has been overwhelming. Millions of people have visited this site in just the first week. Because the total amount available for these alternative payments is $31 million, each person who takes the money option is going to get a very small amount. Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed.

The free credit monitoring provides a much better value, and everyone whose information was exposed can take advantage of it. If your information was exposed in the data breach, and you file a valid claim before the deadline, you are guaranteed at least four years of free monitoring at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance, among other benefits. The market value of this product is hundreds of dollars per year.

You can still choose the cash option on the claim form, but you will be disappointed with the amount you receive and you won’t get the free credit monitoring.

Senator Warren wants answers from the FTC

Following this situation, Senator (and Presidential hopeful) Elizabeth Warren has sent a letter to the Inspector General of the FTC, requesting an investigation into the misleading public descriptions of the benefits available to consumers under the Equifax settlement.

In the letter, Warren points out:

  • Most references to this benefit during the claims process referred to $125, rather than up to $125; for example, “sign up for free credit monitoring for up to 10 years OR get a cash payment of $125 for credit monitoring you already have,” or “free credit monitoring OR $125 if you decide not to enroll”
  • Even the instance that refers to “up to $125” seems to be pulled out of thin air, since that would translate to less than 1% of people signing up; why would they assume so few people would participate?
  • Over the course of this claim, the guidance from the FTC has changed, and they’re now recommending people sign-up for credit monitoring due to how small the settlement is likely to be

She finishes her letter by saying the following, along with asking several questions:

The FTC has the authority to investigate and protect the public from unfair or deceptive acts or practices, including deceptive advertising. Unfortunately, it appears as those the agency itself may have misled the American public about the terms of the Equifax settlement and their ability to obtain the full reimbursement to which they are entitled.

Bottom line

I really appreciate this letter on the part of Senator Warren. The FTC really botched this, in my opinion, and I do think the public deserves some answers. Equifax had a huge breach that impacted about half of Americans, and the organization that is supposed to investigate and protect the public screwed up pretty majorly as well.

Now, of course rather conveniently Senator Warren is running for President, and I’m sure this will be a popular letter for her to write. Then again, like her or not, she has long had a record of trying to hold big companies/organizations accountable, so it’s not like this is out of character for her.

Do you think Senator Warren is right to want the FTC investigated over this?

Comments
  1. Took all about… 1 post for someone to insult her. Apparently the FTC and Equifax should never be held accountable. Who’s the imbecile here?

  2. People calling her an imbecile likely have a political affiliation to the current president (who can’t give a speech without slurring his way through, can’t remember which state Dayton is in, also can’t read). I don’t know who sides with Equifax or the FTC over her, but probably someone who isn’t very successful in life.

    But good on her for owning up. God knows the current administration sure as hell can’t.

  3. Hey the FTC should have made sure there was eniugh money set aside to pay everyone $125. Eqifax didnt hire enough staff to protect our data, maybe their executives and board members at Equifax should be sued (they have Errors and omissions insurance and are bonded), fired and their salaries, stock options and bonuses should be used to pay the $125 to all whose data was breached and send a message to corporate America that, like it or not they have a fuduciary responsibilty for their actions and inactions.

  4. Absolutely. Senator Warren while considered by many to be a very polarizing figure also does appear to try and level the playing field between individuals and large companies. While some view this as harassment, others view the current legal and legislative process as being tilted towards large corporations. The FTC should have advertised this correctly, and quite frankly, I am surprised that the damages from the class action were not significantly larger as a few bucks per claimant is quite an insult when people’s personally identifiable information are now out in the open. Until companies pay large enough fines to protect consumers information, they will view this as just the cost of doing business.

  5. Not a fan of Senator Warren generally. But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t correct here. She is. And this letter to the FTC isn’t out of character for her. It’s not solely because she’s running for President.

  6. Senator created CFPB, have some respect for her that we all still have ways to fight back when we’re screwed by banks.

  7. Not sure why the Democrats and Republicans have to disagree about everything. Don’t agree with much she says, but there should be answers to these things to see if we can stop them from happening again.

  8. I am 100% a MAGA supporter and zi think Warren would be awful as President. Please send her to California where most of the rest of the looney left lives. BUT on this issue she is correct. The FTC showed they didn’t are for the people who pay their salaries. We don’t have a choice about our confidential information going into massive credit bureau databases. These credit bureaus have to guard our infornation very carefully, IMHO. Equifax didn’t and they should have been fined multiple times more and the fines should have been returned to those whose information was stolen.

  9. I’m not a member of her party, but she is completely correct here. Watching out for normal people rather than big companies is supposed to be the American way. I’m glad she’s living up to that standard.

  10. What a shock! A bunch of deplorable middle-aged men who read OMAAT have negative things to say about a woman senator and top contender for the Democratic nomination.

  11. Whatever you think of this publicity stunt, this is embarrassingly ironic from someone who was so deceitful in her prior life, abusing the privelages of Native Americans for her own gain.

    Fiona

  12. @Robert – +1. The MAGA hats have been known to reduce circulation to the brain so what can you expect.

    @Fiona – what on earth are you talking about. Prior life? As in Reincarnation? Deceitful? She has been very transparent about her life and have you actually taken the time to look at it. She was born into a poor to lower middle class family who almost lost their home. Not the golden spoon most of these readers have obviously had the advantage of having.

  13. @David – Actually the “looney left” as you say live all over which can easily be seen by the fact our president lost the popular vote by over 2 million. There’s a reason conservatives are concerned and have had to Gerrymander districts for their gain. As churches become less of a factor in societal matters and the populace becomes more educated a society naturally moves more left. Embracing what is not known, the differences between people etc. The fact you embrace going back to a time when Jim Crow was rampant, sexual misconduct was rampant in the workforce, homophobia was rampant. You may long to go back to that time. I don’t. America is already great.

  14. @Finona at least she knows her family history. Trump thinks his father was born in Germany when he was born in NYC!

    Warren aside why aren’t the GOP up in arms over a branch of the government basically sticking it to the ordinary citizen by lying? Mind it’s the same people gutting the consumer protection board that actually helps ordinary hard working Americans reclaim losses by being defrauded by banks etc.

  15. Elisabeth Warren ist simply a somehow limited person. Strange how she ever made this career in politics if you look at her intellectual background.

    Do the math: If every person *theoretically* affected by the Equifax breach would ask for $125 we would see costs of 18 billion USD. Even for Equifax, a company with several hundred million EBIT (raw profits) a year this would mean bankruptcy.

    And for what? Most financial institutions and large providers have lost customer data by now. I work in IT security and risk assessment. It is simply not possible to secure all the customer always and forever. Even companies like Google, Dropbox, Microsoft were affected within the last years. Experian, as a close competitor of Equifax as well.

    I guess the settlement was a good example of a “fair resolution”. Most of the senior management of Equifax lost their job. Equifax still has to pay hundreds of millions in damages. And it affected their balance sheet in multiple ways (lost customers etc.)

    It does not help anyone to destroy one of these companies. The economy still need Fico, Equifax, Experian, Transunion and other credit agencies and risk assessment companies to be able to hand out credits to individuals. But Elisabeth Warren will not understand it. Hurting, and literally trying to destroy credit agencies like Equifax will not affect the rich – it will affect the normal people in need of credit.

  16. No matter how many times you sensor people’s comments, people will still trash “Communists” like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

  17. I think my personal data and bank info is worth more than 125 dollars and this credit monitoring company is part of three major credit organizations this is not a joke our lives can be fucked for ever.

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