The credit reporting company Equifax faces a growing number of individual and class action lawsuits after it revealed that hackers were able to access the personal information of more than 143 million Americans, which could be used for identity theft purposes.
Last week, Equifax discovered that a data breach occurred in late July, and in just a matter of days it has been hit by at least 30 lawsuits, including a number of class action complaints and at least one claim of securities fraud.
According to a notice to consumers, Equifax discovered the intrusion on July 29, and hired an independent cybersecurity firm to survey the extent of the damage after making changes to stop the intrusion, which reportedly occurred between May and July of this year.
“Most of the consumer information accessed includes names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers,” the notice warned. “In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers and certain dispute documents, which included personal identifying information, for approximately 182,000 consumers were accessed.”
Soon after the announcement, an Equifax class action lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta, accusing the company of failing to protect customers’ information, and failing to warn them of the data breach in a timely manner. A number of complaints followed, including claims by some individuals that they have already been targeted by hackers who stole their identities and opened credit accounts in their name.
The delay in reporting the Equifax data breach has also led to claims of securities fraud, indicating that executives began selling their stock before the data breach was announced.
Specifically, Chief Financial Officer John Gamble allegedly sold Equifax shares worth nearly $1 million. Other executives also dumped shares of their own company worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Those sales reportedly occurred after the data breach was recognized, but before the rest of the public, and other investors, were told.
Some of the lawsuits have estimated that damages from the data breach could come close to $70 billion.
On September 11, Equifax released a progress report for consumers, highlighting a number of changes in its procedures in the wake of the hack, and support tools it has put in place for customers concerned about identity theft, as well as those who have been victimized by actual incidents.