143 million consumers were affected by the Equifax breach. That averages out to just about every US household. As issues abound how the breach happened and how Equifax is positioning its freeze service to protect against future abuse, regulators are beginning to line up to assess what went right and what went wrong as this massive breach continues to unfold.
The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday that it is investigating the massive data breach at credit reporting agency Equifax, adding America’s top consumer watchdog to the chorus of federal lawmakers and regulators expressing alarm over the unauthorized access of data belonging to 143 million people.
The FTC’s disclosure of an ongoing probe is highly unusual, underscoring the enormous stakes involved in the incident affecting what amounts to half the country.
There has been some talk about the quality of Equifax’s response. After finding that I personally had my record breached, getting this response did not make me feel really confident:
We have successfully received and are processing your information.
You will receive an email with a link to finalize your enrollment and activate your product. Please be patient. Due to the high volume of requests, emails may be delayed. If you have not received your email within a few days, please check your spam and junk folders.
Thank you again; we appreciate your patience!
That is another good reason to see various agencies looking at the issue.
The FTC isn’t the only federal agency looking closely at the Equifax incident. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has also said it is looking into the company’s response to the breach.
And on Capitol Hill, the leading members of the House’s Energy and Commerce, Financial Services and Judiciary committees have all called for hearings on the matter. Sens. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) have written strongly worded letters to Equifax, and Sen. Mark Warner on Wednesday called on the FTC to investigate Equifax.
In our digitally dependent world, bureaus fill an important need. Surely every business (and as we recently saw with in US Politics, every government entity) is vulnerable. The long term impact remains to be seen. Will it reduce the growth of credit because consumers have frozen access to their files? Will it amp up requirements to protect data? It remains to be seen, but expect incremental control from this highly visible area.
Overview by Brian Riley, Director, Credit Advisory Service at Mercator Advisory Group
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