Hawaii senator blasts Equifax over breach ‘debacle’

Hawaii senator blasts Equifax over breach ‘debacle’
© Greg Nash

A Democratic senator is taking aim at Equifax over the credit reporting firm’s response to a massive security breach that exposed the personal information of as many as 143 million Americans.

Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank GOP on verge of opening Arctic refuge to drilling Dems rip GOP over handwritten changes to tax plan MORE (D-Hawaii) ripped Equifax in a series of tweets on Monday, accusing the firm of “ripping off” consumers by not covering costs associated with credit freezes and leaving those affected confused about what steps to take to protect themselves. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“If people at equifax cannot pull it together to actually take care of consumers, they shouldn't be allowed to possess our identities,” Schatz wrote on Twitter. “This @Equifax debacle shows this credit report ecosystem operates in the dark, no accountability or consumer protections. It ruins lives.” 

Equifax disclosed the breach on Thursday evening, saying that hackers exploited a vulnerability in a U.S. website application that afforded them unauthorized access to Social Security numbers, birth dates and other information for as many as 143 million U.S. consumers. Hackers accessed the information for more than a month before Equifax discovered the breach at the end of July.

The company has faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers on Capitol Hill in the wake of the breach, with several lawmakers demanding hearings on the matter.

Equifax is offering those affected free identity theft protection and credit monitoring. But Schatz took aim at the firm on Monday for not doing enough, noting that the company has not offered to reimburse customers who pay for credit freezes, which cost about $10 per credit reporting agency — or $30 overall.

“If half of those hit by breach buy ‘credit freeze’ then Equifax makes $700 million off their own mistake. That's a ripoff. Waive the cost!” Schatz fumed on Twitter. “WHY ARE YOU CHARGING THIRTY BUCKS FOR A CREDIT FREEZE.” 

Separately, Schatz has written a formal letter to the company’s CEO expressing “serious concerns” about the breach and criticizing the company for an “ineffective” response aimed at protecting consumers' data in the wake of the breach.

Schatz is demanding answers from the company on several fronts, particularly its efforts to protect consumer information. 

When contacted, an Equifax spokesperson told The Hill that the company expects to engage with lawmakers "in the future" and said that the company has already publicly addressed "many" of Schatz's comments. 

"These are very complicated issues, and we expect to be engaging with regulators and legislators in the future. Senator Schatz raises many topics in his tweets, and we already have publicly addressed most of his comments, including his questions about senior executives and our free credit file monitoring and identity theft protection, which we are offering to all U.S. consumers," the spokesperson said.

"We are listening to issues that consumers are experiencing, and their suggestions are helping to further inform our actions. "

Schatz is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, the leaders of which have already demanded answers from Equifax to a series of questions spelled out in a letter sent to CEO Richard Smith late last week.

This post has been updated to reflect the statement from Equifax.