N.C. couple sues Equifax in class-action case filed in Charlotte

Equifax offices in Atlanta are shown in this July 21, 2012, file photo.
Equifax offices in Atlanta are shown in this July 21, 2012, file photo. AP

A North Carolina couple has filed a lawsuit in Charlotte against credit-reporting company Equifax over the firm’s disclosure this month of a hack that potentially exposed highly personal data of millions of Americans.

George Tate and Jeannie Tate, of Rutherford County, say in court documents that they filed the federal class action on behalf of all North Carolina citizens whose information was affected by the breach. The Monday suit says the size of the class totals millions of people who could incur significant out-of-pocket costs, as they obtain credit reports and take other protective measures.

According to an Equifax statement, the company cannot comment on pending litigation. But the firm said it wants “to reassure consumers that we are remaining focused on helping them to navigate this situation and providing the best customer support possible.”

Atlanta-based Equifax has been reeling since its Sept. 7 disclosure that hackers obtained access to company data, potentially compromising information of about 143 million U.S. consumers. Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers are among the data involved, in what’s become one of the largest data breaches of recent years.

In their suit, the Tates say the class as a whole has been damaged in an amount exceeding $5 million. In addition to costs associated with protecting and repairing their financial security, class members have been exposed to “substantial” risk of identity theft and other harm, the suit says.

Attorneys for the Tates could not be reached for comment.

Last week, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said in a statement that the breach exposed personal data of nearly 5 million North Carolinians.

Equifax, one of the country’s three major credit reporting firms, has faced withering criticism over the breach, which has sparked state and federal scrutiny. Friday, the company announced the retirement of two top executives: its chief information officer and chief security officer.

Bloomberg, citing people familiar with the matter, reported Monday the U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether top officials at Equifax violated insider trading laws when they sold stock before the company disclosed it had been hacked.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts