Sept. 14 (UPI) -- The Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it is investigating the credit reporting agency Equifax over a data breach that compromised the personal data of an estimated 143 million Americans.
The breach, which was disclosed last week, includes individuals' Social Security numbers and other sensitive information that could be used by hackers to gain access to someone's bank accounts or tax returns.
FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan told The Wall Street Journal the agency does not typically comment on ongoing investigations, but confirmed one was underway "in light of the intense public interest and the potential impact of this matter."
The FTC is one of two federal agencies, along with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that is responsible for regulating Equifax and other credit rating agencies. Specifically, the FTC is tasked with ensuring Equifax is using proper security methods to protect consumers' data online.
The FBI is also investigating the data breach, in what could become one of the largest such cases in U.S. history. Multiple congressional committees have also signaled their intent to hold hearings on the Equifax data breach.
In addition to the risk from the initial Equifax data breach, consumers face subsequent scams bubbling up in the aftermath. The FTC cautioned people, Equifax is not calling consumers who may be affected, but scam artists posing as an Equifax representative could try to get people to disclose their personal information over the phone.
Equifax has set up a website for consumers to check whether they are among those affected: www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. Just because an individual's data may have been compromised does not mean they will be targeted for identity theft. The FTC recommends monitoring bank accounts and obtaining credit reports for unusual activity. Consumers can also implement a credit freeze that prevents would-be scammers from opening new accounts using the victim's identity.
The FTC news sent Equifax stock tumbling 8 percent on Thursday morning, though it had rebounded some by midday. The company has lost $6 billion in shareholder value, about one-third of its total value, since disclosing the breach on Sept. 7.