A lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court accuses Atlanta-based Equifax of failing to keep its promises to protect the personal information of Kroger employees.

Kroger warned employees in early May that hackers had broken into Equifax’s website to steal sensitive personal information from W-2 forms on possibly hundreds of thousands of Kroger employees, according to a lawsuit.

The lawsuit said Kroger told employees that it believed identity thieves already had used information obtained from Equifax to file fraudulent tax returns on some of the supermarket’s employees.

The lawsuit, filed by Betzalel Yochanan, a Kroger employee in Altanta, said the data breach also may affect employees at other companies that use W-2 Express, run by Equifax Workforce Solutions. The lawsuit seeks class action status for more than 431,000 of the supermarket’s employees and an undetermined number of former employees.Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey said it learned about the breach April 24 and is working with Equifax, the Internal Revenue Service and the FBI to investigate the breach. 

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and the company’s help in monitoring Kroger employees’ credit histories for signs of fraud by identity thieves. The lawsuit states that hackers only had to crack a fairly basic initial password - a combination of workers’ birth year and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers - to gain access to W-2 forms.

Dailey said Kroger has notified 13,000 current and former employees of potentially suspicious activity involving their W-2 information but believes the number of affected people is much less. The company has offered employees free monitoring for potential identity theft. Dailey added that Kroger has no indication that the company’s systems have actually been compromised and that Equifax has indicated that their systems were not compromised.

Equifax does not comment on pending litigation.


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