Earlier this week Equifax settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories, agreeing to pay out up to $425 million to consumers whose personal information was exposed during their data breach. Approximately 147 million people were affected by this breach, so if you were one of them, here's what to do:
First, you'll want to make absolutely sure your personal information was breached. You can do this by visiting Equifax's Claim Eligibility page, which will require you inputting your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Once you submit your info, you'll find out immediately if you are eligible to receive a settlement.
If you're eligible, you can then go to Equifax's settlement claim site and begin your claim. You'll have a few decisions to make. You can:
- Decide between free credit monitoring through Experian for at least four years that will monitor all three credit bureaus (Experian/Equifax/Transunion) or, if you already have credit monitoring services that will continue for another six months, choose a cash payment of $125.
- File a claim for other cash payments to cover the time you spent remedying fraud, ID theft, or other misuse of information because of the ID theft, up to a total of 20 hours at $25 an hour. You can also make claims for out-of-pocket losses resulting from the data breach, and up to 25% of the cost of Equifax credit or ID monitoring products you paid for in the year before the data breach was announced.
You will also be eligible for at least seven years of free assisted identity restoration services to help in case you've become the target of ID theft and fraud.
You can read more about the settlement on the FTC's website, or go directly to Equifax's website to start the process of filing a claim.
It's important to keep in mind that a federal court still needs to approve the settlement offer and that no benefits will be distributed or made available until that settlement is finally approved.
Since I was impacted by the breach, I filed a claim this morning. I had originally planned to take the $125 cash payment, but instead decided to take the free credit monitoring and file a separate claim for the five hours I spent freezing my credit with the credit bureaus and filing a fraud report with the Federal Trade Commission when I learned my social security number had been compromised. If you decide to file a separate claim for time spent and/or out-of-pocket losses, you will need to provide documentation if you claim more than ten hours. There are also limits to what you can claim, which are detailed here.
There are several deadlines you'll need to keep in mind, all of which are detailed on the settlement page, but the most important one is January 22, 2020 if you've experienced a loss or if you want to take advantage of the credit monitoring services. You can also exclude yourself from the settlement if you are filing a separate suit against Equifax; that deadline is November 19, 2019.
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