Remember the great Equifax hack of 2017?
Who can forget?! The personal data of 147 million Americans was breached, due to poor security measures from Equifax. With it, names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, date of births, credit card numbers, and personal documents (i.e. driver’s licenses, passport photos) – even if you were never an Equifax customer(!!) – were all exposed.
I wrote extensively about how to protect yourself in light of the hack – all of which is still relevant today. And since then, Congressional legislation has made credit freezes (and thaws) free to all consumers, as a result of public outrage. If you didn’t take action to protect yourself then, you should now. Because even if your identity has not been stolen yet, it’s likely just a matter of time with the amount of personal data that was compromised.
With the fallout of the data breach, there was a big update this week that everyone should pay attention to, as there is serious cash payments involved. Equifax has agreed to a massive settlement with the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories. The settlement includes a fund of up to $425 million to compensate those who had a time or monetary cost that resulted from the data breach. In other words, the majority of adult American consumers were impacted and could be eligible to claim benefits.
Equifax Class Action Settlement Benefits
According to the settlement terms, you can opt out of the settlement terms by November 19, 2019 (which retains your rights to separately sue Equifax for claims related to the Data Breach), OR you have until January 22, 2020 to file a claim for the following on the official Equifax breach settlement site if you were somehow impacted:
1. Free Credit Monitoring and Identity Theft Protection Services
- Up to 10 years of free credit monitoring OR $125 if you decide not to enroll because you already have credit monitoring. The free credit monitoring includes:
- At least four years of free monitoring of your credit report at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance.
- Up to six more years of free monitoring of your Equifax credit report.
- If you were a minor in May 2017, you are eligible for a total of 18 years of free credit monitoring.
2. Cash Payments (capped at $20,000 per person)
- For expenses you paid as a result of the breach, like:
- Losses from unauthorized charges to your accounts
- The cost of freezing or unfreezing your credit report
- The cost of credit monitoring
- Fees you paid to professionals like an accountant or attorney
- Other expenses like notary fees, document shipping fees and postage, mileage, and phone charges
- For the time you spent dealing with the breach. You can be compensated $25 per hour up to 20 hours.
- If you submit a claim for 10 hours or less, you must describe the actions you took and the time you spent doing those things.
- If you claim more than 10 hours, you must describe the actions you took AND provide documents that show identity theft, fraud, or other misuse of your information.
- For the cost of Equifax credit monitoring and related services you had between September 7, 2016, and September 7, 2017, capped at 25 percent of the total amount you paid.
Whether you file a claim or not, you can get:
Free Help Recovering from Identity Theft
- For at least seven years, you can get free identity restoration services. If you discover misuse of your personal information, call the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982. You will be given instructions for how to access free identity restoration services.
Free Credit Reports for All U.S. Consumers
- Starting in 2020, all U.S. consumers can get 6 free credit reports per year for 7 years from the Equifax website. That’s in addition to the one free Equifax report (plus your Experian and TransUnion reports) you can get at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Am I Eligible to Participate in the Equifax Class Action Settlement?
You can confirm if you are an eligible “Settlement Class Member”, and therefore eligible for benefits, by:
- Going to this tool; or
- Calling the Settlement Administrator toll-free at 1-833-759-2982
If your data was breached, you are eligible to file a claim for benefits.
If you opt out of the settlement, you are not eligible for the benefits highlighted, aside from the identity theft help and free Equifax credit reports for 7 years.
What Should you Claim in the Equifax Class Action Settlement?
I’m not a lawyer, and you’re not my client, so I cannot personally advise anyone what is best for you in your personal situation – only you know what the cost of being hacked (and/or the time spent preventing it) was for you. But I will note the following: you can claim multiple of the benefits listed. For example, I am personally claiming the $125 cash payment in section #1, since I have free credit monitoring through Credit Karma (see my Credit Karma review for more info) and Credit Sesame (see my Credit Sesame review for more info), and I can also access free credit reports from both.
In section #2, I am also claiming 10 hours for $25 per hour ($250 total) for the time spent monitoring my credit information for hacks. I spent at least that much time monitoring my reports, and at 10 hours or less, uploaded documentation is not required. If you claim more than 10 hours total, you must describe the actions you took in response to the data breach and include supporting documents showing fraud, identity theft, or other misuse of your personal information (you can claim up to 20 hours for $500). I’m not sure if sufficient, but my explanation states,
“I checked credit monitoring services (Credit Karma/Credit Sesame) and my credit reports monthly (for many months) when notified of the breach.”.
And, in section #3, you can claim (with documentation) a cash reimbursement for money lost or spent trying to prevent or recover from fraud or identity theft, as a result of the hack, up to $20,000 total.
It seems possible (though not plausible), based on the claims workflow on the site, that one could claim up to $20,625 ($125 if you do not enroll in the offered credit monitoring + $500 for time spent + $20,000 for monetary losses), if you have the documentation to support that you spent 20+ hours and were impacted by identity theft in the amount of $20,000+ since the data breach. Also, remember that everyone is eligible for the free help recovering from identity theft and 6 free credit reports per year for 7 years from the Equifax website.
Note #1: any amount that you claim and receive will more than cover the cost of your subscription to 20somethingfinance. You are welcome. 😉
Note #2: the fund is capped at $425 million, so if enough people make claims, the actual payouts will be significantly less than what you claim. So, submit your claim, but don’t get overly excited about a possible mini-windfall!
Payouts will begin after the claim deadline on January 22, 2020. If you want to stay up-to-date on this settlement, you can sign up for email updates.