The Bad News: Nearly half of all Americans were affected by the Equifax data outage in 2017, where hackers stole personal information for more than 147 million people: credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other identifying information.
The Good News: As part of a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, people whose data were stolen can get some compensation: 10 years of free credit monitoring, or maybe $ 125, depending on how badly you were affected. The payout can be as much as $ 20,000 if you can prove that your identity was stolen and you suffered because of it.
But there is a lot of fine print, and there are deadlines. And if you think your identity has been stolen, there are some critical things you should know before trying to pay.
Firstly, if your information (most importantly, your security number) was part of the hack, then you should assume that is there forever. Even if someone hasn't stolen your identity yet, it can still happen.
Secondly, even if you are applying for a refund, there is a good chance that you will not actually get the full $ 125 that Equifax and the FTC are talking about. Things are worded carefully in the deal, but basically there is a limited amount in the payout basin and it won't cover $ 125 checks for 147 million people.
Given all that, the biggest loophole you should be aware of is that if you do nothing, you will automatically waive the right to take legal action against Equifax in the future.
Learn how your data was stolen in the breach
Check if your data was stolen by entering the last six digits of your Social Security number and last name on the Equifax form (or call 833-759-2982). If it was not stolen, you are not eligible and you can move on with your life without thinking about this settlement.
If your data was compromised. . . You have more options.
File for & # 39; Alternate Refund Compensation & # 39;
Note : By doing this you waive your right to seek legal action against Equifax in the future
Deadline: January 22, 2020
You may submit a claim to default payout, until 10 year credit monitoring – OR – up to $ 125 to if you already pay for credit monitoring. They call it "Alternative Reimbursement Compensation" and it is the most straightforward way you can take.
If you really want cash, you can sign up for a free credit monitoring service like CreditKarma. Some credit card companies and banking services (such as Mint) also offer credit monitoring services.
Fine print reveals why many people do not get a full $ 125. They will only pay out this amount until the requests hit a ceiling of $ 31 million. After that, the payments will be lowered and distributed proportionally. The total recovery pool is $ 380.5 million.
We tried to figure out how many payout requests had been submitted by Friday afternoon, but the FTC could not answer because it was still early in the process. Equifax did not answer our questions.
Big Refund File
Note : By doing this, you waive the right to seek legal action against Equifax in the future
Deadline:  January 22, 2020
If you spent or lost money as a result of the hacking (legal or accounting fees, or the money you lost because someone stole your identity and charged a large amount on accounts in your name, the money you spent on freezing and freezing credit, postage etc.) then $ 125 will not be enough.
In this case, you can file a claim of up to $ 20,000. You must provide proof of time and money spent and the process is more involved.
You can also just save for time usage as a result of the data break-in, $ 25 per hour for up to 20 hours. If you have a claim for more than 10 hours, the FTC writes, you must account for the actions you took and provide evidence to indicate theft or fraud identification. If you require less than 10 hours, you just need to detail what actions you took and how much time you spent.
You don't have to prove that your identity was stolen directly as a result of the breach in 2017, but it must happen after the break. You must submit a claim by January 22, 2020. Learn more about how to file a claim online here, or via mail here. If you were a minor on May 13, 2017, you must download and email this claim form.
Don't fix, continue the opportunity to pursue your own legal action
Note : This is the only option where you retain the right to sue Equifax in the future
Deadline: November 19, 2019
It sounds like intuitive, but if you were affected by the breach, you are automatically included in this settlement. And it's similar to some of the villages you hear about in court – if you make a settlement, you're done. You can't pick it up in court again. You cannot sue Equifax for damage caused by the breach because you were already a member of the group that settled.
If you do not want to settle, and you want to keep the opportunity to take legal action against Equifax as an individual, you must opt out [bosetting av bosettingen] by submitting a written "exclusion request", the postmark within 19 November 2019, to the Settlement Administrator. If you do not comply with that deadline, you lose the right to sue Equifax for the breach.
Read more about this process in Equifax's Frequently Asked Questions under section 23.
If You Don't Do Something
If you were affected by the breach and choose to do nothing, according to the terms of the settlement, you will not be qualified for some of the aforementioned benefits. Furthermore, it means that you lose the right to sue Equifax for damage caused by the breach or continue to pursue separate claims you have made.
Click here to sign up for FTC e-mail settlement updates.
Marie C. Baca contributed to this report.
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