Equifax settlement with data breach: Everything you need to know

Consumers whose personal information was exposed during Equifax's data breach in 2017 (most US adults have credit) find themselves somewhat confused by the avalanche of information that followed last month's $ 700 million settlement announced by the Federal Trade Commission.

You can find out if you were affected by going to the settlement website ( and getting yourself on the list for free credit monitoring and / or monetary compensation.

But the compensation you are applying for may not be what you end up with. Look for qualifications such as "up to" and know the limitations of the settlement.

Free monitoring or $ 1[ads1]25?

All affected consumers can receive free credit monitoring. Or, if they already have credit monitoring, they can apply for alternative compensation of up to $ 125.

You choose between a guaranteed minimum amount of free credit monitoring or compensation that can be far less than $ 125, depending on how many people apply.

The free credit monitoring gives you four years of free monitoring from Experian covering the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

The lowest price Experian advertises on its website for coverage is $ 19.99 a month. (Doing the math: Four years with the $ 19.99 monthly service would amount to $ 959.52.)

After the three agencies' monitoring expires, you can choose to have up to six years of monitoring with one agency from Equifax.

If you already have credit monitoring and plan to keep it for at least six months, you can choose the cash option. You can get a prepaid card or a refund check.

You must have the monitoring in place when applying. Note that there is no need for credit monitoring that you pay for, according to FTC spokeswoman Juliana Gruenwald. The free monitoring you can get from any personal finance site qualifies.

The settlement terms state that alternative reimbursement claims will be paid from a $ 32 million "bucket." If there are enough requirements to clear the bucket, the amount each person gets will fall when the money pool is distributed proportionally.

What are the odds of getting a maximum of $ 125?

There must be no more than 248,000 approved claims by the 147 million consumers affected – or less than a fifth of 1% – for approved applicants to receive as much as $ 125.

What about the time I spent on protect myself after the break?

You can get "up to" (those are the words again) $ 25 per hour you spent:

  • Handle scams that were "fairly traceable" to the breach, up to 20 hours, and you need documentation.
  • Freezing and / or releasing credit, comparing and / or purchasing identity theft protection services, up to 10 hours, and you must confirm that you are true.

There is an additional $ 31 million to cover time requirements. If it is exhausted, the payouts will be proportionally reduced.

What about out-of-pocket costs?

The limit is $ 20,000 per person, and you must provide documentation. These expenses may include post-breach credit monitoring, attorney fees, postage, notaries and more.

These claims will be paid from the fund $ 380.5 million Equifax has set up to pay for monitoring services and to compensate consumers. If that payment is not enough to pay preliminary claims, an additional $ 125 million is available. The money is divided into different teams for different types of requirements.

The Settlement Administrator will determine if your pocket loss claim is valid.

Is there a deadline for submission?

You have until Jan 22, 2020, to institute some of these remedies. You can apply online, print an application form and email it or request that a form be sent to you.

When do I get my benefits?

Not right away. If you choose monitoring, you will get information on how to activate it when the court completes the settlement. A final approval hearing is scheduled for December 19.

Checks or prepaid cards for alternative reimbursement, time spent or pocket loss can take "several months or more," according to the settlement website.

What if I have bride-related losses later?

If there is money left to compensate consumers according to the preliminary requirements, there will be an extended period of damages for losses arising after the initial deadline.

Consumers will be able to seek reimbursement for new pocket losses or time spent, but not for the time and money spent on protecting their credit, for example by purchasing credit monitoring. You must confirm that you have not already received a refund for the alleged loss. Claims must be made by January 22, 2024 and will be paid after first to the mill mothers.

What if you change your mind?

The FTC offered some advice Wednesday to people affected by Equifax's data breach who hoped to get $ 125 cash: Take free credit monitoring instead.

The FTC said in a news release that "millions of people" have filed claims since the settlement was announced July 22, noting: "The pot of money that pays for that part of the settlement is $ 31 million. A large number of cash claims rather than credit monitoring means only one thing: Every person who takes the money option will liquidate only a small amount. Nowhere near $ 125 they could have received had there not been such a huge number of claims. "

Privacy expert and CyberScout founder Adam Levin agrees. He said that if you were a victim of identity theft, even $ 125 would be a" sofa bed. "

But some consumer advocates disagree, claiming credit monitoring notifies you that there have been changes to your credit report after the damage has been done.The best choice, they say: Get a credit freeze at each of the three major credit bureaus; add free monitoring available from many sources and take the the money you can get from the settlement.

I already submitted, what should I do?

The option to revise your choice between credit monitoring and cash came after the settlement site was flooded with claims.

  • If you chose a cash payment, you can look for an email from the settlement manager, the FTC said. You will have the option of choosing credit monitoring instead of check or prepaid cards you originally registered If you do not want to wait for an e-mail, contact the JND Legal Administration, which runs the settlement website, at
  • If you want cash, no matter the amount, you will still need to reply to the email because you need to provide the credit monitoring service name.
  • If you haven't submitted yet, you still have plenty of time: The deadline is January 22, 2020. But do make it a reminder for yourself so you don't forget.

The settlement site still seems to have some problems, and the Identity Theft Resource Center, a nonprofit that helps victims of identity theft recover, says it's a good time to take your time.

"Submitting without thinking through all the possibilities or having all the supporting documentation can shorten identity hygiene in the long run," warns a post on the site.

How can I protect myself now?

You can freeze credit. Credit freezing can prevent identity thieves from opening credit accounts in your name. It's free and doesn't hurt your score. As long as you are not actively seeking credit, there is little reason not to freeze it.

If you need to freeze cards, this process is also free.

In contrast, credit and identity theft monitoring is more useful for letting you know when access has already occurred.

O & # 39; Shea writes for Nerdwallet, where this article first appeared.

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