Unless you’ve been living off-grid like our friend, Lamar, you probably are already aware of the Equifax data breach that transpired in 2017, affecting over 145 million accounts.
Hackers infiltrated their systems and had access to personal data which included full names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver license numbers.
Fast forward to today, and the FTC just announced a settlement agreement with the agency for $700 million. Many see this as a slap on the wrist or more of a parking ticket for Equifax and not really leading to significant changes in the way our consumer information is protected.
Who is Equifax?
Again, you may be familiar with Equifax and its business functions. But if you are not, here’s a brief overview of the company.
Equifax collects information pertaining to over 800 million consumers and 88 million businesses worldwide. With its headquarters in Atlanta, it’s a publicly-traded company on the NYSE (EFX). They also sell credit monitoring/fraud prevention services to consumers.
Since they have all this personal information on people, one would think they would also have a robust system in place to protect all of it. So when the breach happened two years ago, I think it took many by surprise and asking questions.
Because the data was never discovered to be sold on the dark web, many experts believe the hack was the work of spies working for a foreign intelligence agency.
What’s in it for you?
Well, if you can detail how the breach affected your life (namely, how you lost money as a result of the compromise), you could collect up to $20,000.
But, I imagine – for many of us – this didn't happen. And, trying to prove it is another matter.
More than likely, many of us who were affected could be entitled to some of their other benefits:
- 10 years of free credit-monitoring services (must be a victim of breach)
- Reimbursements for the time spent in taking preventative measures to deal with breach / ID theft at a rate of $25/hr – up to 20 hrs.
The FTC is saying that of the 700 million (up to $700 million and at least $575 million), $300 million will go into a fund for affected consumers with credit monitoring services. Equifax will also add another $125 million to that fun if it is not enough to compensate consumers. The rest of the money will go to states who sued Equifax ($175 million) and $100 million CFPB in civil penalties.
Right now, they are still working through the settlement and don’t have any ways to reimburse consumers. (Updated: details on submitting a claim are in the FAQ).
But, the FTC has a website up where you can track its process and will alert you when more details have been made public: https://www.ftc.gov/equifax
We’ll also try and update the page as news becomes available.
Have you been affected by the breach? What are your thoughts on the settlement?
How do I know if I was affected by the breach?
Check out this website to see if you were affected. You'll need to enter your last name and last 6 digits of your Social Security number.
Where can I file a claim?
You can do so on this website. Or if you want to submit a hard copy claim, click here to download a claim form and mail it to the Settlement Administrator at:
Equifax Data Breach Settlement Administrator
c/o JND Legal Administration
P.O. Box 91318
Seattle, WA 98111-9418
How long do I have to file a claim?
The initial claims period deadline is 1/22/20. The extended claims deadline is 1/22/24
Is the claim process easy?
Yes, I found out my information was impacted by the breach and was able to quickly (under 5 min) file a claim and submit my information for the $125 cash available if you already have some type of credit monitoring service (I've interpreted this to mean via your cc company or another party, like Credit Karma).
If you've done extensive note-taking and have records to prove the time/money spent on taking care of your information as a result of the breach, you may be entitled to more as noted above and the claim process could take more time.
When will I receive benefits from my claim?
According to the FTC, benefits cannot be paid out until after the filing deadline – so after 1/23/20.
Update 7/31/19: According to the FTC, there is only $31 million available to give out in cash to claimants (if you opt out of the free credit monitoring vs the $125 cash payment if you have a monitoring service). They are recommending folks choose the free credit monitoring instead – as it is “worth” more and funds are limited.
Update 8/1/19: Consumer Reports has an article about how you can claim $375 from the settlement. But (we think) the previous statement issued by the FTC about a minimal amount of money available supersedes this.