The settlement of up to $700 million includes as much as $425 million for individual compensation. With so many Americans affected, it’s very likely you could qualify for some form of compensation as a result of the settlement.And with so many names, addresses, birthdates and Social Security numbers leaked, you could still be at long-term risk for identity theft.Here’s what you need to know.
In July 2019, several readers contacted Snopes to inquire about the authenticity of a class-action settlement involving the credit-reporting agency Equifax, in light of multiple social media posts and news articles. In particular, Time magazine’s widely shared reportbore the headline “Equifax Might Owe You $125 for Its Massive Breach. Here’s How to File a Claim,” and stated:
“After the enormous 2017 data breach that revealed the private information of millions of people, credit bureau Equifax plans to pay millions to those affected. The company recently settled to pay up to $700 million in restitution and fines to settle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. $425 million will go to those who were affected by the breach, which exposed social security numbers of nearly 150 million people. The website where those affected can file a claim is now live …
“If you were affected, you’ll have access to free credit monitoring and identity theft protection for up to 10 years. If you don’t want the credit monitoring, you can simply get a $125 payment. Anyone who had expenses as a result of the breach, such as losses, accountant fees or freezing a credit report, can get a payment of up to $20,000.”
This and several other articles were accurate, and the settlement agreement was authentic. Furthermore, around 147 million people were affected by the Equifax data breach, meaning there is a significant chance that any given U.S.-based reader could be eligible to take part in the settlement. On July 22, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) wrote in a press release that:
“In September of 2017, Equifax announced a data breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million people. The company has agreed to a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories. The settlement includes up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.
“If your information was exposed in the data breach, you can file a claim at EquifaxBreachSettlement.com for the benefits described below … ”
The FTC website went on to list several benefits potentially available to affected individuals, including:
- A $125 payment or up to 10 years of free credit report monitoring (or 18 years of free monitoring if you were aged under 18 at the time of the breach in 2017.
- Monetary payments, capped at $20,000 per person, to cover any costs to you from the breach, such as
- Losses from unauthorized charges to your accounts
- Having paid for credit monitoring
- Having paid to freeze or unfreeze your credit report
- Any relevant fees you may have paid to an attorney or accountant
- Claimants can also get compensated for any time they spent dealing with the consequences of the breach, at a rate of $25 per hour, up to 20 hours in total.
The official website of the settlement is EquifaxBreachSettlement.com, and all relevant details can be found there. The site also features a tool that allows readers to check whether they are eligible to receive any benefits. It requires users to enter their last name and the last six digits of their social security number.
Was I affected?
The Equifax Data Breach Settlement website has a look-up tool where you can find out whether your data was compromised.
How do I get the money?
If you’d like to get 10 years of free credit monitoring — or $125 if you already have ongoing credit monitoring — you can make a claim.You can choose to receive the payment at home as a check or as a debit card after final approval from the court, which is set for December 19.
What if my identity was stolen?
Per the settlement, you’re eligible for seven years of “free identity restoration services,” according to the FTC. If you find out that your personal data has been misused, you can call the FTC’s settlement administrator to get help.
Should I opt out?
Opting out of the settlement means you don’t forfeit your rights against Equifax and can still file your own lawsuit against the company.Those who can prove that they took a hit above $125 can get $25 for every hour spent pulling their lives together in the wake of an Equifax-related identity theft. That deal is capped at $20,000. Don’t opt out if you want that option.If you think your personal damages as a result of the data breach exceed $20,000, talking with your attorney about a separate suit could be an option. But you’d need to make sure you opt out of this settlement class first.
How do I exclude myself?
If you’re one of the Americans whose data was exposed, you can send a letter filing a “request for exclusion,” postmarked no later than November 19.Excluding yourself means you’d retain your rights to sue Equifax on your own, should you chose to, based on claims related to the 2017 data breach.
What if I do nothing?
If you don’t do anything, you relinquish your right to sue Equifax in the future, and you give up on the $125 or 10 years of free credit monitoring provided by the settlement.Your deadline to opt out is November 19, and your deadline to file a claim based on this settlement is January 22.
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