Almost two years ago, in September of 2017, Equifax, experienced one of the hugest and damaging personal data breaches in the history. Personal information of about 147 million people was exposed. Chances are your private information was exposed too.
After an investigation and scrutiny, the company has agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission. In accordance with the agreement, Equifax will pay $425 million out of the $700 million settlement to people affected by the breach.
What Does It Mean to You?
Firstly, check if you were affected by the Equifax data breach by going to this webpage. If you were impacted by the breach, you will become eligible for the following three benefits:
- A cash payment of $125 (if you already have credit monitoring and will have it at least for the next six months) OR free credit monitoring and identity theft protections service. The latter includes $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance, at least four years of free monitoring of your credit report from all three agencies, and up to additional 6 years of free monitoring from Equifax.
- Cash payments for time spent time from the breach and lost money because of the breach. Spent time includes actual time you had to spend on placing credit freezes, buying identity protection from third-parties, or hiring a professional to help you with all that. Equifax will pay $25 per hour up to 20 hours for time spent. You may need to provide additional documentation of time spent that exceeded 10 hours. Total cash payment is capped $20,000 per person.
- Free help recovering from Identity Theft. You can get at least seven years of free identity restoration services. For example, if you discover misuse of the personal data because of the data breach, you can call the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982 to access these services.
What to Do Next?
You must file a claim before January 22, 2020. Go to File a Claim page, click on the green button, and to fill out your information.
In next three sections you will be asked whether you want a cash payment of $125 or a free credit monitoring, if you spent time trying to recover from identity theft caused by the data breach, and if you lost or spent money trying to recover from the fraud. Answer all the questions, check the claim summary and submit it.
Your claim will then be reviewed and only starting January 23, 2020 you will hear back from the settlement administrator.
Should You Choose Cash Payment or Free Credit Monitoring?
Cash is cash you would think, and intuitively opt in for the $125 cash payment. However, don’t be so optimistic and naive. Here’s why. Only $31 million was allotted to reimburse victims of the data breach and according to the Federal Trade Commission Equifax Data Breach page “The public response to the settlement has been overwhelming. Millions of people have visited this site in just the first week. Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed.” That means that most likely you will get pennies.
I highly recommend opting in for the free credit monitoring. With the Free Credit Monitoring option, you’re guarantee at least four years of FREE credit monitoring at all three credit bureaus. That’s already a value of hundreds of dollars right there. Moreover, after four years you will get free credit monitoring from Equifax for additional six years which is another hundreds of dollars in value, not mentioning peace of mind that you get knowing (or at least hoping) that your personal information this time is safe.
So the choice is yours but I encourage you not to buy into this cash bait and opt in for the Free Credit monitoring instead.