Credit-reporting agency Equifax has been ordered to pay consumers hundreds of millions of dollars as part of a settlement for a 2017 data breach. At minimum, impacted consumers are eligible for a $125 payment, and some can claim as much as $20,000.
Here’s all you need to know to determine if you’re eligible to claim a piece of that gargantuan pie.
What’s the Bigger Story with the Equifax Data Breach?
In September 2017, a data breach exposed relevant information for nearly 150 million consumers. It’s one of the largest data breaches in the Information Age so far.
The data exposed includes:
- Social Security number
- Driver’s license information
- Credit card numbers
As the result of a class-action lawsuit, Equifax agreed to a $700 million settlement, which includes up to $425 million in a “consumer restitution fund” to compensate those who data the hackers stole, and to compensate those who took action to protect themselves from identity theft in the wake of the data breach.
How Do I Claim My Equifax Refund?
First, check this website to see if your information was part of the breach.
You’ll get one of two messages.
If your data was not compromised in the hack, you’ll see:
- Based on the information you provided, our records indicate that your personal information was not impacted by this incident.
If your data was compromised, you’ll see:
- Based on the information you provided, our records indicate your personal information was impacted by this incident.
What If My Data Wasn’t Compromised?
If you see the first message, you’re not eligible for reimbursement, unless you can somehow prove that you paid for services to deal with fraud or ID theft or another alleged misuse of your credit information “fairly traceable to the data breach.”
If so, then keep reading.
What If My Data Was Compromised?
At the very minimum, you can claim reimbursement for $125, or up to 10 years of free credit-monitoring services. The $125, however, is theoretical at best. Equifax has not aside enough money to give $125 to everyone impacted by the data breach. If you apply for cash reimbursement, you will receive a small, small fraction of $125 – probably no more than a couple bucks, at most.
As such, it’s wiser to apply for the credit monitoring, since that offers real value you would others have to pay for.
Several credit cards offer credit monitoring in some form. For instance, Capital One offers “credit alerts” that automatically let you know when a new inquiry or a new account is opened in your name, allowing you to catch potentially fraudulent activity before it can impact your life.
Other credit card companies with various levels of credit monitoring include American Express and BarclayCard.
If you happen to have a card that already has credit monitoring of some sort, then maybe it makes sense to apply for the cash, even though you’ll probably get less than the cost of a McDonald’s happy meal.
How to File a Claim.
The claims-filing process is simple. It’s just a few questions and it will take you less than five minutes.
You will need to certify that you have credit monitoring now and that it will remain in place for at least the next six months. That’s easy enough to do through a site like Credit Karma. Conversely, many credit cards and some savings accounts – such as Capital One 360 – already include some form of credit monitoring.
You can claim the money in the form of a check, a pre-paid card or free credit monitoring from the three major credit bureaus.
Beyond the basic $125, you can claim an additional cash payment of up to $500 – $25 per hour for up to 20 hours – for time spent on dealing with fraud or ID theft or another alleged misuse of your credit information “fairly traceable to the data breach.”
You can claim the first 10 hours by describing the actions taken and certifying that the actions you describe are truthful.
Beyond 10 hours, you must provide documentation of fraud, ID theft, or other alleged misuse of your personal data. That documentation can include items such as a letter from the IRS or a bank indicating suspicion or knowledge that your information was compromised. A police report will work as well.
You can also claim reimbursement for financial losses, up to $20,000. This can include:
- Losses from unauthorized charges to your financial accounts.
- The cost of freezing/unfreezing your credit.
- The cost of credit-monitoring services.
- Fees paid to accounts or attorneys to deal with this issue.
- Fees for notaries, shipping, postage, mileage, phone and the like for dealing with this issue.
You will, of course, need to document your losses and costs in this case.
How Much Money Will I Really Receive?
This is impossible to say.
There are 147 million potential people who could file claims against that $425 million consumer restitution fund. If everyone who’s eligible files a claim, then that’s a whopping $3 per person, basically.
Of course, not everyone will apply. So, how much any one person receives will depend entirely on how many people file claims, and how much money they each claim.
What Is the Deadline?
The deadline for filing a claim is Jan 20, 2020.
When Will I Receive the Money I am Owed?
The first compensation checks will not be issued until Jan. 23, 2020.
The Wrap Up
Most consumer class-action lawsuit settlements typically provide little of value to consumers – often a few cents or maybe a coupon (though the law firms make out like bandits).
This Equifax settlement is one of the rare instances where real money is, potentially, available. So, go ahead and check your eligibility and file a claim if you’re on the list. The process takes just a few minutes and, if nothing else, you might just get a check for $125 early next year.