Equifax Probably Owes You Money — Here’s How to Claim It
Remember about two years ago when one of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, announced it had experienced a data breach? You know, the one that exposed the sensitive information of more than 140 million Americans? Well, this week, it was announced that the company will try to make it up to us by providing some compensation. Soon after that, the site where you can file your claim (or download the form to submit via snail mail is you prefer) went live.
Before we get into what compensation Equifax is offering, you may be wondering if you were even impacted by the hack. While there’s a pretty good chance that you were, you can confirm by visiting EquifaxBreachSettlement.com, clicking the “I Would Like To…” pull-down in the upper right corner, and then selecting “See If My Information Was Impacted By The 2017 Data Breach” (they really know something about the economy of language, don’t they?). By entering your last name and the latter six digits of your Social Security Number, you’ll be able to see if you were indeed affected. If you were, it will display a link for you to start your claim.
The first part of the settlement offers free credit monitoring services to those affected by the hack. However, if you already have such services and will for at least the next six months, you can claim $125 in cash instead. It’s not exactly clear what they consider “credit monitoring services” to be, leaving me to wonder whether alerts you receive from your credit card company or checking Credit Karma actually count. I’ll let you be the judge of that and determine which option is best for you. (UPDATE: The FTC now says that, due to the structure of the settlement and the number of people claiming the cash option, the final amount will be “nowhere near” $125. So… there’s that.)
Even if you can’t claim cash from that portion of settlement, you may still be able to earn compensation for your time. Equifax has agreed to pay out $25 an hour for up to 20 hours of time you spent essentially cleaning up their messes. For example, in addition to filing a claim for time you sunk into remedying fraud issues, you can also account for the time it took you to add freezes to your credit reports. If you’re claiming compensation for 10 hours or less, you’ll just need to provide descriptions of what tasks you needed to complete. However, if you’re asking for more than 10 hours (up to the max of 20), you’ll need to provide supporting documents. Finally, you can also file claims for any out-of-pocket losses caused by the hack and get a partial refund (up to 25%) for any Equifax credit or identity monitoring products you paid for in the year leading up to the 2017 breach.
Once your claim is filed, you’ll receive a confirmation code. Then, you can return to the site to track your status.
There are some important deadlines associated with this settlement you’ll need to know about. For one, the deal won’t be finalized until December of this year, so don’t expect your check just yet. Second, if you want to opt-out of this settlement (allowing you to pursue your own action against Equifax), you’ll need to do so before November 19th. Finally, all claims need to be submitted or postmarked by January 22nd, 2020.
While it’s pretty cool that consumers will at least get something out of Equifax following their massive mess up, it’s important to remember that this cash won’t remove the threats that still loom. Just because hackers may have obtained your information years ago doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve already tried to use it. Therefore, it’s important that you take steps to protect yourself, including monitoring your credit and potentially freezing your reports.