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INSIDER SECRET: One way to help protect yourself from data breaches is to freeze your credit, which will prevent anyone from opening an account in your name. When you need to apply for a loan or credit card you can easily unfreeze it.
If you were affected by the Equifax breach that was disclosed in 2017 you can now file a claim — and since 147 million Americans had their data accessed, there’s a good chance you’ll qualify. You need to file your claim by January 22, 2020, and payouts will be sent on January 23, 2020, at the earliest.
Those impacted by the breach can file a claim to receive either:
- 10 years of free credit monitoring, which includes at least four years of free monitoring of your credit report at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and one million dollars of identity theft insurance, and up to six more years of free monitoring of your Equifax credit report. (If you were under 18 as of May 2017 you are eligible for 18 years of free credit monitoring.)
- A one-time, $125 payout if you decide not to enroll (which would generally be because you already have credit monitoring)
You can be reimbursed up to $20,000 per person for expenses incurred as a result of the breach, including:
- Losses from unauthorized charges to your accounts
- The cost of freezing or unfreezing your credit report
- The cost of credit monitoring
- Fees you paid to professionals like an accountant or attorney
- Other expenses like notary fees, document shipping fees and postage, mileage and phone charges
You can be paid for up to 20 hours of time you have spent dealing with the breach, billed at a rate of $25 an hour (documentation needed for claims of 10+ hours).
On top of that, you can also be reimbursed up to 25% of the cost of Equifax credit monitoring and related services you had between September 7, 2016, and September 7, 2017.
Even if you don’t file a claim you will have access to free identity restoration services for at least seven years. Identify restoration services will work with you to regain control of your finances and reputation if identity theft occurs (not just fraudulent charges on a credit card account). If you need to use these services, call the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982 for more information.
Finally, starting in 2020, all “US consumers” will be able to get six free credit reports a year from the Equifax website for the next seven years. This is on top of the free credit report you can get from each of the three major credit bureaus annually.
Credit monitoring services cost $10+ a month so that could easily be the most valuable choice, but it also seems like free credit monitoring is being offered as part of a data breach settlement all the time. The other thing that doesn’t quite add up is that the FTC site says, “The settlement includes up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.” But if all 147 million people claim the payout the $425 million would amount to less than $3 per person.
Maybe they are counting on very few people filing a claim? Even then, the $425 million would only cover $125 payments to 3.4 million people which is only ~2.3% of those affected. None of the language includes any qualifiers like “up to $125” — but maybe there’s something in the fine print I’m missing.
Featured image by Watchara Ritjan/Shutterstock.
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