In 2017, Equifax experienced a data breach, affecting 56% of all Americans. The breach was one of the largest in history. Hackers were able to get access to a multitude of private consumer information, including names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card numbers and even driver’s license numbers. If you were affected by the data breach, you may be able to receive compensation for your damages.
The credit-reporting company has agreed to pay between $575 million and $700 million to settle state and federal investigations into the data breach. The settlement was announced recently, and the settlement website, www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com, is live and accepting claims. If you prefer not to use the website, a claim form will be mailed to you by calling 1-833-759-2982 or emailing them at info@EquifaxBreachSettlement.com. To confirm you're eligible to file a claim, enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number on the site or call the Settlement Administrator at 1-833-759-2982. The deadline to file a claim is Jan. 22, 2020.
There are several possible settlement outcomes. You can get up to 10 years of free credit monitoring of your three credit reports at Experian, TransUnion and Equifax by an independent third-party service that will be determined by the court. Or, you can receive a cash option. Initially, the cash option offered was $125 for those who already have a credit monitoring service and choose not to enroll in the free one. However, due to the overwhelming number of claims, and the fact that only $31 million was allocated to pay these claims, the amount will be far smaller than what was initially announced. As of this writing, it's not clear what that amount will be, but it is predicted to be worth less than the value of the free credit monitoring offered. If you've elected to receive the cash option, assuming it would be $125, and want to switch to the free credit monitoring, you may do so. The FTC website has information on how to do that.
There is additional compensation, up to $20,000 per person, available for individuals who spent time dealing with an ID theft issue that occurred after the hack and involved personal data that was exposed by the breach. If you’re in this group, you may be compensated for losses from unauthorized charges on 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, or other expenses like notary fees, document shipping fees and postage, mileage and phone charges. However, experts warn that attempting to receive any of this money could be an uphill battle. This is because, in order to claim the funds, you must be able to prove your data was misused as a result of the breach. This is difficult because the data hasn’t been found for sale on the dark web. Any claim would require consumers to have a paper trail, demonstrating that any lost funds from identity theft were not reimbursed, or that you spent time filing disputes over the fraud. The time spent will be compensated at $25 per hour for up to 20 hours, according to the settlement.
The FTC is warning that there are "fake websites claiming to be the Equifax settlement claims website." In a tweet, the FTC wrote: "To be sure you are going to the legitimate site, you can access it from the @ftc’s Equifax page: ftc.gov/Equifax."
As always, if you have any questions about this topic, feel free to reach out to your HCM Wealth Advisor. If you don’t have one, click the link below to schedule a conversation with an advisor for no charge.