All the way back in 2017, Equifax, one of the three principal consumer credit reporting agencies in the United States, was breached by hackers. The personal data of 147 million people were exposed. Those affected by the breach are now eligible for compensation, with a few big caveats. Here’s how to evaluate your situation.
The first thing you should do is go to this website to find out if you’re eligible for the settlement. If not, congratulations. Enjoy your day.
If you are, you can file a claim online or by mail. Online, you can enter your contact information before the four-section questionnaire begins.
Section one prompts you to opt for free, three-bureau credit monitoring or a cash payment of $125 if you can certify that you have credit monitoring and will have it for the next six months. If you opt for the monitoring you can also add an additional six years of one-bureau monitoring after the initial three-bureau monitoring expires.
Section two gives you the option to request cash payment for time spent trying to avoid or recovering from fraud or identity theft caused by the breach, $25 per hour. If you claim 10 hours or less you have to describe the actions you took and how long each one took. If you’re claiming between 10 and 20 hours you have to include supporting documents as well. Twenty hours is the maximum amount of time you can be compensated for under the terms of the settlement.
Section three is where you can file a claim if you lost or spent money as a result of fraud or identity theft caused by the breach and have not been reimbursed for that money, up to $20,000 total. The final section is a summary of your claim that you can electronically sign by typing your name.
And that’s it. But what about those caveats? First, you might not get the full $125. The settlement stipulates that the fund for Alternative Reimbursement Compensation is capped at $31 million, so if more than 248,000 people submit claims then everyone will receive less than $125.
The other big caveat is legal. If you accept cash or credit monitoring you are giving up your right to sue Equifax. If you suffer losses in the future, you can apply for additional settlement money up to four years after the initial claims deadline of January 22, 2020. That fund can also run out, so claims made near the end of that period may not be fulfilled.
It is within your right to opt-out of the settlement by mailing Equifax a request for exclusion by November 19. Do nothing and you lose your chance for compensation and the right to sue the company.
Admittedly, this all sucks, but that’s the dystopic, corporation-dominated, technologically vulnerable world we live in. Get used to it.
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