A few years ago, Equifax – one of the three major US credit rating agencies – acknowledged that it had received a security breach that exposed private information to 147 million Americans, including social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and, in some cases, driver's license numbers. See our cover in "You can't protect yourself from the Equifax breach" (September 13, 2017).
Equifax has now agreed a $ 425 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and all 50 US government states. (Only the amount is aimed at consumers – Equifax will separately pay an additional $ 175 million to the states and $ 100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.) If you were affected by this breach ̵
Most coverage has focused on the $ 125 amount, but as the FTC page clearly says and Jessamyn West emphasized on Twitter You can claim up to 10 hours of compensation to handle the breach, to $ 25 per hour, without submitting any additional documentation, for a total payment of $ 375. Just describe what you did and the approximate dates you took these actions . If you have supporting documentation for things you need to do to handle identity theft, fraud or other abuse of your information, you can claim up to 20 hours for a total of $ 625. And if you have unpaid losses or expenses due to the breach – for example, fees paid to a lawyer or accountant – you can apply for a $ 20,000 refund.
If you choose a cash payment instead of credit monitoring, you will be asked to confirm that you already have credit monitoring. Credit Karma already offers this service for free, so you should take the money.
We strongly recommend asking for any compensation you owe. As Rich Mogull pointed out in his article, there is no real way to protect yourself from the break, and you can spend the rest of your life defending yourself from the fallout. $ 125 is a lukewarm settlement for that, and for that matter, it's also $ 375.
Think about it: you'll take $ 375 cash in exchange to let a stranger publish the name, address, and social security number on a list that would be acquired by criminals? Chances are you never thought of doing business with Equifax yourself – it gathered your information from the first time you applied for credit.
So when you fill out the form on the Equifax Breakout Site, think carefully about how this break may have wasted your time. Did You Spend Time:
- Are you worried about the breach?
- Read articles about the breach?
- Contact credit agencies to freeze credit?
- Check your credit report?
- Change Password?
- Monitor Account Statements?
Claim everything! And if you have support documentation for other shit you have to do to curb Equifax's incompetence, you can also claim it – up to 20 hours maximum. You have until January 22, 2020 to file a claim, so you have plenty of time to round out all the documents you need. And if Equifax rejects your claim, you at least cost Equifax time and money to process it.
In fact, I have experienced some minor bank fraud earlier this year, which led to an extended project to get bank refunds, track down perpetrators, merge case documents and report everything to the FBI. Needless to say, I claimed a full 20 hours. I included the FBI report and the documents from my bank, which showed that it approved the refund.
Also note that, under the terms of the settlement, you are entitled to at least 7 years of identity service services. If your identity is stolen, call the settlement administrator at 833-759-2982 for instructions. From 2020, everyone in the United States will be eligible for six free credit reports for 7 years from Equifax. You can sign up for email updates from the FTC to be notified when this service is available.
Although Equifax had an income of $ 3.41 billion in 2018, the company's net income was only $ 299.8 million, so Equifax will feel $ 700 million settlement in a few years, unlike Facebook, whose FTC fine is $ 5 billion was less than the company's first quarter results. Still, Equifax is only on the hook for $ 4.76 per person affected, which is ridiculously small. The settlement assumes that most people will not actually apply for cash payment since the $ 425 million devoted to repaying consumers would only provide $ 2.89 per person if everyone exploited it. So yes, search for $ 125 or more – let's make sure Equifax is forced to pay all the $ 425 million.