Remember the Equifax data breach of 2017? In September of that year, the consumer credit reporting agency (which collects data on more than 800 million consumers worldwide) announced that some personal information of 147 million United States consumers had been exposed.
That information, stolen by hackers who exploited a vulnerability in the company’s website, included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and some driver’s license numbers, according to Equifax. The company also admitted that credit card numbers for around 209,000 consumers and specific dispute documents with personal identifying information for another 182,000 consumers were accessed.
At the time, as a result of the breach, Equifax offered free identity theft protection and credit file monitoring to all U.S. consumers.
More recently, the company entered into a global settlement to a class action suit that provides up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.
If your information was exposed to the breach (check here) you are entitled to file a claim for free credit monitoring for up to 10 years. Initially, the settlement promised to pay out or a one-time payment of $125 from Equifax (by check or gift card), but demand was so overwhelming that the Federal Trade Commission now says consumers will get “nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed”. As a result, the agency is encouraging those affected to take the free credit monitoring. However, if the breach resulted in substantial financial loss to you – from unauthorized account charges, the cost of credit monitoring or account freezing, accountant and attorney fees, etc. – you can still file a claim for up to $20,000.
Whether or not you choose not to file a claim, you are eligible to receive seven years of free credit reports from Equifax.
Claims can be filed through Jan. 22, 2020, and no benefits will be paid out until at least Jan. 23, 2020.
To find out if you are eligible for a substantially lower cash payment or other remedies, go to this link. More information about the settlement can be found on the Federal Trade Commission website. The FTC has also produced a handy PDF that explains the settlement. You can download it here.