Equifax offers up to 20 grand cash to American victims of its 2017 data breach as part of $575 million to $700 million settlement reached with federal and state agencies. Nearly 150 million Americans were affected by the data breach between September 2016 and 2017.
While the $20,000 cash payment represents the maximum amount a victim can receive for reimbursement of their personal costs and time, the settlement includes free credit monitoring for victims and extra credit reports for all U.S. consumers.
Equifax Settlement Details
The settlement, led by the Federal Trade Commission, was driven by allegations Equifax failed to secure the massive amount of personal information stored on its network, leading to the breach exposing millions of names and dates of birth, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, and other personal information potentially leading to identity theft and fraud.
Equifax agreed to pay $300 million to a fund that will provide affected consumers with credit monitoring services. The fund will also compensate consumers who bought credit or identity monitoring services from Equifax and paid other out-of-pocket expenses as a result of the 2017 data breach. Additionally, Equifax agreed to add up to $125 million to the fund if the initial payment is not enough to compensate consumers for their losses. In addition, beginning in January 2020, Equifax will provide all U.S. consumers with six free credit reports each year for seven years—in addition to the one free annual credit report that Equifax and the two other nationwide credit reporting agencies currently provide.
Equifax agreed to pay $175 million to 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as $100 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in civil penalties.
While consumers cannot file a claim yet, there is a lot to digest. CardTrak will share the FTC’s overview of the settlement, but it is best for consumers to monitor ftc.gov/Equifax for updates as to when you start filing claims, how to sign-up for free credit monitoring and reports, as well as a constantly updated FAQ section. You can sign-up today for free emailed updates
Free Credit Monitoring and Identity Theft Protection Services
• Up to 10 years of free credit monitoring OR $125 if you decide not to enroll because you already have credit monitoring. The free credit monitoring includes: ◦ At least four years of free credit monitoring of your credit report at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance. ◦ Up to six more years of free credit monitoring of your Equifax credit report. • If you were a minor in May 2017, you are eligible for a total of 18 years of free credit monitoring.
Cash Payments (capped at $20,000 per person)
• For expenses you paid as a result of the breach, like: ◦ 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 • For the time you spent dealing with the breach. You can be compensated $25 per hour up to 20 hours. • For the cost of Equifax credit monitoring and related services you had between September 7, 2016, and September 7, 2017, capped at 25 percent of the total amount you paid.
Free Help Recovering from Identity Theft
• For at least seven years, you can get free identity restoration services.
Free Credit Reports for All U.S. Consumers
• Starting in 2020, all U.S. consumers can get 6 additional free credit reports per year for 7 years from the Equifax website.
The author, Robert McKinley, and some staff members of CardTrak, CardFlash and CardData were among those compromised by the Equifax breach. From reader feedback we know of many affected victims and in some cases the impact has no price tag.
In July 2017 Equifax’s security department identified and started investigating suspicious activity associated with the part of its website where consumers could dispute information on their credit reports. But Equifax didn’t publicly disclose the breach until September 7th, six weeks later.
U.S. PIRG, a consumer advocacy group, says if Equifax had not been so negligent, the breach may never have happened. Four months before the hacking, Equifax could have fixed a known security vulnerability.
The disaster led to a surge in credit freezes placed on their credit reports in 2018.