ôô

Does Equifax Owe You? How to Claim Your Settlement Money

If your personal data was stolen in the 2017 Equifax data breach, you're entitled to make a settlement claim. Money Girl explains what happened, who's eligible for an Equifax payout, and how to file your claim before the deadline.

By
Laura Adams, MBA,
Episode #601
Does Equifax Owe You? How to Claim Your Settlement Money

It’s been almost two years since Equifax announced that they were the target of a hack that compromised the personal data of more than 145 million Americans. That’s about half the U.S. adult population! The breach was also shocking because Equifax isn’t just any old company. They're one of the big three national credit agencies that maintain—and are supposed to protect—our most confidential information.

Now, under a global settlement filed on July 22, Equifax is going to spend up to $425 million to help people affected by the breach. If you have a credit report in the U.S., there’s a good chance your personal information was exposed. In this post, I’ll explain what happened, who’s entitled to an Equifax payout, and how to file a claim for settlement money.

If you have a credit report in the U.S., there’s a good chance your personal information was exposed.

What Happened in the Equifax Data Breach

Equifax was founded in 1899 and is the oldest of the three credit bureaus, along with Experian and TransUnion. Equifax is based in Atlanta, Georgia and maintains information on over 820 million consumers.

Equifax says hackers lifted consumers’ names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, and in some cases, driver’s license numbers. They also stole credit card numbers for over 200,000 people and dispute documents that contain sensitive data for about 180,000.

The Equifax breach isn’t the largest we’ve seen. That dishonor goes to Yahoo, which was the target in several incidents that affected more than one billion user accounts worldwide. However, the Equifax incident is the most massive heist of Social Security numbers.

As I covered in Don’t Get Tricked by These Tax and Social Security Scams, once an identity thief has your personal information, they can wreak havoc on your financial life. Thieves can use it to take over your existing credit accounts, open new accounts, file bogus tax returns, hijack government benefits, and commit other crimes in your name.

How to Know If You’re Part of the Equifax Settlement

So, how do you know if a cybercriminal stole your sensitive data in the Equifax data breach? You can get a quick answer by visiting the official settlement site, equifaxbreachsettlement.com. It includes all the details about the proposed settlement. 

Scroll down the page and click the big green button that says, “Find out if your information was impacted.” You’ll need to enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.

If your data was stolen, you’re automatically part of a proposed class action settlement. If the Court approves the settlement, Equifax will pay at least $380 million for various losses related to the breach.

If your data was stolen, you’re automatically part of a proposed class action settlement. If the Court approves the settlement, Equifax will pay at least $380 million for various losses related to the breach.

5 Benefits Available from the Equifax Settlement

If your Equifax data was compromised, here are five settlement benefits that you may qualify for:

1. Reimbursement for your time.

If you spent any time dealing with fraud issues after learning that your Equifax data was stolen, you’re eligible for reimbursement up to 20 hours at $25 per hour.

This benefit includes the time you spent protecting your identity or recovering from identity theft. For example, placing and removing security freezes on your credit reports, purchasing credit monitoring, or researching identity theft protection.

2. Reimbursement for your expenses.

If you spent money to protect your identity, to recover from identity theft, or to protect yourself from future harm, you’re eligible for reimbursement up to $20,000 per person. This amount includes your claim for time spent on these issues.

For example, if you paid a professional, purchased identity theft protection, or paid to place or remove security freezes on your credit reports, these costs qualify for reimbursement. Additionally, related miscellaneous expenses you incurred as a result of the data breach can be included, such as a notary, postage, mileage, and phone charges.

3. Reimbursement for your losses.

If you were the victim of identity theft and had financial losses due to the Equifax breach, you’re eligible for reimbursement included in the $20,000 total benefit. That might be the case if a criminal stole funds from your bank account, opened a credit account in your name, or hijacked your government benefits or tax refund.

4. Reimbursement for Equifax products.

If you paid for Equifax credit monitoring or identity protection products between September 7, 2016, and September 7, 2017, you qualify for reimbursement up to 25% of the subscription cost.

5. Free credit monitoring or cash payment.

If your Equifax data was compromised, but you didn’t spend time or money on it,  you’re still eligible for a small settlement benefit. You have the opportunity to receive at least four years of free credit monitoring from the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and $1 million of identity theft insurance.

Plus, you can get up to six additional years from Equifax, for a total of 10 years of free credit monitoring. However, if you decide not to enroll in these benefits because you already pay for credit monitoring, you can request a one-time payment of $125.

To recap the proposed settlement, it pays up to $20,000 for time and financial losses. Plus, you could receive up to 10 years of credit monitoring and $1 million of ID theft insurance, or $125.

To recap the proposed settlement, it pays up to $20,000 for time and financial losses. Plus, you could receive up to 10 years of credit monitoring and $1 million of ID theft insurance, or $125.

This isn’t a complete list of the types of losses or expenses that may be eligible for reimbursement. If you have other costs related to the breach, contact the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982. They will decide if out-of-pocket losses are valid.

Also note that future losses due to the Equifax data breach may also qualify for reimbursement if you make those claims by January 22, 2024.

What If You Don’t Want to Be in the Equifax Settlement?

But what if you had losses due to the Equifax data breach that exceed $20,000? You have the right not to be included in the class action settlement if you opt out by November 19, 2019.

Opting out means that you’d lose your right to get any benefits from the settlement, but you’d be able to file your own lawsuit against Equifax. That might be wise if you lost a lot of money, but you should consult with an attorney to discuss your options.

How to File a Claim for Benefits from the Equifax Settlement

If your Equifax data was compromised, but you don’t file a claim, you’re still automatically eligible for the following benefits:

  • Free identity theft restoration helps you repair fraud or identity theft issues caused by the breach for the next seven years. If you believe you’ve been a victim of fraud caused by the violation, call the settlement administrator at 1-833-759-2982.  
  • Free credit reports are available in addition to the one you already get for free each year from the three credit bureaus. Starting in 2020, you can request up to six additional free credit reports per year from Equifax through 2027.

But if you want payment from the proposed Equifax settlement, you must file a claim by January 22, 2020. The settlement administrator will evaluate the claims, total them up, and seek final approval by the court to pay them.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the amount you claim and it could take a long time to see any benefits. However, it’s worth taking a few minutes to gather any supporting documents and enter your claim for lost money or time related to the breach at equifaxbreachsettlement.com.

There’s no guarantee that you’ll get the amount you claim and it could take a long time to see any benefits.

First, you must enter information about your time spent related to the breach. To claim reimbursement for less than 10 hours, you must describe the actions you took, the month and year of the tasks, and an estimate of the time you spent on each. For example, if you spent a total of an hour freezing and unfreezing your credit reports to apply for a car loan, you can enter that information.

But if you claim more than 10 hours, you must also provide supporting documents that show fraud, identity theft, or other alleged misuses of your personal information. These might include a letter from a creditor, bank, or a police report.

Next, you enter information for any monetary claims related to the breach. You must attach supporting documents to prove your expenses or losses, such as receipts or a letter from a creditor. So, I recommend doing your research and gathering documents before you begin the claims process.

Be as thorough as possible by thinking through all the time you may have taken after the breach. For instance, did you do online research, make phone calls, enroll in credit monitoring, or travel to your bank for reasons related to the breach? Make sure you’re reimbursed appropriately for your time.

At the very least, everyone who’s data was affected should claim the free credit monitoring for up to 10 years or the payment for $125 if you already have credit monitoring.

Want to learn more about smart strategies to protect and improve your credit? Check out my super affordable online course, Build Better Credit—The Ultimate Credit Score Repair Guide. Get more information and enroll with a 60% discount today!

GET MORE MONEY GIRL

Join the Money Girl conversation on Facebook, and Twitter or call the Money Girl listener line at (302) 364-0308 to leave feedback or ask a question. Your call could be used on a future episode! Listen and subscribe on AppleSpotifyGoogleStitcher, or your favorite podcast app. To get money tips delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for the free Money Girl Newsletter!

Binary Computer Data image courtesy of Shutterstock

The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.