Data Breaches

Equifax $700 million data breach settlement: How will it impact you?

By Steve Symanovich, a Symantec employee

You probably have at least one question about Equifax’s $700 million settlement: Is there money in it for me?

That depends. If you are one of up to 147 million people whose data was exposed in the 2017 Equifax data breach, you may be entitled to as much as $20,000 — or much less.

In general, the size of your claim would depend, in part, on the amount of time you spent working to protect your data after the breach.

The Equifax data breach primarily exposed names, birth dates, and Social Security numbers. That’s enough personal information for cybercriminals to commit identity theft.

Some quick background: Equifax — a major credit reporting agency — announced the settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories, on July 24.

The settlement includes up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.

Keep in mind, some details have been clarified since the settlement was first announced. For instance, many consumers thought they could choose between free credit monitoring or a $125 cash payment. In fact, the payment would be far less than $125. More information about that below.

How do I file a claim?

If your information was exposed in the data breach, you can file a claim at EquifaxBreachSettlement.com.

If you’re unsure whether you information was exposed, you can use a look-up tool to find out. You’ll need to type in your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number.

What can I file a claim for?

The settlement allows eligible consumers to file a claim for free credit monitoring services, or cash payments — they’re capped at $20,000 per person — depending on actions they’ve taken since the breach.

How do the cash payments work?

If you paid expenses as a result of the breach, you may be able to have them reimbursed.

Here’s a partial list of examples cited on the FTC website:

For the time you spent dealing with the breach, you can be compensated $25 per hour up to 20 hours.

Is your claim for 10 hours or less? Then you’ll need to describe the actions you took and the time you spent doing those things.

Is your claim for more than 10 hours? If so, you’ll need to describe the actions you took and provide supporting documents that show identity theft, fraud, or other misuse of your personal information.

If you lost or spent money trying to prevent or recover from fraud or identity theft caused by the Equifax data breach and have not been reimbursed for that money, you may qualify for reimbursement of those expenses. Your supporting documents should show:

  • Losses from unauthorized charges to your accounts.
  • The cost you paid to freeze or unfreeze your credit reports.
  • The cost you paid for credit monitoring services.
  • Professional fees such as those you paid to an accountant or attorney to dispute fraud or identity theft.
  • Other expenses. This includes notary fees, document shipping fees and postage, mileage, and phone charges.

What other benefits can I file claims for?

There’s more.

You can file for up to 10 years of free credit monitoring, according to the FTC.

But what if you decide not to enroll because you already have credit monitoring? In that case, you may be able to file a claim for up to $125 to help reimburse your expenses and efforts. Note: The key words here are “up to” $125.

Because of overwhelmingly high interest in the alternative cash payment under the settlement, consumers who choose this option might end up getting far less than $125, the FTC said.

Here’s why. The amount of money set aside for the cash payment option is capped at $31 million. That means consumers who select that option may not receive the $125 they had expected.

That’s one reason the FTC has urged consumers to consider signing up for the free credit monitoring, which has a higher worth.

If you have already signed up for the cash alternative, the settlement administrator will email you and give you with the opportunity to either submit additional information or switch to the free credit monitoring service. Consumers can also contact the settlement administrator directly.

Keep in mind, credit monitoring services alone may not be enough to help protect your identity.

That’s where an identity theft protection service could be beneficial. An identity theft protection service can monitor for suspicious or fraudulent activity involving your identity, such as if someone tries to open a new bank account, obtain online payday loans, initiate new telecom services, and apply for a new credit card or auto loan, and other places your Social Security number is used.

What else can I get?

You can get free help recovering from identity theft.

How does it work? If you discover someone has misused your personal information, you can call the settlement administrator for instructions for how to access free identity restoration services. The number: (833) 759-2982

You can also get free credit reports. Here’s what to expect.

Beginning in 2020, all U.S. consumers can get six free credit reports per year for seven years from the Equifax website, according to the FTC. That’s in addition to the one free Equifax report (plus your Experian and TransUnion reports) you can get at AnnualCreditReport.com.

What key dates do I need to know?

You can file a claim immediately, but the deadline to file a claim is January 22, 2020

Benefits will be sent on January 23, 2020, at the earliest, according to the FTC.

When will I see my benefits?

Cash payments will be sent to your mailing address after final approval from the court. You can choose to receive your payment either by check or pre-paid debit card to your mailing address when you file your claim. Checks must be cashed within 90 days; the pre-paid card does not expire.

For free credit monitoring, the FTC says you will get an activation code with instructions, after final approval from the court. You can choose to receive this code by email or postal mail when you file your claim.

How can I stay updated?

More information about the settlement is likely to come. One way to stay current is to sign up for the FTC’s email updates.

A quick warning: You should be on the lookout for fake settlement websites set up by identity thieves. Be sure to only use the link referenced above.

Symantec Corporation, the world’s leading cyber security company, allows organizations, governments, and people to secure their most important data wherever it lives. More than 50 million people and families rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock comprehensive digital safety platform to help protect their personal information, devices, home networks, and identities.

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