There is at long last a silver lining for the 144 million of us who had our personal data leaked in the gigantic 2017 Equifax data breach: cash money.
Under the terms of its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Equifax established a fund of at least $300 million to compensate individuals who had their data compromised.
You, the individual, get to choose which claim to file: up to 10 free years of credit monitoring service, or a $125 check.
Additionally, you may also be eligible to claim up to $500 in compensation for time you spent dealing with the fallout of the breach, and up to another $20,000 if you suffered identity theft you can tie back to it.
How to choose?
Ars is by no means a financial advisory site. But if you can, claim the cash. Credit monitoring can be a useful service, but it generally has major limits and doesn’t really protect you from fraud.
Here’s the catch for this Equifax offer: You can only claim the cash in the settlement if you certify you already have a credit monitoring service. Luckily, there’s a very good chance that you do, or you easily could without much trouble.
Many banks, credit unions, and credit card companies offer free credit monitoring services to customers through a partnership with one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Services like AAA, professional organizations, and alumni organizations also frequently offer low- or no-cost credit monitoring programs through similar partnerships.
If you dig around in your wallet and your inbox, there are decent odds you’ll find you already have an affiliation with some entity that can hook you up,
You may even already have free credit monitoring services as the result of a previous data breach (including even this one), as it has become standard practice for everybody and their grandmother to offer it to consumers following a “cybersecurity incident.”
How to apply
Filing a claim, at least, is reasonably straightforward.
Step 1: Check your eligibility. Use the eligibility lookup tool to see if you were among the 144 million US residents who was affected by the breach.
If the answer is no, congratulations! Your data is doubtless still included in dozens of other breaches, of course, but not this one. Lucky you. If the answer is yes, proceed to…
Step 2: File a claim. You can use an online form or, if you prefer, send in a paper claims form.
On the first page of the online claim form, fill in your personal information and click next. The second page will ask you to choose what you want to claim: cash or credit monitoring. Selecting either option will bring up an explanation of your choice. If you select credit monitoring, you will also have the option to add an additional six years of service, provided by Equifax, to the initial four years provided by Experian.
Once you’ve chosen between credit monitoring or the $125 check, the next page gives you the option to claim compensation for up to 20 hours of time spent dealing with the breach at $25 per hour. If you don’t want to claim any hourly compensation, just hit “next.” If you do elect to claim time, and specify more than 10 hours of work, you must upload supporting documentation showing what you did.
Finally, the form will ask if you lost or spent money as a result of trying to prevent or recover from identity theft linked to the incident. If you select “yes,” you will be presented with a form asking you to provide detailed information and to upload documents supporting your claim. Funds spent freezing your credit or paying for credit monitoring in the wake of the breach are eligible for recompense in this section.
Finally, you select how you want to be paid any compensation (in cash or on a prepaid debit card), review your answers, and sign to submit. Take a screenshot or save a PDF of your claim confirmation number after you submit just in case.
For more information, the Equifax Breach Settlement site has a detailed FAQ, or you can read about it on the FTC’s website.
via Ars Technica
You can go claim at least $125 from the Equifax settlement right now