December 19, 2019. By Matt Okaty:
At last, the two-year saga stemming from Equifax’s massive data breach is nearing the final stages. If you have not already done so, January 22, 2020 is the deadline for filing a claim for benefits from the class action settlement (a hearing is scheduled for December 19, 2019 for court approval of the proposed settlement). Filing a claim just takes a few minutes and can be done online at www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com. If you are not comfortable filing electronically, you can also download a claim form and send by mail.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, you can choose between 10 years of free credit monitoring services (4 years of three-bureau monitoring followed by 6 years of one-bureau monitoring) or cash compensation up to $125.00. However, due to the number of claims, the cash compensation will most likely be substantially lower and therefore claiming the free credit monitoring services is strongly recommended. While you might already have free credit monitoring services through your bank or credit card company, the monitoring offered in the settlement also includes identity theft protection services such as dark web monitoring and $1 million dollars in identity theft insurance.
In addition, you can make a claim to be compensated for any out-of-pocket expenses you may have incurred as a result of the data breach, as well as for any time you may have spent dealing with the consequences of the breach (at the rate of $25/hour up to 20 hours). This includes not only time spent trying to recover from actual fraud or identity theft caused by the breach, but also any preventive measures you may have taken trying to avoid fraud or identity theft, such as placing or removing credit freezes on your credit files or purchasing credit monitoring services. Again, because of the number of claims filed, the cash compensation awarded will most likely be significantly lower than the maximum amount specified.
It’s certainly understandable if you’re skeptical about the benefit of filing a claim. The only people who will be getting rich out of this settlement will be the attorneys who are collectively asking for $77 million in fees (to be fair, dozens of law firms are involved). However, I would still recommend filing a claim for the free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services as it’s worth having the extra protection. The deadline for opting out of the settlement in order to preserve your right to separately pursue claims against Equifax has passed, so you might as well take advantage of what has been offered.
There are a few parties objecting to the terms of the settlement, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. However, the settlement was agreed to by the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so it is largely expected to be approved by the court. If there are any significant changes to the terms of the settlement after today’s court hearing I will follow up with an update.
As always, please reach out if you have any questions.