NEW YORK — Wednesday is the deadline to seek cash payments and claim free services as part of Equifax’s $700 million settlement over a massive data breach.
The breach in 2017, affecting 147 million people, was one of the largest ever to threaten private information. The compromised data included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver license numbers, credit card numbers and in some cases, data from passports.
Equifax’s settlement with the U.S. government entitles affected consumers to free credit-monitoring and identity-restoration services for the next several years. Consumers may also be eligible for money for their time or reimbursement for certain services.
You can make a claim if you can show you suffered identity theft “traceable” to the breach or document the time and money you spent dealing with securing your credit because of the breach, even if you weren’t subject to identity theft. That could include signing up for credit-monitoring services.
You may be eligible for up to $20,000 in reimbursements for losses from unauthorized charges to affected accounts, legal and other fees, credit-monitoring or identity-theft-protection services and expenses related to freezing or unfreezing credit reports. For the time spent dealing with the breach, you can seek $25 per hour for up to 20 hours as compensation.
All impacted consumers are eligible to receive 10 years of free credit monitoring, at least seven years of free identity-restoration services, and, starting in 2020, six free copies of their Equifax credit report each year for seven years. That’s on top of the free copy you can already get by law every 12 months from each of the three big agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. For minors, free credit monitoring increases to 18 years.
You can opt instead for a cash payment of up to $125 for a credit-monitoring product of your choice. However, the Federal Trade Commission warns that consumers are likely to get far less because of “overwhelming” public response to the settlement. The cash payments come from a fixed pot of $31 million, and if too many people apply, the pool of money is distributed proportionally.
According to the FTC, “each person who takes the money option is likely to get a very small amount. Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed.”
You must submit a claim to receive any of the benefits.
Claims must be submitted online or postmarked by Wednesday.