Why Equifax likely owes you $125 and how to claim it
Back in 2017, a group of shifty hackers pulled off the most catastrophic security breach in U.S. history via Equifax, a U.S. credit reporting agency. As a result of the breach, the personal information of almost 150 million people was compromised. Sound like a lot? You bet it is. To get you a more exact idea, that’s over half of the number of adults that reside in the United States. By the time it was all said and done, the hackers exposed hundreds of millions of Social Security Numbers, addresses, birthdays, and all-around other things that nobody wants floating around the Internet. As you may have guessed, this did not sit well with a great many people and now there’s a colossal settlement underway to prove it.
The Federal Trade Commission recently announced that Equifax apparently realizes that they messed up bad. Really bad. As a result, they’ve agreed to fork over $700 million in a global settlement with the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and every state and territory in the U.S. Out of that money, about $425 million will go towards helping anyone who was affected by the breach. It may be a small silver lining, but at least it’s something, right? Here’s the lowdown on how to find out if you were affected and what you can do about it if so.
How to find out if you were affected
We’ve got to give it to Equifax, at least they’ve made it super easy to figure out if you were one of those affected in one of the most epic security fails of all time. Simply go to the website they’ve set up that can tell you whether or not you were affected in seconds. There are no lengthy forms or red tape. All you have to type in is your last name and the last six digits of your social security number. Then just click submit and you’ll find out, for better or for worse, if you too may have been compromised.
If you weren’t affected, then breath a sigh of relief and consider yourself lucky. That said, you probably don’t want to count on luck to carry you through the next time something like this happens and may want to read ahead to find out how to protect yourself in the future. If you were affected, then you’ll definitely want to file a claim, which Equifax also makes super easy. Just click on the online claim filing form and provide some basic information such as who you are and where you live. The good/bad news is that you don’t really have to worry about your information being compromised because, well, it already has been. This is where you get to do something about it.
How will I be compensated?
After proving that you are indeed you with the last few digits of your social security number and a text, call, or email confirmation, then you’ll be presented with a series of options. Even if you didn’t know you were affected until today, you’re still entitled to either free three-bureau credit monitoring, If you already have it and plan to keep it for the next six months, then you can choose to be compensated $125 instead. Before you decide which you’d like to take advantage of, you may find it interesting to know that you can actually get free credit monitoring through Credit Karma and their partner TransUnion. Just sayin’.
There are also a number of other paid credit monitoring companies you can choose from if they make you feel more comfortable. Even if you chose Equifax’s free credit-monitoring option, you may want to take advantage of one of these services until the court proceedings are finalized and you receive an activation code in the mail. If you chose the $125, you can request to be paid by check or pre-paid card and will receive it after the settlement is finalized.
What else might I be entitled to?
There are doubtless some among us who don’t even have to ask if they were compromised because the consequences have already manifested in a variety of unpleasant ways. If you relate, then rest assured that the claims process provides you with a chance to tell Equifax all about it. If you ended up losing money as a result of the breach, you’ll be eligible to receive up to $20,000 in compensation. So if you ended up paying for anything from credit monitoring, attorney fees, or unauthorized charges, then don’t be shy about it when filing your claim.
What about the time you lost dealing with the aforementioned pains? The settlement has got your back there too. Ain’t nobody got time for data breaches. That’s why you can request compensation of $25 per hour for up to 20 hours of your life that you wasted dealing with such hassles.
Whether you even file a claim or not, you can still get free help sorting out identity theft that you may have suffered as a result of the breach. Just call 1-833-759-2982 and a settlement administrator will tell you all about how and where to get free help with identity restoration. Last but not least, Equifax has issued a huge “sorry, our bad” to all of the United States by offering six free credit reports a year for the next seven years, starting in 2020. Keep in mind you always get a free report each year at AnnualCreditReport.com anyway, but it’s a nice way to check in a little more frequently at no charge.