Well, that was fast. Remember the Equifax data breach?
In 2017, the credit bureau had a massive data breach – including names, birthdays, Social Security numbers, and home addresses – that affected 147 million Americans. Equifax finally settled with the Federal Trade Commission to pay up to $700 million, including individual compensation.
The bureau offered people a choice: a check or prepaid card up to $125; or 10 years of free credit monitoring. Of course, there were strings attached to the cash money.
To get $125, you needed to already have credit-monitoring services and prove you intend to continue using those monitoring services for six months. But more importantly, the money reserved for these payments was capped at $31 million. This meant if more than 248,000 people collected a check, the amount would be lowered on a proportional basis.
That detail made the whole settlement too good to be true. Think about it – the data breach had 148 million victims. If everyone filed a claim for a check, the payout could be as low as 21 cents per person. It would cost more to mail the check than write the check. And that’s pretty much what happened.
The FTC announced that due to “an enormous number of claims filed,” the cash payments are going to be much lower than $125. They did not disclose an exact amount, but they are encouraging people to sign up for the free credit monitoring instead.
Other Options in the Equifax Settlement
Equifax is also offering:
- Reimbursement of $25/hour for time spent dealing with the breach up to 20 hours (or up to 10 hours with no supporting documents). The money reserved for these payments is also capped.
- Reimbursements for lost money not exceeding $20,000, with supporting documents.
These reimbursements come from separate funds, so they are still worth investigating if applicable to your specific situation. You have until Jan. 22, 2020, to file a claim.
BUT- wait a minute!
If you were significantly affected by the Equifax data breach and are considering a separate lawsuit:
You need to officially opt-out of the Equifax settlement. If you take no action, you are surrendering your rights to sue Equifax in the future on issues related to the 2017 data breach. You have until Nov. 19 to send a letter filing a “request for exclusion” from the settlement. You cannot do this online.
Consult a lawyer if you are considering a request for exclusion.