Equifax recently agreed to a whopping $700 million settlement over its 2017 data breach. This settlement agreement also includes provisions for restitution payments and other settlement benefits for consumers who were affected by the data breach.
Our initial coverage of this settlement included a reference to the Federal Trade Commission’s official statement on those payments, the settlement benefits, and the current status of the consumer claims process for the Equifax settlement. At this time, we’ll be taking a closer look at this statement (titled “Summary of Benefits”) and giving you the rundown on what we know so far about the settlement’s provisions for restitution payments, any other benefits eligible consumers may qualify for, as well as how to claim these benefits and payments.
What kinds of payments and/or benefits are available?
It appears that there are two main types of settlement benefits offered by the Equifax data breach settlement: Cash payments or free assistance with credit monitoring and identity theft protection and restoration.
Cash payments for this settlement have a maximum payout of $20,000 per person and are intended to reimburse consumers who experienced the following: Data breach-related expenses or losses (for things like attorney or accountant fees or if you lost money because of “unauthorized charges to your accounts”), if you spent time dealing with the breach, and if you paid for Equifax services like credit monitoring during a specific time frame (September 7 2016 – September 7 2017).
You can be compensated for the time you spent dealing with the aftermath of the data breach at a rate of $25 per hour up to 20 hours. And while you can be reimbursed for what you spent on Equifax services during the time frame mentioned above, you’ll only get a maximum of 25% of the total amount you paid.
You can also opt for other settlement benefits such as free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services, free identity restoration services, and free credit reports from the Equifax website. With the free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services benefit, you’ll get up to “10 years of free credit monitoring OR $125 if you decide not to enroll because you already have credit monitoring.” Furthermore, the free credit monitoring includes $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance, four years of free credit monitoring at Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, and up to six additional years of “free credit monitoring of your Equifax credit report.” Also, consumers who were minors in May 2017 are also eligible for 18 years of free credit monitoring.
If the data breach resulted in you having your identity stolen, you can also claim a settlement benefit that gives you a minimum of seven years of free identity restoration services.
And finally, there appears to be at least one settlement benefit that is available to all U.S. consumers regardless of whether or not they were affected by the breach. According to the FTC’s Summary of Benefits, all U.S. consumers can claim “six additional free credit reports per year for seven years from the Equifax website.”
Who is eligible to receive settlement payments or benefits?
Based on the FTC’s statement, our overall impression is that, for the most part, consumers are only eligible for a cash payment or benefit if they’re able to provide proof that they were negatively affected by the 2017 data breach, or that they otherwise had to spend time and money protecting themselves from the effects of the breach.
If you’re not sure if you’re eligible, the FTC advises consumers to use a (forthcoming) online tool to check their eligibility status on the claims website. Until that tool is ready to be used, in the meantime, you can sign up for an email update from the FTC that will notify you when that tool is ready.
When can you file a claim?
At this time, you can’t file a claim yet. You can’t file a claim until the claims process officially begins for this settlement. And the claims process doesn’t begin until the court approves it. Once that happens, the claims process will begin and the FTC will update its Summary of Benefits statement webpage with more information on filing a claim.
However, even though you can’t file a claim now, there are some things you can do in the meantime to prepare for filing. The FTC advises that those interested in filing claims should sign up for email updates about the settlement, check the FTC’s Summary of Benefits statement page for updates, and gather and save any documents “you have related to your efforts to avoid or recover from identity theft after the 2017 Equifax data breach.”
How and when are payments or benefits received?
Cash payments will be remitted as either a check or debit card (your choice) and will be sent to your mailing address. If you’re getting free credit monitoring, you’ll receive an activation code and instructions, and you can also choose to have this sent either via email or to your mailing address.
Benefits (monetary or otherwise) will not be sent out “until the initial claims period deadline has passed.” The exact date of this deadline has not yet been announced.
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