The Equifax Breach Settlement: Consumers who were impacted by the Equifax security breach should know what steps they have available to them now that there has been a settlement reached between the company and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), State governments, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). By some estimates, more than 140 million people were impacted by this breach which in some cases, resulted in their identity being compromised.
Understanding the Equifax Breach Settlement
An agreement on the Equifax breach settlement with the federal agencies and states was reached in July of 2019. In total, Equifax agreed to a settlement amount of $575 million. However, what became immediately noticeable was the number of people who were going to file claims, making the settlement more complicated.
The company agreed to pay $175 million to 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico as well as a hefty fine to the CFPB in the amount of $100 million. The problem with the settlement terms was it became evident early on that consumers would get $25 or less from the settlement due to the number of claims being filed. This led to some almost immediate changes in what was being offered to consumers who were impacted by the Equifax breach.
What the Equifax Breach Settlement Offers Consumers
First, to determine if you were impacted by the breach, the FTC and CFPB set up a convenient tool to help you identify whether your information was put at risk. Since Equifax is a credit card company, most consumers who have had any type of credit record may have been impacted.
For those who have determined their data was at risk, the following options exist for benefits:
1. Free Credit Monitoring or Cash
Consumers can get four years of credit monitoring services for all three credit reporting agencies. In addition to Equifax, this means you will get free monitoring for Experian and TransUnion. Consumers are also eligible to an additional six years of monitoring services for their Equifax only report. In the event any breach of a legal minor’s information, they will be entitled to free monitoring services until they reach the age of 18.
For any consumer who has already signed up for paid credit monitoring services, and who can document that such service will remain in effect for a minimum of six months, there is an option for a cash settlement. However, it is important to note the amount of that settlement cannot be determined at this time because the final amount will be determined by the number of claims which consumers file.
2. Additional Reimbursements are Possible under the Equifax Breach Settlement
Consumers who purchased credit monitoring services between September 7, 2016 and September 7, 2017, those who spent resources recovering from identity theft, whether that included freezing their credit, or who had unauthorized charges to a financial account could claim reimbursement of up to $20,000. Hours spent fighting back against the fallout from the breach can be reimbursed up to 20 hours at $25 per hour of time spent assuming one can document the time.
3. Recovering Your Identity After Fraudulent Use
For those who suffered any type of direct fraud because of identity theft during the Equifax breach, they are entitled to free restorative services for a period of at least seven years from the date the initial fraud occurred. This is an important component of the Equifax breach settlement because consumers who suffered from this type of issue could potentially identify new accounts opened, loans taken out, and even taxes filed under their names as a result of the Equifax security breach.
Fortunately, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has been working with the FTC and Equifax to ensure consumers understand their rights and potential benefits they may be entitled to. In fact, they have set up a website specifically designed to help those who were impacted by the Equifax security breach. Every consumer, whether they think they were impacted or not, should review the information on the CFPB consumer site set up for the Equifax breach settlement and learn their rights as well as the process they need to follow to file a claim.
Having personal information distributed because of a data breach is something we all fear. When this type of breach occurs with an organization, such as Equifax, which maintains credit records for anyone who uses credit it is terrifying. The potential to be negatively impacted by this type of security breach is high. Consumers should monitor their credit regularly and take advantage of the opportunity to obtain their free credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Typically, the only time we become aware there may be a problem is when either our bank account is breached, or when a transaction we do not recognize is identified on our credit report. Keep your credit information safe, and make sure you take as many precautions as possible to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.