In 2017, Equifax, one of the country's three major credit reporting bureaus (along with Experian and TransUnion), announced that criminals had hacked into its computer network. This breach exposed the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and driver's license numbers of around 147 million people. Many lawsuits against Equifax, as well as governmental investigations into the company, followed.
As part of a legal settlement, Equifax agreed to pay around $500 million to affected consumers. This settlement received final approval from the presiding court on January 13, 2020, but the distribution of benefits under the settlement stalled pending various appeals. Those appeals have been resolved, and the settlement is now effective. So, Equifax will finally begin distributing benefits to settle claims over the massive data breach that happened years ago.
Under the settlement, affected consumers could make claims to receive the following types of benefits.
Under the terms of the settlement, you could make a claim to get free credit monitoring services at the three major bureaus (though Experian) for at least four years, as well as $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance, plus up to six more years of free one-bureau credit monitoring from Equifax. If you were a minor in May 2017, you could get a total of 18 years of free credit monitoring.
If you already had credit monitoring or protection services in place that would last for at least six more months, you could instead ask for a cash payment of up to $125. (But in the end, claimants will probably get much less than $125. The settlement set aside $31 million for this type of claim, and if the number of valid claims exceeds that amount, each person's amount will be reduced proportionally. According to the Equifax Data Breach Settlement website, this benefit is likely to be significantly less because of the many received claims.)
Under the settlement, you could make a claim to get compensation for up to 20 hours at $25 per hour for the time you spent taking measures to prevent identity theft or time spent dealing with identity theft. Some consumers could be eligible for cash payments up to $20,000 to cover losses reasonably traceable to the breach.
If your identity was stolen, you could make a claim to get at least seven years of free identity restoration services to help correct the effects of identity theft and fraud.
If you filed a claim for free credit monitoring, you should receive an email or mailed letter by February 25, 2022, with an activation code and instructions on claiming the benefit.
Other benefits, like if you asked for cash for time spent dealing with issues related to the breach and compensation for out-of-pocket losses, are under review. You'll be contacted if additional information is needed about your claim. Settlement benefits for eligible time spent and out-of-pocket losses are likely to begin issuing in fall 2022. The Equifax Data Breach Settlement website will provide updates. If you still have your claim number, you can enter it on the website and check the status of your claim.
Effective date: January 24, 2022