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In 2017, major consumer credit reporting agency Equifax announced it had incurred a significant data breach. The breach exposed the personal information of approximately 147 million people. After the announcement, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took Equifax to court for its role in the events that caused the breach.
A global settlement with the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and all 50 US states and territories was reached that would look to pay back the people affected by the data breach. In total, Equifax must pay up to $425 million to impacted consumers.
Keep reading to learn about the Equifax breach settlement in more detail, including what impacted consumers should know about filing a claim and claim eligibility.
What Does the Equifax Breach Settlement Include?
The Equifax breach settlement determined that the organization would have to provide for impacted people:
- Up to $425 million in support
- Free credit monitoring and identity theft services
- Strong data security requirements
Individuals who believe they were affected by the breach may be eligible for certain benefits. The types of benefits available include the following three things:
1. Free Credit Monitoring or Cash Payment
Individuals can receive at least four years of free credit monitoring on credit reports at all three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian). Additionally, you may be able to receive up to six more years of free credit monitoring of your Equifax credit report.
That’s up to 10 years of free credit monitoring total, and minors impacted by the breach are eligible for even more than 10 years of free credit monitoring.
2. Reimbursement of Your Time and Other Cash Payment
Individuals may be eligible for reimbursement and cash payments up to $20,000. These payments could be for the following:
- The time you spent protecting your identity or recovering from identity theft, up to 20 hours at $25 per hour ($500 max).
- The money you spent protecting your identity or recovering from identity theft. This could include the cost of freezing and unfreezing your credit report or unauthorized charges to your account.
- Up to 25% of the total cost you spent on Equifax credit monitoring or identity protection products between September 7, 2016, and September 7, 2017.
3. Free Identity Restoration Services
If someone steals your identity or you experience fraud, you’re eligible to receive free identity restoration services for at least seven years.
Who Can File a Claim?
You can file a claim if you were one of the 147 million American consumers identified by Equifax whose personal information was impacted by the breach.
You can find out if you were one of the impacted consumers by:
- Going to the Equifax Breach Settlement Eligibility website.
- Entering your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Make sure to check all of the last names you’ve used (such as your maiden name and married name).
- Or, you can choose to call the Settlement Administrator toll-free at 1-833-759-2982.
Many people who were impacted by the Equifax data breach were contacted by Equifax directly.
If you’ve experienced identity theft since September 2016, there’s a chance the data breach impacted you. Examples of identity theft are credit card fraud, medical claim fraud, tax claim fraud and auto lending fraud, to name just a few.
The deadline for filing an initial claim has passed, but the extended filing period goes through January 22, 2024.
If You File a Claim
Currently, claims are being reviewed and validated by the settlement administrator. This settlement administrator is a neutral third party who makes sure a court-approved settlement is followed properly.
Equifax is asking individuals to be patient, as the claims process can take several more months (or longer) to sort through. You can check the settlement website for regular updates. Simply enter your claim number on the website to check the status of your claim.
Did You Ask for Money?
If you filed a claim for the compensation of up to $125 or reimbursement for time spent recovering from fraud, you will eventually receive a check or debit card. It will be mailed to the address that was stated on your claim.
Be prepared to receive significantly less compensation than you requested. A large number of claims seem to have been filed, which reduces the maximum amount each individual gets.
Did You Ask for Free Data Monitoring?
You will receive an email with an activation code and instructions for your free data monitoring services. Make sure to watch out for scams pretending to be Equifax and trying to steal your information.
If You Don’t File a Claim
Even if you didn’t file a claim, you’re eligible to receive some free benefits from the Equifax breach settlement.
If anyone impacted by the breach experiences identity theft in the next seven years, they can access free identity restoration services from Experian. (Your account has to be identified as impacted by the Equifax breach, though.)
These identity restoration services can help deal with government agencies, credit bureaus and companies after experiencing identity fraud. To find out how to get the free identity restoration services, call the settlement administrator at 833-759-2982.
Additionally, all US consumers (not just the ones impacted by the breach) are eligible for six additional free credit reports from Equifax every year for the next seven years, as mandated by the Federal Trade Commission. Consumers are encouraged to take advantage of this offer.
When you regularly check your credit report, you’re more likely to spot suspicious activity sooner. If you act quickly, you can reduce the damage identify fraud can do to your credit report.
Learn How You Can Protect Your Information
This data breach has highlighted just how important it is for consumers to know how to protect their information. Unfortunately, you can’t opt out of your information being provided to the credit bureaus, but you can check your credit and freeze your credit report for free. Additionally, you can place fraud alerts on your account anytime it’s necessary.
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft that has damaged your credit, consider seeking out credit repair services, like Lexington Law. We offer a free online credit evaluation that includes your credit score, a negative item summary and recommended credit solutions. Sign up now to get started.
Reviewed by John Heath, Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, John Heath earned his BA from the University of Utah and his Juris Doctor from Ohio Northern University. John has been the Directing Attorney of Lexington Law Firm since 2004. The firm focuses primarily on consumer credit report repair, but also practices family law, criminal law, general consumer litigation and collection defense on behalf of consumer debtors. John is admitted to practice law in Utah, Colorado, Washington D. C., Georgia, Texas and New York.
Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.