Equifax will pay up to $700 million to settle with the U.S. and states over a 2017 data breach that exposed Social Security numbers and other private information of nearly 150 million people.
The settlement with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission, as well as 48 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, would provide up to $425 million in monetary relief to consumers, a $100 million civil money penalty, and other relief.
The breach was one of the largest ever to threaten the private information. The consumer reporting agency, based in Atlanta, did not detect the attack for more than six weeks. The compromised data included Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, driver license numbers, credit card numbers and in some cases, data from passports.
Affected consumers may be eligible to receive money by filing one or more claims for conditions including money spent purchasing credit monitoring or identity theft protection after the breach and the cost of freezing or unfreezing credit reports at any consumer reporting agency.
All impacted consumers would be eligible to receive at least 10 years of free credit-monitoring, at least seven years of free identity-restoration services and, starting Dec. 31 and extending seven years, all U.S. consumers may request up to six free copies of their Equifax credit report during any 12-month period.
If consumers choose not to enroll in the free credit monitoring product available through the settlement, they may seek up to $125 as a reimbursement for the cost of a credit-monitoring product of their choice. Consumers must submit a claim in order to receive free credit monitoring or cash reimbursements.
Here are four things to know about the settlement:
- Not everyone eligible will get $125. The FTC is asking people to opt instead for the free credit monitoring.
- If you have already filed your claim and requested your $125, you could get much less if the company needs to spread the allotted $31 million out to cover everyone who chose the cash option.
- There is still money available under the settlement to reimburse people for what they paid out of their pocket to recover from the breach. Say you had to pay for your own credit freezes after the breach, or you hired someone to help you deal with identity theft. The settlement has a larger pool of money for just those people. If you’re one of them, use your documents to submit your claim.
- Beware of fake websites trying to trick you into giving your personal information, posing as the Equifax website. Here is the real website where you can see if you are eligible to receive either money or free credit monitoring. Here is the website where you file the claim.