In case you missed it, the FTC has ordered Equifax to compensate Americans affected by the massive data breach of 2017. (Nearly 150 million people were affected, so if you live in America, chances are good that you were. This Equifax tool will tell you for sure.) And so Equifax has set up a website (this one) on which you can file a claim to receive compensation. The deadline to file is January 22, 2020.
Your options are as follows:
- Up to 10 years of free credit monitoring (four at all three major credit bureaus and six more at just Equifax)
- Up to $125 cash
But here’s the thing. The money allocated for people who choose the cash option is fixed at $31 million, and millions of people have already made a claim. As a result, in the FTC’s own words, “each person who takes the money option is going to get a very small amount…you will be disappointed with the amount you receive.” Leo Laporte (The Tech Guy) did the math and found that if everyone eligible claimed the cash option, the payout would be around a quarter.
So you can still choose the cash option, but you might want to give the free credit monitoring option a longer look. And before you do even that, give this Slate piece a read. As author Josephine Wolff writes, credit monitoring can be valuable, but its value in this context is at least partly being measured by the parties involved, including even Experian, the credit bureau that Equifax will pay for all this claimed credit monitoring. And credit monitoring, she says, “provides much less security than placing (free) credit freezes on your credit files at Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.” Still, for free, it’s worth taking advantage of.
A note on Equifax settlement scams
As the FTC has noted, there are scammers out there looking to take advantage of the Equifax settlement process. Before you input your information, make sure you’re in the right place. From the FTC blog: “People may have already started putting up fake websites meant to look like the official Equifax settlement claims website. To be sure you’re going to the right place, start at the FTC’s page: ftc.gov/Equifax. A couple more things to remember. You’ll never have to pay to file a claim for these benefits. And anyone who calls and tries to get you to file a claim is almost certainly a scammer.”
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