How You Can Cash in on the Equifax Data Breach

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Identity theft
Amir Kaljikovic /

If you were among the 147 million people impacted by the 2017 Equifax data breach, you might have some money coming your way.

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission announced a settlement in which Equifax has agreed to spend up to $425 million helping people caught up in the well-publicized data breach.

That means you can soon file a claim to get benefits such as:

Free credit monitoring or a $125 cash payment. You can get at least four years of free credit monitoring at three major credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In addition, you can get up to six more years of monitoring of your Equifax credit report.

Or, if you prefer, you can get a cash payment instead of the credit monitoring. According to the FTC:

“If you have credit monitoring that will continue for at least 6 months and you decide not to enroll in the free credit monitoring offered in the settlement, you may be eligible for a cash payment of $125.”

Reimbursement for your time and other cash payments. Some people may be eligible for reimbursement and cash payments — up to $20,000 — for the following:

  • Time spent protecting your identity or recovering from identity theft — “up to 20 hours at $25 per hour,” according to the FTC.
  • Money spent protecting your identity or recovering from identity theft. This might include the cost of freezing or unfreezing your credit report, for example.
  • Up to 25% of the cost of Equifax credit monitoring or identity protection products purchased between Sept. 7, 2016, and Sept. 7, 2017.

Free identity restoration services. The FTC says you are eligible for free identity restoration services for at least seven years “that you can use if someone steals your identity or you experience fraud.”

When can you file?

You cannot file a claim just yet; instead, you’ll need to wait for court approval of the settlement. But you can sign up for email alerts from the FTC that will keep you up to date about when claims are being accepted. To sign up, stop by the FTC website.

If you are unsure whether you were impacted by the breach, the FTC will soon unveil a tool that can help you find out. Signing up for email alerts is one way to learn when this tool is up and running, the FTC says.

Is free credit monitoring or cash better?

When it comes time to file a claim, you will have to decide whether you want credit monitoring or a cash payment.

Credit monitoring has its limitations. As we note in “Should You Use a Credit Freeze to Protect Yourself?“:

“The biggest drawback is that credit monitoring companies don’t prevent fraud from happening. They simply notify you after the fact.”

A credit freeze, on the other hand, can prevent certain instances of fraud.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:

“Creditors typically won’t offer you credit if they can’t access your credit reporting file, so a security freeze, also called a credit freeze, prevents you or others from opening accounts in your name. Security freezes can be useful in preventing an identity thief from opening a new credit account in your name.”

However, even a freeze can come with downsides. For more, check out “Why Freezing Your Credit for Free Could Be a Mistake.”

Which settlement option do you plan to choose? Let us know in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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