Guest Writer David Eisenberg, CIO, First International Title
Equifax has settled with the US Federal Trade Commission over its 2017 data breach which affected 147 million Americans. This includes as much as $425 million for individual compensation. You could qualify for some form of compensation as a result of this settlement.
The Equifax Data Breach Settlement website has a look-up tool where you can find out whether your data was compromised and then file a claim online. If you have been compromised, you can sign up for TEN YEARS of free credit monitoring (4 years of three-bureau plus 6 years of one-bureau) or up to $125 (if you can submit documents proving loss).
Check your eligibility here: https://eligibility.equifaxbreachsettlement.com
If you don't do anything, you relinquish your right to sue Equifax in the future and you give up on the $125 or 10 years of free credit monitoring provided by the settlement. Your deadline to opt out is November 19 and your deadline to file a claim based on this settlement is January 22.
If the Equifax Settlement eligibility look-up tool reveals that you have been a victim of their breach then can you get credit monitoring for free or $125. If you prefer $125 you would need to provide sufficient documentation proving financial loss due to the breach and upload that documentation onto the website. Even if you have proof (IRS documentation, etc.), ten years of credit monitoring is worth much more than $125. In my opinion, the only reason to take the money is if you had significant loss due to identify theft and can prove it was caused by the Equifax breach, and you intend to sue for that loss. Or, if you can provide documentation and you already have credit monitoring elsewhere, then take the cash.
“Credit monitoring” is often not what you might think it is… it’s not a “lock” or “freeze” but rather a way of getting alerted when changes are made to your credit in one of the three major reporting agencies… which is still a good thing. On the other hand, Locks and Freezes prevent your credit report from reaching someone who orders it, such as when you decide to get a new car or open a new credit card. It may be burdensome to un-Lock or un-Freeze your account when you need to but often the benefits outweigh the inconvenience, knowing no one can access your credit data without your intervention. Deciding which one is right for you is something you’ll need to think about but, at a minimum, I always suggest signing up for credit monitoring even if it’s a few bucks per year.
Remember, the law also entitles you to 1 free credit report every 12 months. Whether or not you sign up for anything you should absolutely take advantage of this for yourself, and all your family members, once a year to review the information for accuracy. It’s free, it’s the law, and only ONE website is legitimate: https://www.annualcreditreport.com.