In July, credit bureau Equifax agreed to pay nearly $700 million over its massive 2017 data breach. Under the terms of the settlement, affected consumers could potentially get up to $20,000 in reimbursement. But even if you didn’t suffer any direct harm from the breach, you could claim free credit monitoring or a cash payout of up to $125 if you already have credit services in place. If you signed up to claim your $125, you probably got a confusing, frustrating email over the weekend which read in part, “You must provide the name of your credit monitoring service that you had in place when you filed your claim,” threatening to revoke your payout if you don’t. Don’t worry: You can still get your cash.
It’s entirely understandable if you thought the form you already filled out was, in fact, the Equifax settlement claim itself, but as it turns out, that the process was always going to include this second step. If you opted for money instead of the free credit monitoring option offered under the terms of the deal, you now have to prove that you’ve already got credit monitoring in place.
To verify your claim you need to visit the Equifax settlement website and provide the name of your credit monitoring service that you had in place when you filed your settlement paperwork.
You can also opt to amend your claim and select the free credit monitoring option instead of the cash payout. If you don’t want to use Equifax’s designated website to update your claim, you can also send the settlement administrator a letter that includes your full name, claim number and zip code at the following address:
In re Equifax Data Breach Settlement
c/o JND Legal Administration
PO Box 91318
Seattle, WA 98111-9418
If you do nothing before Oct. 15, 2019, your claim will be completely rejected.
But wait! There’s good news!
You very well may have credit monitoring in place, whether you realize it or not. The free credit monitoring Equifax offered after its breach has now expired, but many states offer a list of disclosed breaches that you can check. Many of those companies have given out free credit monitoring as recompense. For example, certain victims of the Capital One and Verity Health System breaches were offered free credit monitoring. If you don’t live in a state that maintains such a list, you can use tools like the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse database to jog your memory about breaches you may have been involved in that offered the service.
You also may be able to circumvent the whole credit monitoring issue altogether. The Equifax settlement has a provision through which victims can claim a cash payment for “time spent.” This means that you can claim a rate of $25 per hour for up to 20 hours of the time you wasted dealing with the fallout of the breach. But here’s the kicker: The first 10 of those hours is “self-certified,” meaning you don’t need to provide documentation, you just need to describe what you spent the time on. “You must certify that the description is truthful,” the settlement says. “Valid claims for Time Spent will be reimbursed in 15-minute increments, with a minimum reimbursement of 1-hour per claim.”
If you spent hours researching what to do about the breach, setting up credit freezes, hopping on the phone with your bank, or doing anything else remotely relevant, you can claim up to $250 for that time without needing to show any specific evidence. If you’ve already filed a claim and received the email this weekend you will likely need to contact the settlement administrator to also claim time spent, though you may be able to submit the additional claim through the web portal.
Whatever road you choose, it’s important to do something. The settlement notice mentioned the active credit monitoring requirement from the beginning, but it’s questionable to put so many hurdles between victims and their rightful compensation in the first place. Which is why that time-spent claim may be your best bet.