Equifax Settlement Update (August 2019)

Last week, I wrote about the Equifax settlement that allowed eligible folks to make a claim for $125 in cash (or more). Well, it turns out that the Equifax settlement has been handled about as well as Equifax handled our data and that reward for $125 in cash isn’t going to happen. 

Equifax settlement update 

The FTC just released the latest update on the Equifax settlement and it turns out that way more people filed claims than they expected. Here’s what the (odd) FTC update states: 

The public response to the settlement has been overwhelming. Millions of people have visited this site in just the first week. Because the total amount available for these alternative payments is $31 million, each person who takes the money option is going to get a very small amount. Nowhere near the $125 they could have gotten if there hadn’t been such an enormous number of claims filed.

So we know the total cap for these payments is $31,000,000 and that 147 million people were affected. So if everyone affected made a claim, that would amount to 21 cents per person. But let’s just say 10,000,000 filed a claim (only 6.8% of the people affected). That would still only be $3.10 in damages awarded per person.

Therefore, since “[m]illions of people have visited this site in just the first week,” I would not be surprised to see awards given for ~$5 or less. 

Because of this, the FTC is trying to sell this option encouraging people to sign up for the free credit monitoring system instead. 

The free credit monitoring provides a much better value, and everyone whose information was exposed can take advantage of it. If your information was exposed in the data breach, and you file a valid claim before the deadline, you are guaranteed at least four years of free monitoring at all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance, among other benefits. The market value of this product is hundreds of dollars per year.

You can still choose the cash option on the claim form, but you will be disappointed with the amount you receive and you won’t get the free credit monitoring.

Credit monitoring is nice but it’s easy to get free credit monitoring with companies like Credit Karma so I’m not sure how much value I’d put in this (although they offer it for all three credit bureaus and provide $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance which might be something to look into). 

Even though it feels weird to see the FTC essentially marketing this option, this will probably be the better option for many people given the extremely low cash pay out, but I’m curious about the specifics involved with things like the identity theft insurance and “other benefits.” 

Your options 

So you basically have four choices if you have already filed a claim.

Do nothing

You can just accept the fact that you’ll receive a check in the mail for a negligible amount of money likely sometime in 2020. 

Wait to do something

This is what I’m doing. I’m waiting until I hear more specifics on the pay out, credit monitoring/insurance and other benefits before making a decision. If you go this route you may want to sign up to get email updates about the settlement.

Change your election

You can change your election to the free credit monitoring when you’re contacted via email by a settlement admin (whenever that might be). You also can send an email to [email protected] to make a change to your claim.

Opt out?

Your final choice would be to try to opt out. I’m not sure if you can opt out after filing a claim but given the material change in damages you agreed to, I believe they should allow you to do opt back out. Here’s some info on how that might be done. 

If you are a member of the settlement class but do not want to remain in the class, you may exclude yourself from the class (also known as “opting out”). If you exclude yourself, you will lose any right to participate in the settlement, including any right to receive the benefits outlined in the Notice.

You will be bound by the terms of the Settlement Agreement unless you submit a timely and signed written request to be excluded from the settlement. To exclude yourself from the settlement you must mail a “request for exclusion,” postmarked no later than 11/19/2019, to:

Equifax Data Breach Class Action Settlement Administrator
Attn: Exclusion
c/o JND Legal Administration
P.O. Box 91318
Seattle, WA 98111-9418

This statement must contain the following information:

  1. The name of this proceeding (In re: Equifax Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, Case No. 1:17-md-2800-TWT, or similar identifying words such as “Equifax Data Breach Lawsuit”);
  2. Your full name;
  3. Your current address;
  4. The words “Request for Exclusion” at the top of the document or a statement that you do not wish to participate in the settlement; and
  5. Your signature.

Read more about how to opt out here. 

Final word 

This outcome is not surprising but it is annoying to see a claim filing process handled so poorly from the jump. I personally am going to wait to hear a little bit more information/specifics before making my decision. But if you think you might want to pursue an actual legal claim in the future, you should consider consulting with an attorney and perhaps opting out (if that’s even possible at this stage).