You might remember all of the noise surrounding the Equifax settlement promising $125 cash for anyone who had signed up for credit monitoring following a massive breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million Americans. It sounded like a reasonable offer when I wrote about it at the time. Follow a few simple steps and submit your claim and once the settlement was approved, you'd get a check. 

Except, despite the $700 million payout figure touted by the FTC, barely any of that money was ever intended to compensate victims. Less than 5 percent will actually be used for victim compensation. That's a mere $31 million, which divided by 147 million Americans is far, far less than $125 per person. In fact, it's roughly 21 cents

That's insulting, to say the least, but now, it seems Equifax is determined to make it even harder to actually get paid. Last week, the company sent an email requiring that anyone who submitted a claim for compensation based on the fact that they already had credit monitoring will now have to prove that they actually have credit monitoring. 

If you got that email, respond to it. It's legitimate (though it looks like spam so the FTC had to clarify that it was, in fact, real). Click on the link to amend your claim by October 15, and you'll be asked to confirm your choice to receive a payment (or switch to the free credit monitoring option) and verify the service you'd previously signed up for.

Ironically, when you do this, the settlement site will tell you what everyone now knows: You're never going to see $125 from Equifax. The site clearly requires you to acknowledge that "your payment may be substantially lowered, depending on the number of claims filed."

Still, you should complete the validation form, since most people won't ever bother. As a result, they'll miss out--which is, of course, mostly the point as far as Equifax is concerned. Not only is Equifax massively under-compensating people for exposing their personal information, it's trying to weed out as many people as possible from the settlement by making them jump through additional hoops. 

By the way, there's something else you can do about that under-compensation. As Charlie Warzel points out in The New York Times, you can write a letter objecting to the terms of the settlement. It doesn't have to be fancy; a simple one-page letter will work. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the settlement website, and send it no later than November 19, 2019.

You might think that sending a letter is more work than it's worth (which again, is what Equifax is counting on), but courts actually read these letters. If enough people take the time to object to the terms as unfair, the court will take that into consideration.

It's not uncommon for government agencies to announce large settlements that mostly have little to no effect on the business involved, and little to no relief for the people who actually suffered harm. These settlements are mostly exercises in public relations, where both the government and the business get to claim something is being done.  

In this case, the only thing being done is making you work harder to receive less than Equifax promised. It's up to you whether you're going to hold the company to its promises. 

Published on: Sep 17, 2019
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