Equifax's massive $700 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week means that you could be eligible for a cash payment if you spent time on protecting or cleaning up your credit file as a result of the 2017 data breach. You have six months to find out if you're eligible and file a claim for part of the up to $425 million the company will set aside to compensate consumers affected.
Considering that 147 million Americans had their data compromised in an attack that allowed hackers to access private data including social security numbers by exploiting a flaw in Equifax's security, there's a good chance you might be able to claim your share. The good news is that you can check whether you're eligible in just 10 seconds.
Find out if you're eligible.
Visit the settlement eligibility checker and enter your last name and the last six digits of your social security number to find out if your information was included in the breach. If so, you can then follow the prompts to file a claim.
According to the site, "You can receive free, three-bureau credit monitoring at all three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Experian will provide this service for at least four years. You can also enroll in free, single-bureau credit monitoring of your Equifax credit file, provided by Equifax, for up to six years after the Experian service ends."
Or, if you're skeptical about having Equifax monitor your credit at this point, you can choose a cash payout and sign up for a different credit monitoring service on your own.
File a claim.
Even if all you did was sign up for a free credit monitoring service, or put a freeze on your file, you can claim at least $125 for your effort. If you spent more time, you could be eligible for more based on the amount of time and money you spent, up to $20,000 for repairing any damage done by cases of identity theft as a result of hackers accessing your personal information.
Still, don't count on a huge payout. While the settlement provides for up to $20,000, in order to claim an amount that high, you would need to prove actual losses as a victim of identity theft and provide documentation that shows exactly what you had to do to clean up the mess.
If you spent less than 10 hours, you don't have to jump through quite as many hoops and could claim up to $25 per hour for your time. And the $125 payment is available if you certify that you already have credit monitoring and will keep it in place for the next 6 months. Also, keep in mind that the settlement has to still be approved by a federal judge, so will be months before you see any money.
If you don't already have credit monitoring services in place, you probably haven't been paying close enough attention to the world we live in. It's almost a no brainer as your personal information is increasingly at risk from attackers and even the services you use every day.
And considering it only takes 10 seconds to find out if you're eligible, and a few minutes at most to file a claim, there's really no reason at all not to stop what you're doing right now and take a few steps to make sure you're protected.