Equifax, one of the three largest consumer credit reporting bureaus, announced last week that hackers swiped the social security numbers, names, addresses, birth dates, and other personal and sensitive information belonging to almost half of all Americans. The breach happened sometime between May and July, but the company did not make the announcement until September. This breach was Equifax's third data breach since 2015, according to the New York Times.
Entrepreneur Joshua Browder, who created the DoNotPay chatbot that helps people appeal parking tickets, found out he was part of the breach and decided to do something. Now, victims who live in New York and California can visit the DoNotPay site and start chatting with a bot that will automatically create a lawsuit against Equifax, which the victims can print out and file in small claims court. (DoNotPay will have a bot for other states soon, a statement on the website reads.)
The bot asks for your name, address, and phone number and it returns a lawsuit ready for you to print, sign, and file at the courthouse (the bot will give you the right address). After filing the lawsuit, you have serve it to Equifax. (The bot also tells you who is the right "registered agent" for you to serve the lawsuit in your state.) The bot helps you avoid getting a lawyer to draw up a suit.
"I hope that my product will replace lawyers, and, with enough success, bankrupt Equifax," Browder told The Verge.
In two years, DoNotPay helped overturn 160,000 parking tickets, but can it help people win a settlement from the company?
Scott Nelson, who is an attorney at advocacy organization Public Citizen, tells The Verge that these kinds of cases are too complicated for a bot. Plus, it's not like the bot can represent you in court like a human lawyer could.
"Filing and winning a small claims case takes more than just filling in a form," Nelson says.
DoNotPay is not the only way victims can file a lawsuit against Equifax. On the same day the breach was announced, a lawyer filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Equifax for $70 billion. Victims who file their own small claims lawsuit can still be involved in the class action lawsuit if a judge approves the class.