On July 22nd, Equifax settled with the FTC, the Consumer Financial Protection Board and State Attorneys General from 47 states and territories, including New York. The $700 million settlement includes $425 million to cover the affected individuals, $175 million to the states and $100 million to the CFPB in civil penalties.
Later in July, Equifax released details of the settlement and links for consumers to process claims related to the settlement, as well as an FTC follow-up post recommending consumers file for free credit monitoring rather than receiving a flat fee payout. Concerns were also raised by Elizabeth Warren, in an open letter to the FTC, about the flat fee payout (originally stated as $125) being diminished due to the breadth of consumers actually filing claims.
Options for ConsumersFirst, check whether you are eligible. The FTC provides a link to the “look up tool.”
If you are eligible for funds, you can decide whether you want to exercise your rights under the settlement. If you would like to proceed with a claim for settlement, it must be filed by January 22, 2020. The details for filing a settlement claim are below. Consumers should get their claims in sooner rather than later as claims are being processed on a first come, first served basis.
Consumers may be entitled to one of three settlement claim opportunities. The claim opportunity depends on the consumer’s response to the original breach notification.
Choosing between cash payment options. Originally, the cash payment was advertised at $125, however, the immediate consumer response led to a currently unknown reduction in the total amount consumers may receive. If you do submit for the cash option and you previously had some form of credit monitoring or protection in place and will continue to have the credit monitoring in place for a minimum of six months from the date of your claim filing, include that credit monitoring service information in your response.
(For more on this issue, see question 5 of the FTC’s complaint FAQs.)
If you already entered a claim for the cash option, you will need to enter additional information – by October 15, 2019.
The Division has learned that the settlement group is requesting additional information from people who requested the cash option. Check your email before October 15, 2019 as you need to provide the name of the credit monitoring service and proof that you had some form of credit monitoring or protection in place and will continue to have the credit monitoring in place for a minimum of six months from the date of your claim filing.
Choosing credit monitoring option. Alternatively, if you decide instead on the 10 years of credit monitoring, the services are split:
To calculate the value to New Yorkers for the first four years, the Equifax site sets the value of full credit monitoring services at around $16.95/month, which makes it $203.40/year and $813.60 for four years, if you were purchasing the same services individually through Equifax. In addition, monitoring your Equifax credit score and FICO score daily is a service that Equifax advertises for $14.95/month, which makes it $179.40 per year and $1,076.40 for six years.
[*The calculation does not include obtaining identity theft insurance because that is not a recognized form of insurance in New York State and cannot be sold to New York residents.]
For these claims, you will need to include receipts and other documentation to show you spent the money.
Note, if you are eligible and decide to “opt in” to one the settlement options for the Equifax breach, it does not preclude you from bringing separate claims against Equifax for other issues besides the security data breach.
Opt OutIf you decide NOT to claim funds as part of the settlement, you can reserve your right to sue Equifax later, by sending a letter of exclusion by November 19, 2019.
Send the statement directly to:
Equifax Data Breach Class Action Settlement Administrator
c/o JND Legal Administration
P.O. Box 91318
Seattle, WA 98111-9418
The current settlement ends the existing cases pending against Equifax related directly to the security data breach, so only new claims can be filed. Opting-out allows you to bring a lawsuit against Equifax for specific claims related to the data breach later. Your timeline to bring a suit will depend on the statute of limitations for the additional claims you are making. The Division strongly recommends contacting an attorney prior to making the decision to opt-out of the settlement. Consumers should also review what it takes to file a claim in advance of opting out.
You have until November 19, 2019 to let Equifax know you are actively not participating in the settlement, until January 22, 2020 to file a claim for settlement or you can do nothing. If you do nothing, you give up your right to sue Equifax in the future for claims related to the data breach, and you forego the flat dollar amount or 10 years of free credit monitoring provided by the settlement.
Tools to Protect
Whether or not you were affected by the Equifax breach, New Yorkers are entitled to several tools to help manage their credit scores. By law, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are required to provide New Yorkers the opportunity to place a free fraud alert or free security freeze on their credit report. A fraud alert requires any business that submits an inquiry about your credit to check with you before opening a new account. A security freeze restricts access to your credit file, limiting access to anyone trying to open new accounts in your name. For more information about these services, see https://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/identity_theft/index.htm.
Consumers can also receive free credit reports four times a year, by first going to www.annualcreditreport.com and then go to each of the credit reporting agencies during the remainder of the year and request a free annual credit report from each (www.equifax.com, www.experian.com, and www.transunion.com).
Important Settlement Dates
November 19, 2019 – Deadline to exclude yourself from the Equifax settlement, if you want to file your own claims specifically about the 2017 security breach separately.
December 19, 2019 – The Court will hold a hearing to consider any objections, and decide whether to approve the settlement, award attorneys’ fees and expenses, and grant service awards to the named class representatives. You may enter an appearance through an attorney, but do not have to. The Court has appointed lawyers to represent you and the class, but you can hire another lawyer at your own expense.
January 22, 2020 – deadline to decide on the settlement for cash or credit monitoring services as part of the settlement.
If you have additional questions about tools to manage your credit or want to know more about monitoring your credit, the Division of Consumer Protection can assist New Yorkers via the Consumer Helpline at 800-697-1220, available Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Consumer complaints can be filed at any time via the Division’s website. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.