If you are paying attention to the world, you will have heard by now of a proposed settlement of a class action lawsuit against one of the credit reporting agencies, Equifax.
Equifax data containing info on perhaps as many as 147 million Americans was breached by criminal cyberattacks during 2017. Social Security numbers, credit card numbers and other personal information were compromised.
The attorneys general of all 50 states, some private citizens, together with federal agencies charged with protecting consumers, filed suit against Equifax for lack of security and oversight. A class action was declared on behalf of every person whose information was affected by the breach.
Settlement is pending wherein members of the class would be entitled to a host of remedies. These include cash payment of up to $20,000 for losses suffered from unauthorized charges, costs of freezing or unfreezing your account, purchases of credit monitoring, and fees paid to accountants or lawyers. Compensation for the time spent dealing with your breach can also be compensated.
If part of this class, you are limited to the remedies that are part of the proposed settlement in the lawsuit pending in federal court in northern Georgia.
If you wish to get out of the class so as to preserve your right to sue independently, you must do so by notifying the settlement administrator in writing, signed by you and containing your name, address, the name of the lawsuit and the statement that you request exclusion. It must be mailed, “not emailed, not faxed, but mailed,” by Nov. 19, 2019.
If you exclude yourself from the class, you are free to sue Equifax but do so at your own expense. You may then settle or win in a manner that gets you more than what is offered in this settlement.
If you do not opt out, you are limited to the relief approved in the settlement. Even if you stay in the class, you can still sue Equifax’s directors and officers who have been excluded from the proposed settlement.
If you want to stay in the class, you can file your claim now. There is the Federal Trade Commission’s website for settlement that is well-organized and easy to use, answers many questions, allows you to investigate if you have been affected by the breach, and to file claims: www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com
The deadline to file a claim is Jan. 22, 2020. No payout on claims will be made prior to the claim deadline.
If you don’t file a claim by then, and you did not opt out of the class by the November 2019 deadline, you may be out of luck if the settlement is approved this winter by the judge overseeing the lawsuit.
Even if no claim is filed, for seven years you are eligible to get free identity restoration services if you discover a misuse of your personal information in Equifax.
Starting in 2020, all U.S. consumers can get six free credit reports per year for seven years from Equifax. That’s in addition to the one free one per year that all three agencies provide (the others being Experian and Transunion).
The cyberthieving will continue.
Until we meet again, Professor Moriarty.