Affected by Equifax Data Breach? Decide How to Act by Nov. 19

The exterior building of Equifax, Inc. in Atlanta, GA.
Consumers have until Nov. 19 to opt out of the Equifax data breach class-action lawsuit and keep their right to sue Equifax or lodge a formal objection to the settlement. This photo shows the Equifax, Inc. headquarters in Atlanta. AP Photo/Mike Stewart

If you’re one of the 145.5 million Americans whose Social Security numbers were leaked in the massive Equifax data breach, mark your calendar – even if you already filed a claim in the class action lawsuit. 

The first deadline to take action approaches.

The last day to opt out of the Equifax settlement is Nov. 19, 2019. It’s also the last day to formally object to the settlement terms. The November deadline has been largely overshadowed by the January 2020 deadline to claim cash reimbursement or additional credit monitoring services. 

Opting out of the settlement “allows you to retain your rights to separately sue Equifax for claims related to the Data Breach,” according to the settlement administrator. 

Taking no action by Nov. 19 effectively locks you into one of three settlement options:

  • Up to 10 years of free credit monitoring services, including identity theft insurance.
  • If you can show that you have current credit monitoring services that will last for at least six months, a one-time payment up to $125.
  • A payout up to $20,000 if you can prove you invested time or money into identity theft services because of the breach.

On July 22, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Equifax agreed to pay up to $700 million in fines and reimbursements, with up to $425 million earmarked for consumer compensation. Many Americans took that as a green light to claim the $125 reimbursement, but those who submitted a claim are finding out that the process is much muddier. 

(As with most class-action lawsuit defendants, Equifax does not have to admit guilt, and the credit monitoring company maintains it did nothing wrong.)

Following the initial announcement, the FTC said that due to “an enormous number of claims” reimbursement would be “nowhere near the $125.”

The FTC then specified in September that funding for the $125 reimbursement comes from a pool of $31 million. The problem then becomes simple math, meaning only 248,000 claimants could actually collect the amount they applied for.

Those who had already submitted a claim for the $125 received an email from the FTC that highlighted an extra step to receive the funds: proving they had credit monitoring at the time of their initial claim – a stipulation not prominent in the claim submission process.

Many consumers took to social media to air their grievances.

One affected consumer, Charles Kokoska, took it a step further by petitioning the FTC on the handling of the Equifax settlement.

“Force Equifax to pay for their greed, even if it drives them into dissolution,” reads the petition, which has received more than 220,000 signatures.

Though unlikely, the settlement terms outlined in July could change come Dec. 19, the date of the final approval hearing, but only if the court receives enough formal objections.

Tweets and signatures notwithstanding.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He specializes in ways to make money that don’t involve stuffy corporate offices. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.