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WASHINGTON -- Today is the final day that the 147 million consumer-victims of the massive Equifax data breach can file a claim against the credit bureau to get compensation of “up to” $125 each. However, so many consumers have already filed claims that when the compensation fund is divided, victims probably won’t get very much cash.
"The $31 million that Equifax will dole out to the majority of its victims is like a minor accounting error to a company that size,” said U.S. PIRG’s Senior Director of Federal Consumer Programs Ed Mierzwinski. “But for consumers who’ve had to deal with the stress, inconvenience and financial repercussions of this breach, the whole process has been a major life disruption.”
To get additional money, consumers have to be able to prove that the Equifax breach led to their identity theft. Those victims can get payouts from a separate fund, but that is capped as well. Hundreds of millions of the reported total settlement of about $700 million mostly goes to credit monitoring services, as well as to states and fines paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"Consumers lose twice here: first, getting their data stolen because it wasn’t properly protected, and second, because nearly half of the settlement money goes toward credit monitoring,” said Mierzwinski. “Credit monitoring is not all that useful when you can get a free credit freeze.”
U.S. PIRG has long recommended that the most important action consumers can take -- and today is NOT the deadline -- is to place credit freezes on each of their three credit reports (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Free credit freezes are a right provided by federal law and stop new account identity theft. Learn more about your options at the FTC settlement page, and learn more about how to freeze your credit and other steps to protect yourself from identity theft here.
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