About two years ago, almost half of the American population had their personal information compromised by hackers in the huge Equifax database. Consumers were outraged, lawmakers criticized the CEO and Equifax finally reached an agreement with regulators for up to $ 700 million.
Despite the anger, the vast majority of the 147 million consumers eligible for the agreement are hiding it. As of December 1, only more than 10 percent of affected consumers had archived for some kind of compensation.
Wednesday was the deadline for initial claims under the agreement, including requests for free credit monitoring services or the so-called alternative compensation, a payment of up to $ 125 for those who already had some type of monitoring. It was also the initial deadline to request payment for the time spent dealing with the inconvenience, and for claims for out-of-pocket expenses or losses incurred due to the violation.
In a way, the initial settlement period was a success: according to a judicial document, the fund is expected to pay in full all legitimate claims for pocket losses.
In others, it was an exercise in frustration: those seeking the cash option will receive much less than the $ 125 limit. More than 4.5 million people had submitted claims for cash payment as of December 1. Only $ 31 million of the agreement was reserved for the cash option; That equals less than $ 7 per person.
The Federal Trade Commission had warned of that possibility Months ago, he described the public response to the agreement as "overwhelming" and told consumers that every person who took the option in cash would probably get a very small sum.
Free credit monitoring services, the commission said, provided much better value. Approximately 3.3 million people agreed and requested monitoring services from credit agencies, from three credit bureaus, for four years. Of these, 2.3 million requested monitoring for an additional six years.
Approximately 1.8 million people requested compensation for the time they spent resolving the breach as of December 1. And almost 282,000 filed claims for losses from your pocket.
If there is still money in the consumer fund after making all the initial payments, there will be an extended claim period until January 22, 2024. That would cover people who incurred losses from their pocket within that period and would provide a compensation from the time spent dealing with the violation. Those claims would be paid in order of arrival.
And if there is still money left after that, it will be distributed among those who have submitted claims, including through additional cash payments and additional credit monitoring services, in accordance with the agreement documents.
The Equifax gap It touched a nerve because the large amount of confidential consumer data that the company collects comes from third parties such as banks and other companies, and people have no way to opt out.
The reports created by Equifax, and two other consumer credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, are used to calculate credit scores, three-digit numbers that banks, insurers, lenders and others often use to make decisions. That alter life. The gap illustrates how a centerpiece of the financial system has fallen through regulatory cracks, despite the crucial data it handles.
However, not all consumers whose data Equifax collects were affected by the violation. A website created by the company that manages claims, equifaxbreachsettlement.com, has a tool for consumers to verify if their information was exposed.
Jack Begg contributed to the investigation.