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Equifax Settlement Guide: How to Get the Money and What You Need to Know

Before you try to make payments in the settlement of Equifax, if you think your identity has been stolen, there are some critical things you should know. (Michael Nagle / Bloomberg News)

The bad news: Almost half of all Americans were affected by the 2017 Equifax data breach, where hackers stole personal information for more than 147 million people: credit card numbers, social security numbers and other identifying information.

The good news: As part of a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission, those whose data was stolen may receive some compensation: 10 years of free credit monitoring, or perhaps $ 125, depending on how badly you were affected. The payout can amount to as much as $ 20,000 if you can prove that your identity was stolen and you suffered because of it.

But there is a lot of fine style and there are deadlines. And if you think your identity has been stolen, there are some critical things you should know before trying to make money.

[ Related stories: How to self-certify to get $ 250 in compensation / How Equifax settlement of data breaches could be better / Senators joking Equifax, Marriott's massive data breach managers ]

First, if your information (most importantly, your social security number) was part of the hack, then you should assume it's out there forever. Even if someone has not stolen your identity yet, it can still happen.

Second, even if you apply for a refund, there is a good chance that you will not actually receive the full $ 125 that Equifax and the FTC are talking about. Things are carefully worded in the deal, but in the end, there is a limited amount of money in the payout pool, and it doesn't cover $ 125 checks for 147 million people.

Given all this, the biggest loophole you should be aware of is that if you do nothing, you will automatically waive your right to take legal action against Equifax in the future.

Learn about your information stolen in the crime

Check if your information has been stolen by entering the last six digits of your social security number and your last name on the Equifax form (or call 833-759-2982). If it is not stolen, you are not authorized and you can move on with your life without thinking about this solution.

If your information was compromised. . . you have several options.

File for "Alternative Compensation Compensation"

Note : By doing so, you waive your right to take legal action against Equifax in the future

Deadline: January 22, 2020 [19659023] You can submit a standard payment application, up to 10 years credit monitoring – OR – up to $ 125 more if you already pay for credit monitoring. They call it "Alternative Compensation Compensation," and it's the easiest route you can take.

If you really want cash, you can sign up for a free credit monitoring service like CreditKarma. Some credit card companies and banking services (such as Mint) also offer credit monitoring services.

Fine print reveals why many people do not receive the full $ 125. They will only pay that amount until the inquiries hit a $ 31 million cap. The dividends are then lowered and distributed proportionally. The total pool for repayment is $ 380.5 million.

We were trying to find out how many disbursement requests had been filed on Friday afternoon, but the FTC was unable to provide an answer as it was still early in the process. Equifax did not answer our questions.

Register for a larger refund

Note : By doing so, you waive your right to take legal action against Equifax in the future

Deadline: [19659023] Jan. 22, 2020

If you have spent or lost money as a result of the hack (legal or accounting fees or the money you lost because someone stole your identity and charged a large amount of money on accounts in your name, the money you spent and freeze your credit , postage, etc.) then it will not be enough for $ 125.

In this case, you can file a claim of up to $ 20,000. You have to provide proof of time and money spent, and the process is more involved.

You can also only file for time use as a result of the data breach, $ 25 per hour for up to 20 hours. If you claim for more than 10 hours, the FTC writes, you must account for the actions you have taken and provide documentation to identify theft or fraud. If you claim less than 10 hours, you just need to specify what actions you took and how much time was spent.

You do not have to prove that your identity was stolen directly as a result of the 2017 violation, but it must have occurred after the violation. You must submit an application by January 22, 2020. Read more about how to apply online here or by email here. If you were a minor on May 13, 2017, you must download and email in this application form.

Don't settle, keep the option to continue your own legal action

Note : This is the only option where you retain your right to sue Equifax in the future

Deadline: November 19, 2019

It sounds the opposite, but if you were hit by the violation you are automatically included in this solution. And it's similar to some of the settlements you hear about in court – if you settle, you're done. You can't bring it up in court again. You cannot sue Equifax for damages caused by the violation because you were already a member of the group that settled.

If you do not want to settle and you want to retain the opportunity to take legal action against Equifax as an individual, you must opt ​​out of the settlement by sending a written "request for exclusion", postmarked November 19 2019, to the Settlement Administrator. If you do not meet this deadline, you will lose the right to sue Equifax for the crime.

Read more about this process in Equifax's FAQ section 23.

If you do nothing

If you were affected by the violation and choose to do nothing, under the terms of the settlement you will not be eligible for any of the said benefits. In addition, this means that you will lose your right to sue Equifax for damages caused by the infringement or continue to pursue separate claims that you have filed.

Click here to sign up for FTC updates via settlement email.

Marie C. Baca contributed to this report.

Read more:

The nervous story of having my social security hacked

Equifax to pay up to $ 700 million to resolve state, federal security breach investigations

I called Equifax with a simple question . This is what happened.

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