It was one of the biggest data breaches in U.S. history.
In 2017, millions of folks had their most valuable information – the keys to their private identities – exposed and possibly stolen. The company at fault – credit bureau giant Equifax.
Last week, Equifax reached a settlement for the data breach. It will pay up to $700 million for folks who suffered from the massive data breach.
Here's what happened...
In September of 2017, the news hit that Equifax, one of the three big credit bureaus, had been hacked.
But it was far worse than anyone imagined...
First, the management at Equifax was negligent. It could have prevented the breach. Officials confirmed that hackers accessed the credit agency's database through a website vulnerability... even though a patch to fix that flaw had been available for two months. The company failed to do its job and protect our data.
Second, the hackers gained access in mid-May. Equifax didn't alert anyone to the problem until the end of July. That's six full weeks for bad guys to do what they want with your personal information... without you knowing. And news of the hack didn't go public until September.
Equifax also didn't fully report the problem. The company initially reported that 143 million people had its data compromised. But that number grew, with a report in February 2018 saying it was 147 million. That's roughly two out of every three American adults.
And worse than that, the company may have committed securities fraud. In that interim period, executives sold off more than $1.8 million worth of shares. That's before telling the public about the hack. One of them now faces charges for insider trading.
But here's the worst part... Equifax offered a free year of credit monitoring, called "TrustedID Premier." What it didn't tell people was that you had to give the company a credit card. And when your trial ended, you would be charged about $20 a month. It was profiting from our fear.
We urged people to fight back by filing lawsuits. I covered the ins and outs of that in my research report, "How to Protect Your Income From Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Everything." Subscribers to my Retirement Millionaire newsletter can read it right here.
But now it's even easier to get what's yours from Equifax. It legally must settle with everyone affected by the breach. That's nearly every American.
Here's the breakdown:
1. If you suffered financial loss as a direct result from the breach, you could get up to $20,000.
2. If you had to spend time dealing with the breach and problems with your credit, you could get $25 per hour for up to 20 hours (that's a total of $500).
3. If you want credit monitoring done by a company of your choosing, you're entitled to $125 to pay for it. Experian and Equifax also offer free credit monitoring.
If you do want to file for compensation, you will have to prove that the breach led to damages... or has the potential to do so. That's why you can file for the $125 for credit monitoring.
The hard part: You have to prove that any financial loss or misuse of your identity is a result of the Equifax breach.
Why is that so hard? Because the number of data breaches are on the rise. In 2017, there were 1,579 data breaches – a 44.7% increase from the year before, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. In 2018, there were fewer breaches, but the ones that happened exposed far more people (126% more folks than 2017).
To see if you are one of the folks involved in the class action settlement, click here.
If you're eligible, file a claim right here on Equifax's site. You have until January 22, 2020 to file.
There isn't a lot of clarity for how Equifax (or the other credit bureaus for that matter) plans to prevent this kind of attack in the future or what it'll do for anyone who won't see the repercussions for another few years. (Remember, your identity keys sell on the black market for very little – it could be bought and sold anytime.)
That's why we urge you to take control of your own credit. For more on this and other credit tips, check out Retirement Millionaire. That includes my report on "How to Protect Your Income From Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Everything." If you aren't a subscriber yet, click here to get access to this report.
What We're Reading...
- More on what you need to know about the settlement.
- Capital One is the latest hacking victim. Here's what you should know.
- Something different: We're suspicious that "yet" is in this article title...
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
August 1, 2019