HOUSTON — From social media, to email, to submitting something on KHOU11’s website, so many of you are sending us messages about the Equifax data breach settlement.

There’s cash to claim, but you have to share some of your personal info online to get it.

So, is the claims process safe?

Here’s what we know about the 2017 Equifax data breach:

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 147 million people were impacted when one of the nation’s largest credit reporting companies was hacked.  The FTC alleged that the credit reporting company’s failure to take reasonable steps to secure its network, led to a data breach. 

A company investigation revealed multiple hackers were able to exploit the vulnerability in Equifax's network and that the hackers were able to gain entry into Equifax’s network where they accessed an unsecured filed that included administrative credentials stored in plain text. The hackers then used those credentials to gather people's personal information over the course of months.

We’re talking names, birth dates, social security numbers and physical addresses of 147 million people compromised. 

The Equifax Data Breach Settlement:

On Monday, The Federal Trade Commission announced it struck a deal with Equifax.  Affected consumers have two options when filing a claim:

1) Free Credit Monitoring For a Decade

People can choose up to 10 years of free credit monitoring which includes at least four years of free credit monitoring through all three credit bureaus.  It also includes six more years of free monitoring of your Equifax credit report AND $1,000,000 of identity theft insurance.  

If you were a minor in May 2017 you get 18 years of free credit monitoring.

2) Cash Compensation

People can instead choose to take a cash compensation of $125.  You do not get free credit monitoring.  When filing your claim, you can ask for more money, as much as $20,000, if you can explain and/or prove losses from authorized charges, or/and that you paid for credit monitoring because of the breach, or/and that you paid a professional, like an accountant or attorney, to help with identity theft.  You can be compensated for time spent dealing with the breach.  The rate is $25 and hour for up to 20 hours.

HOW TO FILE A CLAIM:

The easiest way to file a claim is online at www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com

You can also mail your claim to: Equifax Data Breach Settlement Administrator
                                                                              c/o JND Legal Administration
                                                                                                   P.O. Box 91318
                                                                                     Seattle, WA 98111-9418 

You can download a form from the website, or ask that the settlement administrator mail one to you by calling 1-833-759-2982. 

Online, you can also confirm that you were impacted by the 2017 Equifax data breach.

Once confirmed, you'll enter your name, your mailing address, phone number, email address and year of birth. 

You'll be walked through your options and then given the opportunity to choose between the free credit monitoring or the cash.  

If you choose cash, you'll have an opportunity to state your case for more money.  If you choose to explain how the breach cost you money and time, you may be asked to upload documents that prove your personal investment of time and money into repairing your credit after someone stole your identity. 

If you choose cash compensation you must choose to receive your money through check or pre-paid debit card. 

If you choose credit monitoring, you’ll receive a registration code by email or postal mail.

WHEN WILL I GET MY SETTLEMENT? 

The claims process closes January 22, 2020.  The FTC says benefits won’t be sent out until allowed by the court.  The earliest possible date will be January 23, 2020.

Other Details of the Equifax Data Breach Settlement: 

Beginning in 2020 ALL U.S. consumers will get SIX free credit reports a year for seven years from Equifax.  That’s in addition to the free one you get at www.AnnualCreditReport.com 

Equifax also has to pay $175 million to 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 

The company must also pay $100 million in civil penalties AND the company must take steps to improve its data security.

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