Before you delete that email with the subject line: Equifax Breach Settlement (Credit Monitoring Instructions and Activation Code), stop, take a breath and reconsider. Chances are it is legitimate. The message announces the finalized settlement for consumers of a data breach Equifax experienced in 2017 that exposed the names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses—and in some cases driver's license numbers, credit card account numbers, and other personal information of up to 147 million people.
Eligible claimants (see below) who signed up for free credit monitoring will receive free membership in Experian IdentityWorks℠ for four years. Membership includes credit monitoring from all three credit bureaus, access to your Experian credit report, Internet Surveillance, with up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, and complimentary Identity Restoration services.
Following appeals, the recently announced settlement was finalized in January 2022. eligible claimants will receive an email or letter by Feb. 22, 2022, that includes an activation code to be used to sign up for the free four-year Experian IdentityWorks℠ membership by June 27, 2022.
- Letters and emails are going out through Feb. 25, 2022 telling eligible Equifax security breach claimants how to sign up for four years of free credit monitoring.
- You must have registered a valid claim by Jan. 22, 2020 to be eligible for this offer.
- Sign up for credit monitoring with an activation code by June 27, 2022.
- While this is a legitimate settlement, be aware there will likely be scam impersonators including those that try to charge money.
- The settlement also provides an extended claims period for class members who have a claim between Jan. 23, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2024.
- Everyone is eligible for at least 7 years of free identity restoration services.
Who's a Settlement Class Member?
A settlement class member of the Equifax breach is any one of the 147 million people impacted by the breach—i.e., who had their information stolen. If you are unsure of your status, the settlement administrator has a tool to check your status as a class member on the Equifax Data Breach Settlement website. The tool asks for your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number.
When checking your status as a class member, be sure to enter any last name (including maiden name) you've used in the past.
It's important to know the difference between a settlement class member and an eligible claimant. A settlement class member is someone whose personal information was stolen during the breach, whether or not they filed an initial claim before the Jan. 22, 2020 deadline. An eligible claimant (below) is a class member who did file an initial claim before the Jan. 22 deadline.
Who's an Eligible Claimant?
If you submitted a claim and opted for free Credit Monitoring Services during the Initial Claims Period, which ended Jan. 22, 2020, you are eligible for free credit monitoring for four years, as well as other benefits and coverage that will be explained to you when you sign up for your membership.
You did not have to file a claim for damages during the initial claim period to obtain free credit monitoring. You simply had to be a settlement class member.
If you are a class member who failed to sign up for free credit monitoring or elected the cash payment option or otherwise excluded yourself, you are not eligible for free credit monitoring. However, even if you did not sign up or otherwise excluded yourself, you may still be entitled to file a claim during the Extended Claims Period, outlined below.
How to Sign Up for Free Credit Monitoring
By Feb. 25, 2022, all valid claimants will receive a letter or email from the settlement administrator that will include an activation code. You will be instructed to go to the Experian IdentityWorks website and enter your activation code by June 27, 2022 to begin your free four-year membership.
If you can't locate your activation code or have additional questions about your membership, you should contact the court-appointed administrator by secure form, regular mail, or telephone at 1-833-759-2982. The administrator notes that for security purposes, address updates must be made in writing by email, secure form, or by regular mail (not by phone).
How to Avoid a Scam
For every legitimate offer of free services, there are likely hundreds of scams. The Equifax settlement will be no different. Keep the following things in mind when evaluating any communications you receive:
- The email you receive should have the following address: email@example.com. Double check before clicking on any links.
- The website to claim the free daily credit monitoring is: experianidworks.com/equifaxsettlement. You can also call Experian at 1-877-251-5822.
- You must enter the activation code in the email you receive from the settlement administrator no later than June 27, 2022.
- If you receive communication that asks for money, it's a scam. There is no cost, no need to provide payment information, and no need to cancel the membership when it ends. Membership expires automatically.
- You will not be contacted by telephone regarding this settlement but if you want to speak to the office of the settlement administrator you can, by calling 1-833-759-2982.
Extended Claims Period
Although the deadline for settlement class members to file an Initial Claims Period claim passed on Jan. 22, 2020, class members may submit reimbursement claims for Out of Pocket Expenses and/or Time Spent for the Extended Claims Period (Jan. 23, 2020 through Jan. 22, 2024.
Specifically, you might be eligible for cash reimbursement for:
- Time Spent during the Extended Claims Period recovering from fraud, identity theft, or other misuse of your personal information caused by the data breach up to 20 total hours at $25 per hour.
- Out-of-Pocket Losses during the Extended Claims Period resulting from the data breach up to $20,000.
You will be required to submit documentation to support your claim including:
- Costs and expenses: Account statements with unauthorized charges highlighted; police reports; IRS documents; FTC Identity Theft Reports; letters refusing to refund you for fraudulent charges;
- Professional fees paid: Receipts, bills, and invoices from accountants, lawyers, or others; and/or
- Other expenses: Notary, fax, postage, copying, mileage, and long-distance telephone charges.
To receive reimbursement you must certify that you have not received reimbursement for these losses through any other means and your claim must occur between January 23, 2020 and January 22, 2024.
Even if you did not file a claim before the end of the initial sign up period (Jan. 22, 2020) you are still eligible for Identity Restoration Services.
Free Identity Restoration Services
If you are a settlement class member, you are entitled to at least 7 years of free assisted identity restoration services beginning Jan. 11, 2022, to help you remedy the effects of identity theft and fraud.
To access this benefit, use the settlement administrator look-up tool to confirm that you were affected by the breach. The confirmation page provides a phone number and engagement number to get free help with identity restoration.
Key Deadlines Pertaining to the Equifax Data Breach
Below are the key deadlines that apply to the 2017 Equifax Data Breach. Note that some deadlines have passed. If you have questions about any of these dates, contact the settlement administrator at 1-877-251-5822.
|11/19/19 PASSED||Deadline to exclude yourself from the settlement|
|11/19/19 PASSED||Deadline to object to the settlement|
|1/22/20 PASSED||Deadline to submit a claim to receive the free credit monitoring services or alternative reimbursement compensation|
|1/22/20 PASSED||Deadline to file a claim for Out-of-Pocket Losses or Time Spent through January 22, 2020|
|6/27/22||Deadline to sign up for free credit monitoring with activation code|
|1/22/24||Deadline to seek reimbursement for valid Out-of-Pocket Losses or Time Spent (excluding losses of money and time associated with freezing or unfreezing credit reports or purchasing credit monitoring or identity theft protection) between Jan. 23, 2020 and Jan. 22, 2024|
|At least 7 years after 1/11/22||Deadline to access Identity Restoration Services whether or not you make a claim under the settlement|
Sources: Equifax and Federal Trade Commission
Federal Trade Commission. "Equifax Data Breach Settlement."
U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia. "Order Granting Final Approval of Settlement." Page 20.
U.S. District Court Northern District of Georgia. "Order Granting Final Approval of Settlement." Page 6.
Equifax. "Equifax Data Breach Settlement Contact Us."