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Choosing the best option if you’re affected by the Equifax data breach

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

How should you take advantage of an offer made by the Equifax credit reporting agency, if you were affected by their 2017 breach?

KSL Newsradio’s Money Making Sense podcast host, Heather Kelly, says there are several variables to consider.

Who’s eligible?

Here’s the background. Equifax is involved in a class-action lawsuit. A settlement was proposed on July 22nd which a federal court is now considering. If approved, the settlement would pay up to $700 million in compensation to anybody affected by the breach.

So, if you experienced identity theft or even if your information was stolen and there’s been no use of it, you are eligible for the Equifax offer.

“Identity theft doesn’t mean that someone is walking around with a driver’s license with your name on it,” Heather says. “It just means that somebody managed to get access to your Social Security number or your birthdate.”

And that’s exactly the type of information that was stolen when the Equifax computer servers were compromised. Social Security numbers, driver’s license information, and birthdates were stolen from approximately 147 million people.

How Equifax is making good

Your options are spelled out on the Equifax breach settlement page. You can receive ten years of free credit monitoring.  Or you can receive $125 in cash if you already have credit monitoring.

However, if your information was actually used to steal your identity you may be eligible for other cash payments, up to $20,000. This money would cover the time you spent remedying the fraud you experienced, your out-of-pocket losses that resulted from the fraud, and up to one-quarter of the cost of credit monitoring that you paid for before the data breach announcement.

Did you get hacked?

If you haven’t already, check to see if you are a member of the class-action suit.  Be prepared to offer up a portion of your social security number to do this.

Other options?

There’s one more thing to consider, says Kelly, if you are uncertain about taking an offer of credit monitoring from a company that has admitted to losing your credit information.

“Freezing your credit on all things is actually better than credit monitoring,” Kelly says. “In some instances it’s free. So if your information is out there, people will still be able to see your Social Security number or your birth date … but they cannot apply for credit with it because you’ve frozen your reports.