In late January 2022, Google users looked to Reddit and elsewhere to find out if an email for the status of the Equifax data breach settlement was a "scam or legit," as readers often do after receiving such notices. The email had the subject line, "Equifax Data Breach Settlement (Credit Monitoring Instructions and Activation Code)," and linked to the website, experianidworks.com/equifaxsettlement. It promised a free four-year membership for the credit monitoring service Experian IdentityWorks.
This was a legitimate notice for a data breach settlement for Equifax. Readers might remember making a claim in the settlement back in July 2019. Users who opted to receive credit monitoring instead of a check were sent activation codes in the new email for Experian IdentityWorks. The official website for the settlement was equifaxbreachsettlement.com.
What’s This About?
The official settlement website documented the fact that in September 2017, Equifax was "the victim of a criminal cyberattack," giving the attackers "unauthorized access to the personal information of approximately 147 million U.S. consumers." This included "people’s names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, or other personal information."
Numerous lawsuits were brought on behalf of consumers whose personal information was impacted as a result of the Data Breach. Chief Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia is overseeing these lawsuits. These lawsuits are known as In re: Equifax Inc. Customer Data Security Breach Litigation, Case No. 1:17-md-2800-TWT. The consumers who sued are called the “Plaintiffs.” Equifax, Inc., and two of its subsidiaries are the “Defendants.” Plaintiffs claimed that Equifax did not adequately protect consumers’ personal information and that Equifax delayed in providing notice of the data breach. The most recent version of the lawsuit, which describes the specific legal claims alleged by the Plaintiffs, is available here. Equifax denies any wrongdoing, and no court or other judicial entity has made any judgment or other determination of any wrongdoing.
In the end, both sides of the legal battle "agreed to a settlement after a lengthy mediation process overseen by a retired federal judge." That settlement allowed claimants to choose to receive a check or credit monitoring. Anyone who chose to receive a check might eventually receive an amount much smaller than expected, as the "alternative compensation of up to $125" would "likely will be substantially lowered" to a "small percentage" of what was expected.
The email that began to be sent in late January 2022 provided a status update on the Equifax data breach settlement. According to a copy of the email that we reviewed, it read as follows:
Equifax Data Breach Settlement (Credit Monitoring Instructions and Activation Code)
Issue Date: January 31, 2022
Claim No. (removed)
You filed a claim in the Equifax Data Breach Settlement and chose to receive free, three-bureau (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) credit monitoring from Experian for four years. Implementation of the Settlement was delayed by appeals; however, the Settlement is now effective because appellate courts have affirmed it. This email provides additional information about the services provided by Experian as part of the Settlement and how you can enroll.
You are receiving free membership in Experian IdentityWorks℠ for four years. You must enroll by June 27, 2022.
This service is free for you and provided as a Settlement benefit. You do not need to provide any payment information to enroll and you do not need to cancel the service when it ends. We encourage you to enroll today.
HOW TO ENROLL:
• Visit the Experian IdentityWorks Website: www.experianidworks.com/equifaxsettlement
• Enter Your Activation Code: (removed)
You must use the above code to enroll by June 27, 2022 (your activation code will not work after this date).
If you have questions, need help with Identity Restoration (either because you were a victim of fraud or identity theft) because of the Equifax data breach, or would like another way to sign up for Experian IdentityWorks, please call Experian’s customer care team toll-free at 1-877-251-5822. So that the team may better serve you, please be prepared to provide them with engagement number (removed) so that you may access the Settlement’s Identity Restoration services for assistance with fraud or identity theft. For more information on Identity Restoration services, visit www.experianidworks.com/equifaxsettlement.
The email also broke down exactly what is included in the four-year membership to the credit monitoring service known as Experian IdentityWorks:
- Daily Credit Monitoring* from each of the three nationwide Consumer Reporting Agencies showing key changes to your Consumer Reports;
- Automated alerts when new accounts are opened; inquiries or requests for credit reports are made for the purpose of determining credit; changes to address; and negative information (including delinquencies or bankruptcies);
- On-demand online access to a copy of your Experian Consumer Report, updated monthly;
- Automated non-credit alerts, using public or proprietary data sources, for example: when certain information is found on a suspicious website or the “dark web”; when names, aliases, and addresses have been associated with your Social Security Number; when a payday loan or unsecured credit has been taken or opened using your Social Security Number; when your information matches information in arrest or criminal court records; when your information is used for identity authentication; when your mail has been redirected through the U.S. Postal Service; when banking activity is detected related to new deposit account applications, changes to personal information, and new signers are added to accounts; and when a balance is reported on your credit line that has been inactive for at least six months;
- Up to One Million in Identity Theft Insurance** which provides coverage for certain costs and unauthorized electronic fund transfers;
- A customer service center to assist with enrollment, monitoring alerts, disputes, fraud, and other Credit Monitoring Service questions;
- Full Identity Restoration Service if you are the victim of fraud or identity theft (which includes a dedicated identity theft restoration specialist who will provide you with step-by-step assistance, and form letters to contact companies, government agencies, and Consumer Reporting Agencies), and
- Child Monitoring Services (for Class Members under the age of eighteen).
* Daily credit reports are only available online. If you do not register online, you can call for additional reports each quarter after you sign-up.
** The Identity Theft Insurance is underwritten and administered by American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, an Assurant company. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.
To reach the administrator of the Equifax data breach settlement or to inquire about its status, the email said to call 1-833-759-2982. Meanwhile, any questions about Experian IdentityWorks can be directed to the phone number 1-877-251-5822.