CHICAGO (CBS) — The largest data breach in the nation came and went in the headlines two years ago, but many people still don’t know they’re victims and aren’t aware of a settlement that could put money in their pockets.
Private information of almost half of all Americans was exposed when Equifax, one of three major credit bureaus whose job it is to protect data, was hacked.
Last month, Equifax reached a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission and others, agreeing to pay up to $700 million in fines and relief to consumers affected by the breach.
With the help of Governors State University professor William Kresse, better known as Professor Fraud, CBS 2 conducted a demonstration about the Equifax hack.
“One hundred and forty-seven million Americans have been affected by it. So that’s almost half the population. Let’s see if you’re in there,” Kresse said.
Three out of four participants received some unfortunate results – learning for the first time they had been affected by the breach. You can find out if you were affected by clicking here.
“Name, address, Social Security number, maybe driver’s license number is out there. Who knows what they might be doing with it,” Kresse said.
Kim Ly was shocked at learning she was affected by the breach but can breathe a sigh of relief thanks to the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Equifax.
Equifax did not admit to any wrongdoing under the settlement but will pay more than $380 million into a consumer restitution fund. Anyone affected is eligible for 10 years of free credit monitoring.
Already protected? The settlement included up to $125 in cash, but so many people already filed claims for it, your compensation is likely to be lower.
“If all 147 million people file for the cash payout, you will actually only get about 21 cents. It would cost them more to mail the checks,” Kresse said.
Professor Fraud pointed out the hackers haven’t done anything with the information they stole, at least not yet.
“You’ve been affected. Your data is out there. You could, if you haven’t already, you could be a victim of identity theft,” he said.
Ly said that has her concerned, but Kresse said not to worry too much.
“You’re one, and half the country is affected,” he told her.
Not too settling, but maybe the costly Equifax settlement will inspire improved cybersecurity practices across the U.S.
Kresse said credit monitoring services are something to look into, even if you weren’t affected by the Equifax breach.