As of today (Jan. 18), you have exactly four days to file a claim for compensation if your personal information was compromised in 2017's massive Equifax data breach. Everything has to be filled out online or postmarked by the end of next Wednesday, Jan. 22.
You can check to see if you were affected by the Equifax data breach by going to https://www.equifaxbreachsettlement.com/ and scrolling down to "Find out if your information was impacted." If it turns out you were, then click through to start the process of filing a claim.
We say "start the process" because the whole thing is pretty complicated. We've got very detailed instructions on how to get what you still can from the Equifax settlement here.
The details, in brief
The upshot is that you can get a cash payout only if you can prove you suffered financially or otherwise had to deal with hassles directly connected to the Equifax breach, or you already subscribe to an identity-theft protection service.
Depending on how much you suffered, you could get up to $20,000, but the amount may be a lot less if too many people file for cash compensation instead of taking the offer of 10 years of free identity protection.
The amounts payable for each injured class are capped. You can no longer just sue Equifax instead of taking compensation -- that deadline passed in November.
The good news is that that pile of money will be at least $380 million, thanks to a final settlement in this huge class-action lawsuit reached just this past Monday (Jan. 13) in federal court in Atlanta.
But you'll still be fighting over that pile with 147 million other U.S. residents whose data was compromised in the breach. (A separate class-action suit has been filed in Ontario, but we're not sure about legal action in other Canadian provinces, or in the United Kingdom.)
Take the identity protection, not the money
That's why we recommend that most people affected by the Equifax data breach opt for the free credit-monitoring services. You'll get four years of monitoring of your files with all three credit bureaus, to be paid for out of the settlement funds (but without a cap), plus six more years of one-bureau credit monitoring that Equifax will provide itself.
Ten years of equivalent credit-monitoring subscriptions would run to about $2,000. Of course, if you'd rather just pay that out of pocket, we have our own recommendations for the best identity-theft protection services.