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People can now begin to file an Equifax claim for the recent data breach settlement. In 2017, Equifax, one of the three largest credit reporting agencies in the world, announced that it had suffered a data breach. More than 148 million consumers’ identities had been stolen. This month, a settlement was reached in the class-action lawsuit was filed with a federal court, and as a result, Equifax has now launched its claims process to help anyone who may have been a victim.

Before finding out what support you may be eligible for, it is important to know whether or not your information was affected in this breach. The website for consumers concerned about the Equifax data breach settlement has a very handy button that will provide that info for you. All you need to do is enter your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number, and the site will immediately tell you whether or not your data was compromised.

If you discover that your personal identifiable information (PII) was compromised in the Equifax breach, your next step—should you choose to participate in the class action suit—is to continue filing on the screen. You may be eligible for credit monitoring, identity restoration if your information was fraudulently used and a partial refund if you had already been an Equifax credit monitoring customer.

There are some important things to remember about filing:

Decide what action to take

If you are going to file an Equifax claim, you must do so by January 22, 2020. However, if you wish to state that you are not participating, the deadline to do so was November 19, 2019. If you choose to simply do nothing, which is also an option, the November deadline was only for intentionally opting-out or filing an objection to the suit.

The ITRC recommends that you consider all of your personal circumstances and how the breach and any subsequent identity crime issues impacted you before you jump into submitting your claim. While the process of recovering after an identity theft incident is costly in time, personal impacts and financial ramifications, filing without thinking through all of the possibilities or having all the supporting documentation could short-change your identity hygiene in the long-run.

Determine what kind of claim you need to file

The deadline for filing an Equifax claim—again January 22, 2020—includes filing for reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses related to this breach, filing for a refund of Equifax products you would already purchase and filing a claim for credit monitoring. If you already have credit monitoring, you can also file for one-time compensation to put towards your existing service.

Section 1 Credit Monitoring: Free Service or Cash Payment

Submitting a claim can be “overwhelming,” so take it slow. At the very least, you should claim the free credit monitoring for up to 10 years.

Option 1

Option 2 If you already have credit monitoring, then you can claim a cash payment of $125.

Section 2 Cash Payment: Time Spent

Proving the out of pocket expenses could be difficult for victims filing an Equifax claim; “Pointing to a particular compromise and saying that it is the one that caused an issue is extremely difficult,” says Eva Velasquez, president, and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.

In order to become a strong advocate for your case to repair your identity, it is vital to organize your case this includes dated notes, receipts, and summary. The free ID Theft Help App provides an electronic case log feature to track the details of your case.

For example, if you spent time speaking with an Identity Theft Resource Center advisor who helped you remediate your case, you could log that time.

Important Documents

Section 3 Cash Payment: Money You Lost or Spent

Depending on the state you live in, credit freezes were not free to all American consumers prior to September 2018. If at the time the Equifax breach was announced and you decided to pay to freeze your credit, you could be reimbursed those expenses. For example, some consumers paid $10 per bureau to freeze their credit ($30 altogether) as well as having to unfreeze your credit every time you tried to apply for a new account.

Due to the breach actually occurring in May 2017, you could be reimbursed for costs, expenses or losses due to identity theft even before it was announced on September 2017.

Even if you choose not to take part in this class-action suit and your information was compromised in this breach, you are still eligible for the next seven years for identity restoration services. Just because your information has not been used yet, that does not mean it will not happen down the road. After some time, if your identity is fraudulently used, you can still access Equifax’s offer up until January 2024.

Considering placing a freeze on your credit

Whether or not you participate in this suit, it is a good idea to place a freeze on your credit report regardless of whether your information has been compromised (in this or even other data breaches). It is now free to freeze and unfreeze your credit report, but do keep in mind that it can take a little time.

All of the documents, dates, claims process and FAQs can be found on the website that has been built to support Equifax claims. If you are not sure if your information has been affected or if you know it has and need further support, visit EquifaxBreachSettlement.com.

If you are a victim of identity theft in need of assistance, you can receive free remediation services from ITRC. Call one of our expert advisors toll-free at 888.400.5530 or LiveChat with us. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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What Does the Equifax Settlement Mean for its Data Breach Victims?

The Federal Trade Commission announced that it will be closed due to a lapse in its funding until the government shutdown ends. That means a number of critical services for consumers, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and other organizations will be temporarily unavailable. Some services—as outlined on the FTC’s website and the announcement on the shutdown—will still be in operation but with reduced staff numbers; this can have a big impact on those services and the timeliness of the support.

Consumers will not be able to file reports or notify the FTC of scams, fraud, or other similar issues during this time. Identity theft reports will also be on hold, as will the National Do Not Call Registry, the Consumer Sentinel Network for law enforcement, and other critical functions.

In the meantime, the non-profit partner Identity Theft Resource Center is ready and willing to help consumers in need and provide valuable insights to any law enforcement agencies or policymakers. The toll-free helpline (888) 400 – 5530 and live chat feature provide immediate answers to questions and concerns about your data, your privacy, and your first steps in the event of suspected identity theft.

ITRC resources can also help keep you informed about the latest scams, fraud, and cybersecurity trends, as well as provide you with actionable steps to avoid becoming a victim. Should you find yourself snared by this kind of criminal activity, our knowledgeable staff can help you take action. The website is also filled with helpful documents that are categorized by the type of consumer issue to assist you in finding the right resources. The Identity Theft Resource Center also has a free ID Theft Help app, which gives you access to resources and tips to protect your identity, a case log feature to help remediate your case as well as the ability to contact our call center advisors.

Fortunately, the FTC’s website and social media channels will still be available with past information, although these outlets will not continue to be updated during the shutdown. The ITRC will continue to post updates and new information at IDTheftCenter.org as well as on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

During this time, it’s vital that consumers and businesses be extra vigilant about protecting themselves. There’s never a good time to let your guard down when it comes to your identity or your privacy, but at a time when the safeguards are suspended, it’s even more important that individuals use an air of caution when it comes to consumer interactions.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

Read next: The 2018 Impact of Data Breaches and Cybercrime

Pyramid schemes are nothing new. They go by many names and offer a lot of different variations, some of which sound like harmless fun or even legitimate business opportunities. But in the end, not only are pyramid schemes a good way to lose a lot of money and the trust of your friends and family, they’re also illegal.

Last year, ITRC exposed a new Facebook pyramid scheme called the Secret Sisterhood Gift Exchange that left users at risk. It is beginning to resurface again this year and here’s how you can stay ahead of the game. If you’re new to the concept of this kind of scam, a pyramid scheme works by building on your own “meager” investment. You are approached by someone who’s already involved in the scam and told that if you pay up the specified cost, you will then make a multifold return on your “investment” by recruiting others to join in the scam. For example, you may be asked to pay $5,000, which is shared among the people on the level above you; then you’re tasked with recruiting ten other people to each pay $5,000. You will make a portion of their investments, as will the people above you. The selling point for the hapless people you recruit is that they will turn around and each find ten people to join in, and the game goes on.

It’s not hard to see why this is illegal under the endless chain scheme laws. All it takes for one person—possibly even you—to lose all your money and make no return is for someone to not uphold the bargain of finding ten people to each pay in their share.

But what about the ones that don’t require massive cash payments? Over the years, this type of scam has been presented with everything from children’s books to dish towels to panties—seriously, ladies’ underwear, in which you send a pair of undies to the next person on the list, then get ten other people to join in the panty fun. Even the old concept of the chain letter—“send this letter to twenty of your friends within the next twenty-four hours…don’t let the chain be broken or there will be deadly consequences!”—seems harmless on the surface because it doesn’t appear to cost you anything more than some postage or a click of your email forwarding mouse. But that’s not actually what’s at stake.

A new scam that’s making its way around social media is called the “secret sister” game, and it’s nothing more than an old-fashioned pyramid scheme. In this version, new recruits agree to send a $10 gift—perhaps a candle, some gloves, or some fancy lotion—to the names on the list. They will then turn around and recruit ten more people to do the same, thereby ensuring that they receive $10 gifts from thirty-six people down the line. It seems harmless enough, right?

Wrong. First of all, it violates the terms of service for sites like Facebook, and could result in your account being blocked. In this era of privacy, security and identity theft, there’s simply no reason to participate in a “game” of this kind. Even if you end up a winner, what you win is a houseful of cheap gifts from total strangers. The more likely outcome, though, is the possibility that someone is gathering and storing the personal information on everyone who plays along. This kind of threat is too great to ignore for a cheap candle from someone you’ve never met.

For your own sake, and the safety of your identifying information, you need to file this one in the “something for nothing” scam drawer and get rid of it. Whether it’s money, children’s books, chain letters, or even underwear, no one starts these things because they have too much free time on their hands. There’s typically an underlying motive that you can’t see, and in this case the consequences could be lasting damage to your identity.

As always, anyone who believes their identity has been stolen or their personal data has been compromised is invited to connect with the ITRC through our 24-hour toll-free call center at (888) 400-5530, or on-the-go with the new IDTheftHelp app for iOS and Android.