The Equifax Data Breach, as you’re probably aware, affected roughly 50% of America (up to 99%, depending on how we’re looking at this). That means you, or someone you know, had their most private information hijacked due to an intrusion into what was supposed to be an locked-down database. This violation will go down as the largest public humiliation in business history – unless someone hits the other two bureaus, of course.
Every lawyer from Seattle to Bangor is salivating at the opportunity to monetize this monstrosity. Many which prefer class action certification, of course, because that means a few hundred bucks for you, and millions for their firm. Sounds enticing, right? I mean, you get to publicly shame a billion-dollar data company by taking a few Benjamin’s and feeling vindicated that justice was served. Who doesn’t get excited by free money?
Not so fast, slick.
Since the Equifax Data Breach is so large, many people could automatically be thrown into regional class actions without notice. Not good if you’re adamant about Equifax being held fully accountable for your misery. Unless you care nothing about how much money is awarded to you, class actions enrich the firm while offering a pittance to the victims. They essentially reduce your pain, suffering and data misuse to either a name, or control number.
It is your data that’s being sold from some lonely schmuck’s Tor browser, after all. Why not collect every penny your data is worth?
Well, you can. And here’s how.
First, print out everything you know about the breach.
In law, this is called ‘evidence’. Judges need this because in America, unfortunately, a certain standard of evidence is required to both make, and prove, a case.
Start by printing out your reports from all three bureaus. Identity thieves who purchased your precious information aren’t just apply for credit with establishments that solely utilize Equifax. It’s absurd to draw such a conclusion.
Circle everything you don’t recognize, such as address changes, requests for credit you didn’t authorize, and brand new accounts.
Now, Google everything you can about the breach, including every single piss-poor decision made by executives shortly before, and after, the breach. For example, one executive has already been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission for his healthy stock dump. Not enough? Let’s talk about how execs and PR pros with the company have openly admitted via press how bad the Equifax Data Breach really was. Need more? Maybe read up on the 2016 hijacking which occurred when 400,000+ individuals saw their personal information leaked from their W-2 Express site. Sure, Equifax’s motion to dismiss without prejudice was granted with the stipulation they fix their gaping holes. But it’s evidence of wrongdoing nonetheless.
And if that’s still not enough, Equifax had a rather small hiccup affecting 14 New Hampshire residents in 2013, according to a letter sent to the NH DOJ.
Print it all out, folks. It may not seem like much, but it establishes a pattern. A consistent, unmitigated pattern of data leakage that Equifax had promised to fix. But apparently hasn’t.
Bundle all of this together in order by date, newest to oldest.
Next, we’re going to write Transunion and Experian.
As I mentioned above, data thieves aren’t selective in where they apply for credit. Each creditor uses different bureaus to pull credit histories; for example, Synchrony Bank tends to use Transunion, while American Express may be inclined to pull all three. In other words, there’s potential damage to all three reports stemming from the Equifax Data Breach.
Identify unauthorized changes, credit entries, inquiries, and delinquent accounts that weren’t of your doing on Transunion and Experian. Circle them in pen, highlight them, or mark them as you please. No, this isn’t an opportunity to erase legitimate information; but yes, you can have items removed that cannot be proven as ‘rightfully yours’.
Once complete, sit down and write each of these bureaus using your own handwriting (preferably legible). Explain that the Equifax Data Breach has nearly obliterated your ability to obtain credit, and by their continued reporting of derogatory information placed there by thieves, they’re directly complicit to Equifax’s snafu. Firmly, but kindly, request they remove information identified as not yours, and send you an updated report with those changes reflected. Let them know that, by law, you have the right to a thorough and fair investigation by a living person (and not using E-Oscar), and have the right to know how the investigation was conducted.
Sign and date your letters. Also, I strongly urge you to accompany these letters with your identity theft affidavit and copy of your driver’s license and SS card.
Trot down to your post office, and send these CMRRR (certified mail, return receipt requested). Once inside their envelopes, line them both up on the counter and snap a picture of them as close-up and visible as possible.
Head home (or to Walmart with your phone’s cable if you’re unable to print) and print this picture out. In full color.
Put this printed photo with your stack above.
Now, it’s time to fight the Equifax Data Breach head-on
With your stack of papers and mailings to the other bureaus completed, now we fight this germ with the Lysol known as consumer law.
Even if you’ve been granted a free year of credit monitoring, your right to private action is preserved. Equifax said so.
Head down to your county courthouse and pick up either one or two forms (depending if you’re broke). One will be your complaint, and the other will be your in forma pauperis form. maybe called ‘indigent filing fees’ form or something similar. Use this ONLY if you cannot legitimately afford the small filing fee.
The form is more than likely self-explanatory. It will ask your name, what the complaint is, what relief you’re seeking, and information about the entity. To help you with each step:
- Nature of complaint/why you’re suing Equifax: Explain, in detail, what happened and what damages were done. You shouldn’t have to attach evidence at this point, but bring your stack of paperwork in case. You may also mention that because you live, work and sustained damages in the county you are filing, venue is proper and the judge has the right to hear the case. Not always required.
- What relief you’re seeking: The maximum allowable under state law. Follow this link to see your state’s maximum small claims amount.
- Who you are suing: Equifax Information Services LLC (see photo for address).
I am attaching the following photo because you must properly serve any business entity you are taking action against. This means the address must be correct, and the registered agent must be the one served (if known). That information is here (may need to click picture):
Use the address noted in the picture on the complaint form; you only need to put Equifax Information Services on the complaint; don’t put poor Ms. Stockard on there. She’s the one that handles service of process, and would feel offended if you listed her in the Equifax Data Breach complaint.
Once filled out, pay the clerk the filing fee, and pay the little extra to use their process service. Make sure that if there’s a place to put her name, you put Lisa Stockard as the registered agent. Do NOT leave the clerk’s office without letting them know this information. May seem trivial, but you’re covering your ass and avoiding your case getting tossed on a technicality (like failure to properly serve).
Once all this is done, take your copy of the complaint (you did get one, right?) and walk down and get yourself the biggest damn ice cream cone you can find.
From here, it’s a waiting game. You may or may not know your court date already, but if not, you will soon.
Editor’s note: Do NOT fill out paperwork if you feel uneasy about doing so – gather your facts and find a consumer law attorney.
What happens next? Depends on size and location.
The Equifax Data Breach is huge. Many cases in large cities could be consolidated into a class action suit, which means now your case goes from a New York small claims court to some Federal court two states away (known as MDL, or multi-district litigation). However, you have the right to opt out and seek private action. And believe me, this is what you must do to really maximize your compensation.
You can bet your sweet ass there are hundreds, if not thousands, of attorneys on Equifax’s payroll. If not, they can tap into a large network and retain one near you. In any case, you should pay attention to your case’s chronological summary, which lists every action proposed (or taken) on your suit.
If some attorney files a motion to move your case, file an answer immediately stating the venue is proper in your locality, and let them know of the undue hardship traveling hundreds (if not thousands) of miles could cause you. Should their motion get denied, prepare yourself for a battle in court. But don’t try to use difficult legal jargon to match wits; judges are moved by a natural citizen’s explanation of events in layman’s terms. Just be honest, bring witnesses to your hardship if need be, and don’t let some attorney tell you, “Well, we offered you free credit monitoring, isn’t that payment enough?”
Horseshit. Too late, buckaroo – someone ten Time Zones away has my information thanks to your company’s unwillingness to invest in technology to prevent such disasters.
Damage has been done. You’re proving it.
Once both sides are heard, the judge will decide on the spot, or issue a written decision within ‘x’ days (usually 30) by mail. Either you will have lost your ass (and should immediately appeal), or won a judgment (which Equifax rarely fights unless it’s millions on the line).
If an appeal needs filed, it’s at this point I’d suggest retaining counsel on a contingency-fee basis. The legal crap that goes into an appeal is far deeper than most are prepared to handle.
The Equifax Data Breach happened. Get what you deserve.
You were affected by the Equifax Data Breach. Unless, of course, you like quality reading material (for which I thank you in advance for viewing this).
Class actions are popping up from coast to coast. If you get a mailing from some firm, I’d suggest opting out because you’ll get (at most) a few hundred dollars for what could amount to years of misery.
You are entitled to pursue private action for anything that happens (or happened) to your credit report or identity stemming from Equifax’s inability to safely warehouse your data. The Constitution (and laws) say so.
Finally, you should always consult with an attorney if you feel that taking matters into your own hands would be too painstaking. They’ll get a cut of your proceeds, but you’ll never have to leave home (unless you wanted to appear on your behalf to testify or listen)
If you have any questions, sound off below. I know enough to save our asses, and am learning a bit more each day. In my next post, I will discuss what to do when Transunion and Experian answer your mailings with some bullshit excuse.