Think Twice Before Signing Up For Equifax's 'Free' Credit Monitoring
announcing a "security incident"
that impacted 143 million customers Thursday, Equifax is offering customers a year of free credit monitoring by way of an apology. The credit monitoring may seem like a good deal (free is free, right?), but if you were one of the customers affected by the security breach, you might want to think twice before signing up.
the fine print
, Equifax notes that by signing up for the service, you're agreeing to not to sue them for the breach. If your info was stolen, you might be headed toward a huge personal identity nightmare. Giving up your right to sue for 12 months of complimentary credit monitoring is likely not the best idea.
AGREEMENT TO RESOLVE ALL DISPUTES BY BINDING INDIVIDUAL ARBITRATION. PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE SECTION CAREFULLY BECAUSE IT AFFECTS YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS BY REQUIRING ARBITRATION OF DISPUTES (EXCEPT AS SET FORTH BELOW) AND A WAIVER OF THE ABILITY TO BRING OR PARTICIPATE IN A CLASS ACTION, CLASS ARBITRATION, OR OTHER REPRESENTATIVE ACTION. ARBITRATION PROVIDES A QUICK AND COST EFFECTIVE MECHANISM FOR RESOLVING DISPUTES, BUT YOU SHOULD BE AWARE THAT IT ALSO LIMITS YOUR RIGHTS TO DISCOVERY AND APPEAL.
already a class action lawsuit
filed against Equifax for the breach, so you'd also be giving up your right to participate in that, as well as any other lawsuits.
Friday the company added an opt-out provision to the arbitration clause, but it will take a bit of work on your part:
IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE BOUND BY THE ARBITRATION PROVISION, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO EXCLUDE YOURSELF. Opting out of the arbitration provision will have no adverse effect on your relationship with Equifax or the delivery of Products to You by Equifax. In order to exclude Yourself from the arbitration provision, You must notify Equifax in writing within 30 days of the date that You first accept this Agreement on the Site (for Products purchased from Equifax on the Site). If You purchased Your Product other than on the Site, and thus this Agreement was mailed, emailed or otherwise delivered to You, then You must notify Equifax in writing within 30 days of the date that You receive this Agreement. To be effective, timely written notice of opt out must be delivered to Equifax Consumer Services LLC, Attn.: Arbitration Opt-Out, P.O. Box 105496, Atlanta, GA 30348, and must include Your name, address, and Equifax User ID, as well as a clear statement that You do not wish to resolve disputes with Equifax through arbitration. If You have previously notified Equifax that You wish to opt-out of arbitration, You are not required to do so again. Any opt-out request postmarked after the opt-out deadline or that fails to satisfy the other requirements above will not be valid, and You must pursue your Claim in arbitration or small claims court.
What's the right move? That depends on how much you trust Equifax. Signing up requires you to give even more of your info away (six digits of your social rather than the common four), and wait a while before you can get access to the credit monitoring services. It's not exactly the best deal.
If you do skip it (or even if you don't), you can
request a free copy of your credit report
each year from all three major reporting agencies. And if you were one of the people affected by the breach and don't plan on making any purchases anytime soon, it might make sense to proactively
put a freeze on your credit
until you figure out exactly how big the problem is.