I’m the first person to say that I’m not a big fan of lawsuits. Full disclosure, I’ve been sued a few times now. That’s despite being the type of person who doesn’t cut the mattress tag off (even though you can). I’ve found that helping consumers by covering the same stories the news does (in the same way) tends to get me sued. Every lawyer representing me has said that I’ve done nothing wrong and no court has found that I’ve done anything wrong, but nonetheless anyone can be sued for anything.
Wait this article isn’t about me. This article is about Equifax. By now you must be aware that Equifax had this huge data breach and some 143 million people’s information may be floating around for identity thieves to profit from.
No one is happy about the situation (except for the identity thieves). The NY Times covers how I feel in this opinion appropriately titled, “Equifax’s Maddening Unaccountability. Here are a few choice quotes:
“I don’t doubt that companies regret these [security breaches], but I don’t think they care that much either. To them it means just a few days of bad press and at most a fine that amounts to a minuscule portion of their profits. With penalties like that, why would companies bother to make things better?”
“Most software failures and data breaches aren’t inevitable; they are a result of neglect and underinvestment in product reliability and security.”
“Perhaps the most maddening part of the Equifax breach is that the credit-rating industry is itself unforgiving in its approach to even the smallest error. I’m still dealing with the damage to my credit rating that resulted when I forgot to return a library book and a collection agency was called in (for a paltry sum). The Equifax executives who let my data be stolen will probably suffer fewer consequences than I will for an overdue library book. Even if they do get fired, it is likely that they will be sent off with millions of dollars in severance, which is common practice for executives.”
I think that last quote sums it up well. The only thing that I’d add is that none of us asked Equifax to have our data in the first place. I don’t think any of us could have opted-out. Even if we could opt-out, we probably would have realized consequences like it being difficult to get loans for homes, college, and cars – things that are fairly important.
How many people will have their identity stolen because of this? There’s no way to know. What we do know is that 143 million people now have be on DEFCON 2 for the rest of their lives.
I believe that Equifax should compensate people for their trouble and even the potential damage that could be caused. It doesn’t seem like Equifax is going to voluntarily offer compensation. From what I’ve been reading, it’s like pulling teeth just to get free credit freezes from them.
DoNotPay to the Rescue?
An entrepreneur, Joshua Browder, created an online application awhile back that has won 375,000 court cases involving parking tickets. He’s modified it so that you can draw up the paperwork to sue Equifax in a couple of minutes. This Yahoo article has all the details.
How much could you get? The maximum in small claims court varies from state to state. He says the average is between $10K-15K. My state is “only” $2500. I put “only” in quotes, because it’s still a large number.
Will you get that money? I think it’s going to be unlikely, but I’ve been wrong before. Browder partnered with volunteer lawyers so there’s some credibility behind the idea.
Is it fair for 143 million people to sue to Equifax in small claims court? I’m not sure that it is. However, the alternative is waiting for the class action settlement. Even if the settlement is for a billion dollars, which is HUGE, it would amount to $7 per person. I’m not sure it’s fair for people to get some small multiple of $7 either. Perhaps they have insurance, but I doubt they have insurance to cover something this large.
One more thing worth mentioning, it seems (and I’m no legal expert) that you can still be part of the class action if you are persuing them at the local level as well.
I’m going to give DoNotPay a shot. It may be unlikely to compensate me, but it is very, very low risk/effort and potentially with a large reward.
What do you think? Are you going to try to sue Equifax in small claims court?