There's a chatbot helping people sue Equifax post-data breach



Myles Ma

Myles Ma

Senior Reporter

Myles Ma is a senior reporter at Policygenius, where he covers personal finance and insurance and writes the Easy Money newsletter. His expertise has been featured in The Washington Post, PBS, CNBC, CBS News, USA Today, HuffPost, Salon, Inc. Magazine, MarketWatch, and elsewhere.

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Are you one of the 143 million U.S. consumers affected by the giant Equifax security breach?

Are you mad?

Are you after REVENGE?

Well, too bad. A new way to try to get restitution has emerged, though, if you feel truly wronged.

You may have heard about DoNotPay, the chat bot launched by a British teen to help fight parking tickets. Now Joshua Browder is taking on Equifax.

His chatbot now allows you to sue Equifax for negligence in small claims court and demand maximum damages, as first reported by The Verge. That can range from $2,500 in Rhode Island up to $25,000 in Tennessee.

Browder, who said he was one of the 143 million people affected by the breach, told The Verge he was looking to bankrupt Equifax. Equifax did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Right now users can only sue Equifax in New York and California, though other states are on the way. The bot asks for your name, address and phone number and uses that to fill out the legal documents you need to file.

You'll still have to file the papers at the court address listed, so you can't take down Equifax from your couch or anything. Plus, the chatbox isn't equipped to argue for you in court. Mostly, it just helps you skip the lawyer's fees.

It took me a few tries to get through — I'm guessing many people were on the site — but I eventually got a filled-out Statement of Claim for the Civil Court of the City of New York. I didn't use a real name or address because I don't live there, but it works.

How we got here

This all started on July 29 when Equifax learned that someone had been accessing private consumer data for weeks. The data included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, address, driver's license numbers and credit card numbers.

The company's response since then has not been amazing. Equifax inexplicably waited until September to tell the public about all of this.

Then it came out that three Equifax managers sold stock in the company before the leak became public. Equifax offered all its customers a year of free credit monitoring as a sort of penance for the breach, but that had its issues.

The site where people could sign up for the monitoring had performance issues because so many people were trying to use it. It asked users for part of their Social Security numbers and then asked them to come back at a later date, and gave feedback seemingly at random. The original terms of use for the site seemed to force people to waive their right to sue Equifax over the breach. And then, when people tried to place a security freeze on their Equifax credit files, they got weak PINs based on the time and date they signed up.

Not fun if you're worried about your data getting into the wrong hands. But breathe: Here are other ways to protect yourself from any Equifax identity thieves.

Did you have your identity stolen in the Equifax data breach? Learn more about identity theft insurance.

Image: martin-dm