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Taking Equifax to Small Claims Court (medium.com)
194 points by evashang on Jan 23, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

No, the author didn't win $8000, because the judgement is suspended for 30 days, where Equifax can appeal (which they most certainly will, especially since the judgement was from a Pro Tem). There will likely be a new case in superior court, in front of an actual judge, who will realize the plaintiff could not prove any actual damage.

Also, taking a photo of yourself during a court hearing to post on your blog promoting your company is probably not a good idea considering photography is banned and it can get you charged for contempt, even after the fact.

Update: Author has taken the photo down, although it would be nice for him to provide an update to his readers saying as with all small claims cases, the judgement is suspended for 30 days and as such, he didn't actually win anything yet.

Ok, we've revised the title above to downscale its ambitions to the factual.

i made a note to check this a few weeks later.. lo' and behold, equifax lawyers up, appeals, and now this guy gets to play in big boys court.




Yep, It's almost certain that they'll appeal the case. There have been plenty of similar posts asking for advice on r/legaladvice on reddit. The general consensus is unless you're willing to spend the next few years in court, don't try to sue Equifax.


That OP might actually be astroturfing, though.

I mean, it's definitely costing Equifax more than $435 to "fly a team of corporate lawyers" to some city. The optimal strategy would be to show up for that hearing. Win, or draw, the whole thing is costing Equifax more than it's worth. Which is what makes me suspect that it's made up. Equifax is evil, not dumb.

It's not made up...I couldn't believe he won either, but I looked up the judgement at the court web site. Sure enough, it's there. Based on his story and reading the judgement, I'd say he got incredibly lucky with a poorly prepared judge and defense lawyer. It'll be surprising if this holds up.

I mean the OP in the linked reddit comment in the reply directly upstream from my post.

Am i the only one kind of shocked at how little he actually got? I realize it's small claims court but seriously that's a pittance compared to the cost of a lifetime of credit monitoring. Say you're 30 years old. You have a reasonable expectations of living another 30-40 years minimum. Being compensated for only 120 months (10 years) of credit monitoring is just ridiculous.

There's usually a small claims upper limit, so that's the max you can ask for without going to a regular trial court, where the rules are much more complex.

143m users times $8000 makes for a pretty penny. In fact, it would bankrupt the company, as it should.

As it should? If so, they probably ought not be operating: they are giving consumers a liability they couldn't afford to pay, and profiting from this liability by selling the information to third parties.

If the profits from this sale aren't enough to cover the liabilities, then their business model is fundamentally flawed.

But they don't really have that much liability. Very few will sue and win.

Given how many data breaches we have, and given that it only takes once (ie: most won't change their name/address), I'm pretty sure in 10 years we'll have laws in place giving you free protection or limited liability or some combination of things.

Equifax has already given up the goods on more or less every single American adult, so we already need those laws.

It's cheap to freeze your credit report.

It should be free. There is absolutely zero reason why I should have to pay to see my credit report at any time, or decide that I wish to freeze my credit at any time.

Well, there is one reason: so companies like Equifax can make even more money.

It's free in some states, depending on the circumstances. And yes, it should indeed be free. I wish I could opt out of giving them any of my data entirely, but it's neither practical nor possible.

In California, a security freeze is free to identity theft victims[0] who have a police report of identity theft.

[0] https://oag.ca.gov/idtheft/facts/freeze-your-credit

Why? It's not really yours. It's service which collects and aggregates data from lenders and provides it to other lenders to evaluate your risk as a borrower. You the borrower are barely involved. There's nothing authoritative about their assessment of you other than popularity.

In another world you wouldn't even be allowed to see your number. It's not like similar agencies -- fraud detection, ad firms, social networks, spam blacklists, etc. -- let you see the profile they've built about you.

They're a for-profit company in the business of selling data, the fact that you're in the market for you own profile, to me, seems immaterial. The only reason you're required to be able to view your report once a year for free is to correct mistakes.

It absolutely is mine. It's my data, and my credit.

I do not care at all that they're a "for-profit company." I don't believe they should be able to profit on my data without allowing me to see it, and make corrections as needed.

Very relevant: https://www.reddit.com/r/legaladvice/comments/7h9tn2/i_sued_...

Might be an insight into what happens when Equifax appeals.

Hi. Read this article a few hours ago, and went down a rabbit hole of agony. I am a victim of the equifax breach apparently. I checked my credit report (on creditkarma.com) for equifax, and realized that there were two hard inquiries which pounded my score down about 40 points. One from Verizon (never have I ever done business with them); one from Paypal Credit (same). I ended up contacting both companies and placing disputes to remove the inquiries from my records. I also placed a dispute for the verizon credit inquiry through equifax, but it wouldn't let me dispute the paypal credit because I couldn't "verify" myself. It asked me for the address of somewhere I lived 10 years ago, and I had a digit off and so it blocked me. Either way, I talked to Verizon and they said someone had applied to get a Verizon account and they were denied. Then they suggested I place a fraud alert (it was free, it's not right that I have to pay $10 to freeze my credit) on my equifax; which I did. By the way, these unauthorized hard inquiries were performed on the 19th, and 22nd (yesterday) of this month, respectably.

Either way, thanks for the article, because even though it's been many months since the breach, the effects are still being felt; I'm sure by more than just myself.

The fraud alerts aren't good enough - I'd recommend freezing your credit (and just sucking up the $10) on all three credit bureaus.

That'd be Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. You can also freeze your credit at Innovis to get all four.

The freeze will require them to contact you before doing anything. The alert doesn't do much in practice (from the people I know who've had it) - it's just ignored.

> I'd recommend freezing your credit (and just sucking up the $10) on all three credit bureaus.

This may be the pragmatic approach, but it's also why these companies still exist.

At risk of being too blunt - fuck that shit. I will spend thousands before I give them a dime of my money. I have zero business relationship with them, and I consider such crap absolute extortion. The world is a better place without credit rating agencies. Heck, I remember a point in time where it was questionable whether these companies were even legal to begin with. So far have we fallen.

These are things people should be getting violent about.

> I will spend thousands before I give them a dime of my money.

I want to avoid giving them money but Equifax handles my W2 for some reason.

Equifax's payroll division "TALX" is a bucket of suck just like their credit reporting division [0].

Identity thieves prize the W-2 and payroll data held by companies like TALX because they can use it to file fraudulent tax refund requests with the IRS and the states on behalf of victim consumers.

Fraudsters reset customer PINs by answering simple "knowledge-based authentication" questions.

Naturally many of the answers to these questions are in the data leaked by the credit reporting division.

[0] Fraudsters Exploited Lax Security at Equifax’s TALX Payroll Division https://krebsonsecurity.com/2017/05/fraudsters-exploited-lax...

FYI: The drop in credit scores from hard inquiries goes away quite quickly. Unless you are planning on applying for a large loan in the next 6 months it's not worth worrying about.

Now try collecting.

Those corporations are just as subject to these kinds of laws (there are other laws that they are de facto immune from but let's not get into that). The bank of america case elsewhere cited is a famous example.

In my case, a few years ago: ADP double-debited our $250K IRS payroll tax deposit from our payroll account (pro tip: never allow third parties to make automatic withdrawals from your main bank account -- use a dedicated account you top up as needed). This would have caused employees' paychecks to bounce except my bank kindly called me first and I was able to move money across.

ADP didn't care: their position was they had sent the money to the IRS; I could get a credit from the IRS next quarter and it was none of ADP's business. I finally got through to the head of the nor cal region. Not only was he unsympathetic, he complained, "I don't know why you insist saying we 'took' your money -- we don't have your money, the IRS does. We didn't take anything, we don't even have much of a bank account." So I decided to agree with him: "You're right, I shouldn't say that. The correct term is 'felony grand larceny.' If the money isn't back in my account by the time the fed wire closes I'll take it up with the Santa Clara County Sheriff." (By that time it was about noon, so they only had about an hour to get their act together, having frittered away all morning with call centers and intransigence).

Remarkably, the F500 company that had "no possible way" to send me my money was able to get the $250K to me within the hour. They do not want to deal with the local sheriff.

A friend of mine is an attorney. His client had a judgement against a relatively small bank. In his words, the bank was being a "horse's ass" and not paying.

He got a judge to sign off on the sheriff assisting in collection. The client was about to be a proud owner of the servers run by the bank.

When the sheriff arrived, the bank manager immediately called their attorney to call the client's attorney (my friend) and tell him they're writing a check.

Sometimes companies just need a bit of persuasion.

A well publicized example happened during the mortgage crisis where a couple foreclosed on a Bank of America branch in Florida after BoA refused to pay court ordered restitution: http://business.time.com/2011/06/06/homeowner-forecloses-on-...

> When the sheriff arrived, the bank manager immediately called their attorney to call the client's attorney (my friend) and tell him they're writing a check.

I've always wondered what happens if you say too bad so sad, you had your chance - I don't believe you that the check is "in the mail". Will the Sheriff still let you collect assets?

If so, I'd absolutely cause them as much pain as possible. Typically in these cases you've already lost tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and lost time, so the goal isn't recovering your money - it's simply extracting as much pain as possible.

I actually asked that exact question. Ultimately the person wanted cash, and the best way to do that isn't to let the servers go to the sheriff's sale. But it sounded like if the person had FU money and didn't even care, they could have gotten the server.

I think the sheriff would rather not be collecting the hardware (unless he/she hastes the bank too) and would be quite happy if the person settled for a check at the last minute. Less work.

When I went to small claims the first thing the judge did was make everybody talk to their opponent in the hope that they would just find a settlement and save the judge's time.

Important point you touched on there. In the case of businesses you should always use zero balance accounts for checks, EFTs, ACHs, etc. The smaller your business, the more you're at risk of an existential threat if someone takes money from your master account unexpectedly or for the wrong amount.

Just walk into their office with a court order and start taking items. I would grab laptops first. Cops will show, then after they see the court order they will help you start bagging things.


> Just walk into their office with a court order and start taking items

Absolutely do not do this. Go to the police station (edit: court) first, with the court order, and explain your need for armed escort.

I thought this was the jurisdiction of the Sheriff who works for the court.

* Cops and Sheriffs are completely different.

You are correct.

In my state you can get a court order to a court officer to seize property. Do not do it yourself. I once had a judgment against someone and I hired the court officer to go to the defendant's house and start towing his cars. I immediately got a call and cash in my hand within an hour.

This sounds more of a fantasy (I don't deny that what they showed in the video happened but I'd be careful about assuming it generalizes) and I'd not recommend others trying similar stunts.

It's not a fantasy. Uncollected judgements can be enforced through direct property seizure if you follow your State's laws. Typically you call law enforcement first and pay them a fee for an escort to seize the property. For businesses, you typically schedule the law enforcement escort for the end of the day so you can seize the cash in the cash register. If I remember correctly, it costs around $75 to have our local county sheriff escort you for property seizure for a judgement.

> pay them a fee for an escort to seize the property

A fee? Isn't it their job to help enforce the law, being law enforcement officers?

A judgement against someone else is a civil affair, not a criminal issue. Law enforcement officers enforce criminal law as a matter of course. In a lawsuit when one person owes money to another due to a judgement, that debt is private and you have to bear the costs of the state in enforcing your debt using law enforcement officers.

Just like police officers at a concert aren't staffed for free, even though their only purpose is to enforce the laws and/or facilitate traffic. You could argue that enforcing those laws and facilitating that traffic is their job, but those putting on the concert are creating the need for extra law enforcement and want them on hand, so they have to pay.

Thanks for the explanation.

I believe that here in the UK, the police will either decide you deserve an escort and provide you with one, or decide you don't need one and refuse to provide one.

I could be mistaken, but I believe bailiffs are essentially expected to take on the risk and confrontation as part of their job, a bit like ticket-inspectors on trains, or the folks that tow away illegally parked cars from privately owned car parks.

The police can and do charge for special policing of public events, though - http://www.npcc.police.uk/documents/finance/2015/NPCC%20Guid... , http://www.isanuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/ISAN-Guidan...

Sure, unless you're black.

The sheriff will enforce the order wherever Equifax has a presence.

See Bank of America: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/06/06/137002727...

I'll believe it when the money actually gets deposited into an account he owns.

just a wild guess.. expect an appeal and a less than friendly attorney to be present at the next hearing.

i'd also worry about removal to federal court and consolidation - now that a judge has actually raised a federal question about the fcra

One note, this is a big PR piece for the author's business, Legalist. Disclaimer really doesn't come until right at the end.

No, just search for "Legalist" and you'll see various mentions in which he mentions his connection. In fact his article is really "how you can easily do this yourself" (though sure, he's happy for you to use his service instead). I wish all corporate white papers were that impartial.

I went to small claims myself once and it was about as easy as he describes. You don't need his service.

Disclaimer really doesn't come until right at the end.

You mean like every disclaimer since the invention of disclaimers? I'm fine with that, the author might know what he's talking about (though he did mention he's spent less time in court than I have) more than some random person who's experience might not map well to mine.

Considering he admits this is the first time he set foot in court, I have mixed feelings as to whether this is good PR. Would you want someone filing court papers on your behalf who has never been to court before? I wouldn't. I hope his cofounder is an attorney.

Reading the blurb on their website, it seems as if their business is providing funding for your lawsuit in exchange for a share of the proceeds if you win, not actually directly providing legal services. They need to be good at predicting which lawsuits will be successful, not good at actually winning lawsuits.

> Tell us about your lawsuit, including the court, case number, and who your attorney is. If approved, we cover all your legal costs, including attorney’s fees, deposition costs, and working capital for your business. The only time you repay is if your lawsuit successfully resolves. We’re in this together.

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