In 2017, it was revealed that over 143 million U.S. Equifax customers were affected by a data breach, including birth dates, addresses, names, driver’s-license numbers, Social Security numbers, and even credit numbers for a particularly unlucky subset. Later, in March 2018, Equifax identified another 2.4 million potential breach victims, including Vermont librarian Jessamyn West. The difference between West and most of the rest of us? She decided to hold Equifax accountable.
Last year, West filed papers in a courthouse in Vermont asking for almost $5,000 from Equifax over the breach of her personal info, Valley News reports. “When I read about the Equifax breach, and went to their site a few days after my birthday, only to get some vague language about what happened and ‘Come back on September 13th and sign up for credit monitoring and protection from a company we sort of own …’ I decided that I had HAD IT,” West wrote on Medium, in a post explaining her filing process in explicit detail, just in case you, too, want to try this. She didn’t end up with $5,000 — but she did end up with about $600, more than she expected. In a second Medium post detailing court proceedings, West was very clear that she did not actually believe that she would win. “A court order that found West was owed money to cover the cost of up to two years of payments to online identity protection services, plus her $90 filing fee,” Valley News reports. That and an Equifax representative had to show up in court in Vermont to face her. (West said the paralegal Equifax sent was “surprisingly nice” and the two, in between proceedings, talked about craft beer. She also noted that she could technically have protested because Equifax didn’t send a real lawyer, but opted not to in the interest of not delaying the process any further.)
“I’m a civics nerd. I’m a justice of the peace. It’s all very ‘Vermonty,’” West said. “Filing small claims cases is a thing human beings can do. It’s not that hard. And the amount of money it cost, 90 bucks — it’s not nothing, but to me it’s not a huge amount of money.” Equifax declined to comment on the case.