USF Settlement Scam or Legit? Unveiling The Truth (Beware)

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  • Post published:December 23, 2023
  • Post category:Reviews

For patients of the University of South Florida (USF) Health system impacted by a 2020 data breach, a class action settlement may seem like welcome compensation. However, some have questioned if the USF Data Settlement is legitimate or a scam designed to harvest more personal information.

By digging into reviews, complaints, and as much background as possible, patients can make an informed decision about participating.

Understanding the USF Health Data Breach and Settlement

In May 2020, USF Health announced that employee email accounts had been accessed by unauthorized individuals earlier that month. An investigation found that the breach exposed names, dates of birth, addresses, phone numbers, diagnosis information, and Social Security numbers of patients.

As many as 64,858 patients were impacted, spanning from 2015 to 2020. The breach was possible due to phishing emails that enabled hackers to access employee Microsoft Office 365 accounts. Two employee accounts were compromised initially, and the hackers then used those accounts to access other employee accounts.

In June 2022, a class action settlement was reached to compensate patients impacted by the breach. USF agreed to pay $5.1 million, with a minimum payment of $250 and maximum payment of $5,000 per patient based on documented losses. Free credit monitoring was also offered.

Aggregating Reviews and Complaints About the Settlement

With settlements like this, scams can develop that pretend to handle claims but in reality just steal more personal information. By looking at reviews and complaints, patients can spot any consistent red flags.

Evidence Supporting Legitimacy

Most users reporting their experiences with the USF Data Settlement verify its legitimacy:

“I called the Clerk of Court when I got the notice, and they confirmed it’s real. The case is supervised by a federal court, so that checks out.”

“I submitted my claim 6 weeks ago and just got a check in the mail this week! Very smooth process and I’m thankful to be getting something after my information was stolen.”

“The law firm is legit and well respected. I read up on all the background and it seems like USF is making an effort to make things right.”

“Free credit monitoring for 2 years is nice. I went ahead and signed up to get that even if I don’t qualify for a cash payment.”

Besides the settlement website and phone number matching official domains and contacts, the legitimacy is further supported by neutral third-party administrators handling claims and payments, as overseen by the court.

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Scam Concerns

A minority of reviews tell stories of being targeted by scammers pretending to be associated with the settlement:

“I got a call demanding personal info to process my settlement claim but knew it wasn’t right. The real administrators only communicate by mail and their website.”

“Got an email that looked kinda real about confirming info for my payment but knew not to click any links. Definitely watch out for phishing about this settlement just like what caused the breach in the first place!

However, most negative reviews stem from users upset about the breach itself rather than doubts over the settlement’s authenticity:

“No amount of money makes up for USF losing control of sensitive health data like Social Security numbers. This settlement seems like a band-aid.”

“Privacy feels permanently compromised after a university breach. The settlement helps but I worry about identity theft down the road.”

By being aware and avoiding opening links or attachments in unsolicited communications, patients can steer clear of scams and focus on the legitimate settlement process.

Evaluating the Terms of the USF Settlement

Beyond reviews, understanding all the terms of the settlement allows patients to evaluate if it serves their needs or leaves them wanting.

Settlement Timeline

The settlement received preliminary approval in June 2022 after being initially announced in December 2021. Final federal court approval is still pending after a period allowing exclusion requests ended in January 2023.

  • Preliminary Approval – June 2022
  • Exclusion Period Ends – January 2023
  • Final Approval Hearing (est.) – Mid-2023
  • Claims Filing Deadline – March 2024
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Patients should expect the claims process to open sometime in 2023 after final approval. That will launch around a 9-month window to submit claims by mail or through the settlement website.

Compensation Details

The $5.1 million settlement fund pays for all patient compensation, legal fees, and administration costs. Patients must submit documented losses to receive a payment.

  • Minimum Payment – $250
  • Maximum Payment – $5,000
  • Free Credit Monitoring – 2 years through Experian

Patients will be tiered into groups based on the sensitivity of the exposed information and level of documented identity theft and fraud. Awards will be proportional across tiers.

Even those with no proven fraud or ID theft expenses can file for free credit monitoring. For full compensation though, submit evidence like police reports, IRS statements, credit reports, and account notices.

Steps to File a Claim

To file a claim, patients need to provide personal information and evidence:

  • Name and Contact Information
  • Leaked Data Details
  • Impact Documentation
  • Driver’s License/Government ID
  • USF Health Record/Billing Statement

Visit the settlement website or request a form by mail once the claims period opens. Gather documents ahead of time showing fraud, identity theft, accounts opened, tax issues, etc.

Double check that any site requesting info matches the official settlement domain and contacts. Beware of scammers impersonating administrators. Expect most communication by mail.

Criticisms and Exclusions

A minority of patients in the class action opted out to preserve their right to sue USF independently. Others argue the university is getting off lightly.criticize the settlement for:

  • Total Amount – Too low considering the scale of breach and number impacted.
  • Compensation Limits – $5,000 maximum leaves serious fraud victims undercompensated.
  • Credit Monitoring Duration – 2 years of monitoring is inadequate compared to lifelong identity theft risk.
  • Lack of Safeguards – More steps to secure data and prevent future breaches needed.

Still, given legal costs and previous settlements, USF may pay at the higher end compared to similar university breaches. Patients must weigh if it meets their needs or if solo legal action is preferable.

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Avoiding USF Data Settlement Scams

Scammers know that patients waiting on settlement compensation make prime phishing and fraud targets. Whether calls, emails, or fake websites, be vigilant against social engineering.

Watch for:

  • Links and Attachments – Don’t click or download anything sent unexpectedly about the settlement. Verify sites independently.
  • Requests for Information – Settlement administrators will not call or email seeking personal information like Social Security numbers.
  • Upfront Fees – Never pay money for assistance with filing, calculating, or speeding up claims. Refund promises are bogus.
  • Threats or Urgency – Scammers may threaten eligiblity or push acting immediately. Disregard such high-pressure tactics.

Stick to the official settlement site and contacts, file documentation completely and accurately yourself, and remain patient through evaluation of your claim.

Weighing Participation Carefully

For impacted patients, deciding whether to participate comes down to personal risk tolerance and trust in those managing the settlement. Most signs point to a legitimate, court-supervised process that is securely compensating victims of the breach.

However, privacy will never be fully restored, and fraud could arise years down the road. Ultimately patients themselves must determine if the settlement sufficiently addresses their personal situation. Proceeding cautiously with documentation requirements rather than simply providing personal information again is key.

By understanding the settlement completely and avoiding scams, patients can hopefully close this chapter with some compensation for their role as victims. But they may still question if the University of South Florida is taking their suffering and future risk seriously enough.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as formal legal advice. Links to external sites do not constitute endorsement of their content. Consult an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction for further guidance.