If you were a victim of the Equifax data breach, you were probably looking forward to the $125 payment the company offered because of a recent settlement with the FTC. There’s just one small problem: there isn’t enough money to pay everyone.
The settlement only includes $31 million to make those payments, but the Equifax breach exposed the personal information of 147 million people. If every person affected by this data breach asked for a cash payout, the settlement money amounts to less than a quarter per person. And apparently a lot of people want their cut of the cash, because the FTC is now warning that you won't get $125.
While the FTC hasn’t said exactly how much money you might get, it did say the amount will be “nowhere near” $125. That’s bad news if you were hoping for a bit of cash to cover your next splurge, but if you aren’t looking forward to cashing a tiny settlement check, you have another option: credit monitoring.
Instead of a cash payment, you can claim 10 years of free credit monitoring — and though it won’t pay for your next grocery bill, it is pretty valuable. Any data breach could compromise your identity, letting hackers have your credit card numbers or enough personal information to apply for new credit cards in your name. It’s possible to fix identity theft, but to do so you need to regularly monitor your credit report to be sure no one has hijacked your identity. That where credit monitoring comes in: these services watch your credit record and alert you to any suspicious activity, and offers insurance to cover you in case of financial losses due to identity theft.
Credit monitoring can cost from $10 to $20 per month, and if you paid for it yourself it would cost you a lot more than the $125 cash payout Equifax is offering. And considering you aren’t likely to get anything close to $125, credit monitoring looks even more appealing.
If you haven’t filed a claim, you can still file your claim online or download the claim form to file by mail. When you make your claim, select credit monitoring instead of cash and you’ll at least get something out of this settlement.
How to change your selection if you've already filed your claim
If you have filed a claim, you should receive an email from the settlement administrator giving you an option to switch from a cash payment to credit monitoring. There's no word on when this email might go out, so just keep an eye on your inbox, and if you're worried you can contact the settlement administrator directly.
However, when you file (or update) your claim, be careful. Scammers are trying to steal your personal information by putting up fake claim sites. Before handing over your personal data, be sure you know who you’re handing it to. The only valid websites for the Equifax settlement are ftc.gov/Equifax and equifaxbreachsettlement.com. If you’re on any other website, you’re probably being scammed.
[Image credit: credit report on phone via BigStockPhoto]